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The Dunwells look to build on last year's U.S. breakthrough

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When the U.K.-based band The Dunwells arrived in Memphis, Tenn., last February for the 2011 International Folk Alliance Conference, guitarist Dave Hanson says he and his musical partners had no idea what to expect.

“We were there for three days,” Hanson recalls. “At the first show we played, there were about three people watching. Then as the set progressed, the room got fuller and fuller, and at the end of the show, people were [lining up] down the corridor to get a look.”

Hanson says each successive Folk Alliance performance by The Dunwells attracted bigger and bigger crowds, culminating with the band’s big showcase. That’s where Kevin Wommack, the owner of the Playing in Traffic label, saw The Dunwells “and pretty much offered us a deal straight after the show,” Hanson adds.

The roots-music Web site No Depression dubbed the group — then officially billed as The Dunwell Brothers Band — as the breakout act of the 2011 conference.
“We went there as an unknown entity in the United States,” Hanson says, “and left with some notoriety.”

The Dunwells will be in Memphis for this year’s International Folk Alliance Conference, and their headlining performance kicks off a long stretch of U.S. dates in support of their recently released album, Blind Sighted Faith.

Recorded during summer 2011 at Willie Nelson‘s Pedernales Recording Studio in Austin, Texas, the 11-track album includes the song “I Could Be a King,” which singer/guitarist Joseph Dunwell says began as a waltz and eventually morphed into “the upbeat song that we have been looking for.”

Upbeat folk from the United Kingdom: If that brings to mind Mumford & Sons, the members of The Dunwells are OK with that. Two years ago, both bands shared the stage at the Triumph Live festival.

“We’ve watched their progress in the States very carefully, seeing as they have a similar folk sound to us,” Hanson says. “We’re hoping that the American audiences will embrace The Dunwells as much as they have the Mumfords.”

“They really have been making noise out there,” Dunwell adds. “This gives up hope for what we are about to do.”

— By Chris M. Junior

The Dunwells on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Feb. 23: International Folk Alliance Conference — Memphis, Tenn.
* Feb. 26: California Polytechnic State University — San Luis Obispo, Calif.
* Feb. 27: Hotel Café — Los Angeles
* Feb. 28: Belly Up Tavern — Solana Beach, Calif.
* Feb. 29: Fox Theatre — Tucson, Ariz.
* March 2: Chandler Center for the Arts — Chandler, Ariz.
* March 3: Santa Fe Brewing Company — Sante Fe, N.M.
* March 6: The Saint — Asbury Park, N.J.
* March 7: Mercury Lounge — New York
* March 9: Rams Head On Stage — Annapolis. Md.

Photo by Ami Barwell