After years of hard graft local band The Dunwells now feel that they are ready for the big stage that awaits them when they fly out to America in just over a week’s time to promote their first album Blind Sighted Faith.

The band stepped out as HMV’s Next Big Thing of 2012 at Manchester’s Ritz last Friday. Their fans had travelled from all over the country to catch what will be their last chance of hearing the band before they jet out to open their US tour in Memphis.

There they will headline Folk Alliance where they were discovered by their record label Playing In Traffic Records this time last year.

The past year has seen them patiently biding their time gigging all over the UK having recorded their album in the Texas Studios of the legendary Willie Nelson in June.

The band has seen one change in the line-up since they were spotted in Memphis with Rob Clayton replacing Lee Dawson on bass.

The band changed its name to the shortened form The Dunwells last year and is headed, of course, by brothers Dave and Joe Dunwell who are known throughout West Yorkshire for their solo gigs. The Stanningley-raised pair were educated at St Mary’s RC School, Menston, along with Yeadon-raised Rob. Jonny, also from Yeadon, attended Intake School for Performing Arts while lead guitarist Dave Hanson from Pudsey went to Fulneck School.

The band signed a five-year deal with Playing In Traffic and their first album in that stable was produced by Grammy Award-winning former Leeds lad John Porter, a prominent producer who works on both sides of the Atlantic and has produced recordings by Bryan Ferry, The Smiths, Ryan Adams and BB King. The album was released to great acclaim in the USA on Tuesday and will be released in the UK on March 5.

The band showcased the album to the UK music industry at a special gig at the BBC Club in London in January.

Friday’s gig at The Ritz in Manchester was a landmark affair. “That was the moment I knew we were ready. It felt really good up there, the big stage, the lights, the smoke, the big sound, the audience participation – it had everything,” says Dave Dunwell. “It was great and to hear the crowd singing your songs is a great feeling.”

Gigs lined up in the USA include in Memphis, Los Angeles, New York, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Maryland and Texas.