Buses have something in common with good albums. You can wait ages and then two come at once. Berkhamsted-based record label Which Wolf Wins is the driving force behind the pair of stellar CDs that landed in my inbox this week. 
I broke the news on Harpenden duo Broken Boat in the St Albans Review and now here’s Times Have Changed the debut album by South Oxhey singers Luke Dolan and Jim O’Hanlon aka The Jim Dolan Project.

I met up with the pair on Monday at The Horns – the place where it all started. Which Wolf Wins is owned by ex-EMI producer Andrew McCrorie-Shand, who clearly knows how to help bands get off the ground. In the case of Jim and Luke, he had a timely tip off.

“One night in January we played a five-song set at The Horns in Watford where an A&R representative by the name of Amanda Tougher happened to be in the audience,“ recalls Jim. “She said I have three questions for you. Have you got a publicist? Have you got a CD? Have you got a back catalogue? When we said no, no, no, she said ’phone me Friday; I have someone who I think would like to meet you…’

“’Yeah, right’ we thought but we bit the bullet and we were offered an opportunity to play in front of Andrew McCrorie-Shand at The Chapel in Berkhamsted. Andrew heard Line In The Sand and said, ’yeah, we can do something’.“

Since then Universal had shown interest in optioning three tracks for film use. It’s no surprise. The low-down sounds of Kingdom of Dust could be straight out of a Tarantino film and Line In The Sand would fit like a glove in a scene from The Sopranos.
“Line In The Sand was the second song we wrote. It started with a guitar tuning session and then became this little riff and now it could be used in a Hollywood film. It’s ridiculous.“

The album ranges from upbeat Americana: Real Life and Dirty Blues to gorgeous bluesy ballads such as If I Don’t See You Tonight and Mistake. 

Luke does the tunes and Jim provides words and vocals. Both are in their mid-30s. Jim attended Oxhey Wood School and Queen’s, while Luke went to St John’s School in Harrow and Salvatorian College.

Jim has spent the past two and a half years honing his voice as a member of the South Oxhey Choir under the direction of conductor Simon Wookey.
“Simon gave me that confidence in my voice and in public performance,“ says Jim. “The Gravesham Festival in 2010 was the first time I sang a solo.“

Luke is soon to be a father again any day now (he has two children), and he works in the local barber shop in South Oxhey.
“He used to cut my hair,“ says Jim. “Most of our songs were written in there because you get to sit and listen to what people say.“

They’re grounded souls but when the talk turns to music (they’ve written another 25 songs) and touring (after the baby’s born) the excitement is palpable.

“We thought our ship had sailed,“ admits Jim. “If nothing comes of it this is a very proud moment, it’s everything we’ve dreamed of and more.“

“These ten tracks are all of us, our heart and soul,“ adds Luke. “We need to be playing them, even to empty rooms with just one person and a dog. Every musician is a dreamer who wants to show you what they dream about.“

The Jim Dolan Project play Bushey Legion Opening Night on October 13 and The Loft Bar, The George and Dragon, Chesham on October 19. Details: www.thejdp.com