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Into the Limelight, Pernice hails Norman Blake

'If there were three Normans it would be insane." Joe Pernice draws the last syllable out to underline his point.

"If you could get a couple of extra Normans your head would explode."

The American musician is interrupting his summer holiday to laud his fellow citizen of Toronto, Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake, who with Pernice and drummer Mike Belitsky, makes up The New Mendicants.

Their melody-wreathed debut LP Into The Lime came out in January to four-star reviews, the critics impressed in part by the breathy grain of Pernice's voice augmented by immaculate harmonies from Blake. "As far as someone to sing with and work with is concerned, Norman is just it, man. He has big, humungous ears - he can hear parts I don't sometimes. I love watching him sing. You sit back and he just starts weaving these parts in and out."

While Blake left Bellshill behind for the shores of Lake Ontario, Pernice hails from Boston and is visiting his sister in nearby Cape Cod with his wife and son. Next week, though, the adopted Torontonian arrives in Scotland to pair up with Blake for a string of dates that kick off with two nights at The Bowlers Bar in Bridgeton as part of the East End Social programme of events tying in with Culture 2014.

Do you know anything about the venue? I ask. "Not a thing. Do you?" It's the cosy function room of a boozer in one of Glasgow's more neglected districts," I explain. "Love it," he says, brightly. "Right on. I love playing gigs like that. I remember playing a show in a social club in Limerick. No kidding, I was up on stage and people were talking so loud that I could barely hear myself. I was doing that thing where you change words to songs to see if you caught anyone's attention."

With Blake as his chaperone, it's little wonder Pernice is looking forward to visiting Glasgow, albeit minus Belitsky. Having recorded Into The Lime mere weeks after hooking up in Canada in 2012, touring the album has seen Pernice and Blake's friendship flourish. "We get along really well," says Pernice. "He's a great guy to tour with. If Norman's having a bad day, you don't know it because he stays out of your face.

"And he's always up for anything. We did some pottery on a day off at a museum in Stoke. I'll say: 'What if we get up at six tomorrow and we blast and get to see blah blah blah?' and he'll be like, 'Definitely, let's do it.' Ask any musician who's played with him and they'll be like, 'Norman Blake, amazing guy,' and I'm not even getting into his talents, right? He's super-talented."

It's a shame he releases so few records, I say. "I don't know what the pace of the Fanclub making records is but we're ready to record another album and I'm going to try to milk everything out of that guy," replies Pernice.

Followers of Pernice from his alt-country beginnings in the Scud Mountain Boys through his solo work and six Pernice Brothers studio albums can be assured that his productivity shows few signs of waning. Besides a follow-up to Into The Lime, Pernice has been reaching into new territories in an unlikely union with US hip-hop producer and musician Budo, an ally of Grammy award-winning rapper Macklemore. If that sounds far-fetched, wait until you hear the subject matter of the songs.

"A friend of mine is a publicist for Josh Ritter," explains Pernice, "and I kept getting all these press releases about Josh Ritter's record, and all of the press was about how the album was about his divorce. And I was like, 'Dude, stop sending me all this stuff.' I got so bombarded by it I was like, 'You know what? I'm going to write my own album about Josh Ritter's divorce.' So I did."

For now, Blake and Pernice are enjoying a happy artistic marriage, albeit a geographically intricate one, Blake having returned to Scotland after a brace of Teenage Fanclub shows in the States. "Norman just texted me as I'm talking to you," says Pernice. "It says: 'Back in Glasgow. Great trip which included a monumental hangover.'" Let's hope it's cleared come Tuesday evening.

The New Mendicants play The Bowlers Bar in Glasgow on August 5 and 6, The Famous Spiegeltent, Edinburgh (Aug 7), Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival by Beauly (Aug 8) and The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (Aug 9).

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