Frank Tuner has announced details of his forthcoming eighth new album, NO MAN'S LAND, released on August 16th on Xtra Mile Recordings/Polydor Records. With GRAMMY® winning producer Catherine Marks (St. Vincent, Local Natives) at the helm and featuring a dynamic cast of all-female musicians, NO MAN'S LAND is an album dedicated to telling the fascinating stories of women whose incredible lives have all too often been overlooked. "These stories should have been told already," says Turner of the album and its accompanying podcast series, "Tales From No Man's Land" which launches its first episode today. "And I suspect if they were men they would be better known."
The women featured on the album's 13 tracks come from across wide geographical and historical lines. There's Byzantine princess Kassiani (The Hymn of Kassiani), Egyptian feminist activist Huda Sha'arawi (The Lioness), and Resusci Anne (Rescue Annie), an apocryphal drowned virgin whose face was used as the model for the medical CPR mannequin across the world ("You can't not write a song about a woman who died never having been kissed and then became the most kissed face in history," reasons Turner). There's the serial killer from the Deep South who plucked her victims from lonely hearts pages (Nannie Doss), the jazz-obsessed heiress who fought for the Free French (Nica Rothschild), a rowdy coach house landlady from 17th century Camden Town accused of witchcraft (Jinny Bigham), the Wild West vaudeville star shot by a smalltown outlaw (Dora Hand). These are just a few of the fascinating characters who feature on No Man's Land and have long been ignored by the mainstream.
"It's bringing together my two main interests in life, which have always been separate from each other - history and songwriting," explains Turner, who can be found seeking out long-forgotten historical sites on self-guided psychogeographical strolls when he's not packing out arenas or headlining festivals.
First single 'Sister Rosetta' is about the unparalleled Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the most important and influential musicians in American History. On it you can hear guitar breaks lifted from Tharpe's own back catalogue. "Which I found challenging, because she's a way better guitar player than me," admits Turner.
Despite the record's implicit feminism, it doesn't see Turner's clambering onto any kind of soapbox. "It's not telling anyone what to do or how to live or how to be," he explains, prepared for a variety of different reactions to the project, including those who might be wondering if it's really his place to be singing songs of disenfranchised women. "If there was a crowded field of people writing songs about Princess Kassiani then I would see the argument for me bowing out, but there isn't," he states. "No-one else is writing these songs right now. That's why I want to share these stories."
NO MAN'S LAND also includes perhaps the most revelatory song of Turner's career. Written in tribute to his mother, Rosemary Jane honors her grit and determination through the harder parts of his childhood.
No stranger to appearing on other people's shows, Turner's own podcast "Tales From No Man's Land" takes a deep dive into each song, like a sonic Cliffs Notes. Produced in collaboration with Somethin' Else content agency, it sees Turner talking to historians and experts at places important to the women on the record, from Jinny Bingham's coach house - which is now Camden's Underworld venue - to Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame which only last year honored Rosetta Tharpe, the Dodge City's Boot Hill Museum and Southwark's Cross Bones graveyard. Each finishes up with Turner singing an acoustic version of the song. "I'm not someone who believes in the supernatural, but there's definitely an imprint when you're at the place that was important to them," says Turner. "It feels like a nice honoring, and a way to say 'hey, we're still thinking about you'."
The first episode of the podcast is out now. There will be 13 episodes, releasing weekly and the podcast will be available from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Acast and all other podcast platforms.
- Jinny Bingham's Ghost
- Sister Rosetta
- I Believed You, William Blake
- A Perfect Wife
- Silent Key
- Eye of the Day
- The Death of Dora Hand
- The Graveyard of the Outcast Dead
- The Lioness
- The Hymn of Kassiani
- Rescue Annie
- Rosemary Jane