Taking their name from Francis J. Child, the man who first researched and cataloged British folk music, New York City's the Childballads marked the return of Stewart Lupton, who had earned a small but fervent cult following in the 1990s as the lead singer with Jonathan Fire*Eater. Lupton was raised in Washington, D.C., and had known his bandmates in Jonathan Fire*Eater since they were kids. After graduating from the upscale St. Albans prep school in D.C., Lupton went on to study poetry at New York's Sarah Lawrence College, but before long his main priority was Jonathan Fire*Eater, who after releasing a pair of indie-label discs became one of the most talked-about bands on the Big Apple's club scene. The rave reviews for Jonathan Fire*Eater's live shows resulted in the group signing a deal with Dreamworks SKG shortly after the label was launched. The group was reported to have been given an advance of one million dollars, but Jonathan Fire*Eater's sole major-label album, 1997's Wolf Songs for Lambs, proved to be a critical success and a commercial disaster, moving less than 15,000 copies before the group collapsed in the summer of 1998.
While several members of Jonathan Fire*Eater went on to form the Walkmen, Lupton played a handful of poorly received shows as Stewart Stephenson before dropping out of music. In 2005, after years of periodic speculation from fans and journalists about what became of Lupton, he began playing shows in New York with a new group, the Childballads, featuring Lupton on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Betsy Wright on keyboards, viola, and backing vocals, and Hugh McIntosh on drums; Judah Bauer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion also played with the group for a spell. James Oldham, a former editor for the British music magazine New Musical Express, learned about the group while doing searching for Lupton, and signed the Childballads to his Loog Records label in 2006, releasing their debut EP, Cheekbone Hollows (Pop. 1/2 Life). After the release of the EP, the Childballads underwent some major lineup changes, with Lupton the only original member remaining; joining him in the new edition of the group were guitarist Paul Arfield, bassist Tunde Oyewole, and drummer John Melville. The new lineup of the Childballads began playing New York venues on a regular basis, and toured Europe and the United Kingdom in support of the EP. ~ Mark Deming