ANYONE expecting The Rails new album, Other People, to be anything like their award-winning debut release Fair Warning is in for a surprise.

For husband and wife duo James Walbourne and Kami Thompson have moved well away from their folk origins to produce an album that by James’ own admission is a much heavier sound.

But fans should fear not, it’s also packed with great hooklines, James virtuoso guitar work and the delightful harmonies which saw them given the best newcomer award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

“I think that this album is the route that we always wanted to go down,” said James. “With that first record we tried to make a Seventies’ sounding folk record and I think we achieved that.

“But my problem with a lot of stuff is the tweeness, especially if you get lumped into that folk thing which has happened to us. There is a lot of twee stuff out there.”

It would be difficult for James and Kami totally shake off that folk tag. Kami after all is the daughter of ‘folk royalty’ Richard and Linda Thompson.

But as The Rails, they are very much creating their own sound.

“I just don’t like putting labels on stuff really,” said James, who away from The Rails is also guitarist with The Pretenders.

The Rails will be taking their new songs out on the road for the first time later this month including a date at Manchester’s Deaf Institute.

“We’re going out with a full electric band,” said James, “and I’m interested to hear what the new songs will sound like. It is going to be different.”

Other People was recorded in Nashville with producer Ray Kennedy.

“We really wanted to work with Ray as I loved what he did on Steve Earle’s Transcendental Blues album,” said James.

“In term of the Nashville experience, we didn’t have any. We had such a tight time scale - I think we did the whole album in six days. Then on a day off from touring with Stevie Nicks and The Pretenders in the States I spent my day off finishing off the guitar and keyboard parts.”

Having been guitarist for the likes of Ray Davies, the Pogues and Edwyn Collins, James admits that he took up songwriting relatively late.

“I had always wanted to write song,” he said, “but I was a guitarist. I don’t think I had the confidence to try when I was younger. Also I’d played with so many great songwriters I think I was intimidated by that.”

But now he’s always working on a song.

“For me it always starts with a lyric rather than a tune,” he said. “The thing is to just keep writing as many songs as possible as you never know when you are going to stop.

“I try to write as much as I can but when you’re touring that makes it difficult.”

Immediately after their own tour, The Rails will be back out on the road supporting the Pretenders on their UK tour before James goes with the band to Australia.

“I think I might wear a wig and a different jacket so people don’t realise I’ve played in both bands,” he joked. “We keep it very band-like when we’re on the road - it wouldn’t be fair on other members of the band if we were doing the husband and wife thing. Of course can have a bust up but that’s usually down to the volume of my guitar.

“It’s all about keeping busy really - you certainly know when you’re not busy I can tell you.”

The Rails, Deaf Institute, Manchester, Friday, September 15. Details from