Sticks & Stones – new single from Matty James

Sticks & Stones

‘Sticks & Stones’ is the uplifting lead single taken from Northern Irish troubadour Matty James’ forthcoming second album; The Road To No Town. This infectious country rock anthem will be released as a digital single through iTunes on Friday 18th March. Those who pre-order now will also receive an exclusive B-side track entitled ‘Growing Up The Long Way’ that isn’t available anywhere else. The new LP is set for release April 2016 on Pirate Heart Records / Cargo Records.

 “To pen an album’s worth of strong songs is no mean feat but Matty James makes it look simple.” – Uber Rock

The Road To No Town was funded by fans through a highly successful PledgeMusic campaign, reaching it’s target in just 4 days and finishing on a staggering 218% of it’s goal. The project featured many exclusives including a limited edition bonus acoustic record. To celebrate, Matty hit the road across the UK in December with full backing band The Irregulars for the first time. After relentless touring over the last two years with only a guitar for company, the electrifying show made quite a stir with more to come in 2016.  We may also expect solo acoustic tours of the UK and Europe around the album’s release.

Artist’s website: 

‘Sticks & Stones’ – official video:

Mister Keith releases single and video

Mister Keith

Filmed in a Victorian house in Kenilworth the new video to accompany the single ‘Love is Strong’ by local artist Mister Keith will be released next week.

Officially it’s the first single from the album Record of Wrongs released last year, which has been receiving excellent reviews and earned Mister Keith ‘Artist of the Month’ on BBC Introducing and play on BBC Radio 1. The song features both Warwick University Brass and Eastbourne Salvation Army Band who both recorded parts for the track.

The video, shot in a local house by Manchester filmmaker Mark Tuson of Northern Spark Films also features Kenilworth girl Sarah Murphy who acted as the ‘ghost’ in the film’s enigmatic storyline of love and loss.

“It’s an emotionally claustrophobic song and setting this in a domestic situation of a house mirrors the lyrics. We filmed it in an afternoon and Sarah was excellent at being directed in her first film.”

On the same day of its release, Mister Keith plays with acclaimed songwriter Boo Hewerdine from 90’s band ‘The Bible’ at Coventry’s Big Comfy Books (Thursday 10th March). The event is almost sold out and promises an intimate insight in to both songwriter’s catalogues with a very small audience. The alias of songwriter Keith Ayling,

Mister Keith is a new project of what has been a thirty year career in songwriting crossing four decades of musical styles, most notably with Britpop band Kato.

The vintage feel continues when Mister Keith’s orchestra of six musicians visits the Edwardian Village Hall of Quatt in Shropshire two days later (March 12th) for a Parlour Concert, sponsored by Broker’s gin.

“I approached Quatt because I felt the heritage of the hall and the village perfectly matched what Mister Keith shows are all about. They agreed! My Parlour Concerts are immersive events, with participation even down to tea tasting and gin tasting in the interval.”

Artist’s website:

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

‘Love Is Strong’ – official video:

AMY GODDARD – Secret Garden (own label AGSG42016)

Secret GardenAmy Goddard has been feeding me singles from Secret Garden for a couple of months now so I’m familiar with three of these songs, although it is true that they sound different in the context of a complete album.

The record begins in Amy’s typical style: optimistic songs accompanied by the bright tone of her steel strung acoustic guitar. The opener, ‘Words Of Sweet Music’ even features her bass playing while Jonathan Lewis provides lead guitar – Amy could almost certainly play that part herself but it’s nice to have someone to lean on sometimes. ‘Alright Again’ is the first of those single tracks – a song about depression, or rather reaching out beyond it – and that is followed by the title track, a piece of pastoral wimsy.

‘Gladdie’ was the first single. It is the story of Amy’s great-grandmother whose intended was lost in France and is the sort of song that Amy should concentrate on – a simple, poignant story beautifully told but with a real edge. She essays the same feeling on ‘Miner’s Lullaby’ but it isn’t her song, it’s Utah Phillips’, and the difference is clear. I have no problem with her performance of a great song but I bet she could find an equally harrowing story to write about from closer to home. She found a good story in Perthshire to turn into ‘The Maiden’s Leap’, an interesting twist on the usual night visiting story.

I particularly like ‘Rhythm Of The Road’ which really shows off Amy’s guitar work. It’s a song that she says has been a work in progress for several years and it has a different vibe from the songs she’s currently writing. Her setting of Alfred Noyes’ ‘The Highwayman’ is nicely creepy – it really is a nasty tale – and the second cover, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark, is transferred from the streets of Jersey and given a very English style.

Amy has made another fine album with Secret Garden but for me it lacks something of the intensity that made Burn & Glow such an excellent debut.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

A selection from the album preview concert:

KELLY OLIVER – Bedlam (Folkstock FSR25)

BedlamReleasing her debut album, This Land, at the tail end of 2014, barely a year after making her first appearance on the folk circuit, the distinctively pure, trebly-voiced North Hertfordshire based singer-songwriter clearly doesn’t believe in letting the grass grow under her feet. She returns now with an even more striking, even more ambitious sophomore release that sees her working with three different producers, some of whom have been involved on co-writes.

Stu Hanna from Megson is behind the desk for four numbers, first up being the co-penned title track opener on which he also contributes fiddle, percussion and guitar. It’s a dynamic start to proceedings, a jaunty, tumbling drums folk tune on which Oliver multitracks her own harmonies as she sings “They strap you down and gag your mouth until you cannot shout  at all” in the voice of a young woman who, having a child out of wedlock, is judged to be mentally incompetent and bundled off to the notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital, a lunatic asylum dubbed Bedlam, where, from the late 16th century to 1770, visitors, mostly the wealthy, went to be entertained by and mock the inmates.

The second of the Hanna productions (this time playing fiddle, mandolin and piano) follows with ‘Lay Our Heavy Heads’, an equally bouncy, scratchy guitar number with syncopated percussion wherein the protagonist, a young chap, professes his undying love. Also sprightly of gait, ‘Miles To Tralee’ recalls her Irish heritage as banjo and fiddle (and a dash of shruti box) guide the young colleen as she professes how she’d walk all the way from London back to Ireland to return to the home where she was born. The last of the four Hanna numbers comes with ‘Same World’ (with an extended intro not feature on the radio play single) on which both he and wife Debbie provide backing vocals, a softer ballad that, backed by mandola, addresses gender differences and concludes that “we’re just little boys and girls telling stories of the same world.”

The second producer is Nigel Stonier, making the first of his two more commercially inclined appearances and co-writes with ‘Jericho’, accordion, harmonica, fiddle and dulcimer colouring an arms-linked swayalong in which the singer declares she’ll fight any girl in town and bring down the city walks to bring home her prize. Their second collaboration is the album’s final track, ‘Rio’, a fiddle-flourished, beat and bouncy folk-pop number in celebration of the Brazilian capital that sounds not unlike something Thea Gilmore (with whom Oliver toured last year) might have recorded. No surprise then to learn she also sings harmonies on it.

The remaining four numbers are co-produced by Lauren Deakin Davies who, not yet out of her teens, has enlisted double bassist Luke Drinkwater and brought the same rootsy feel she did to the debut. The first of her tracks is ‘In The City’, a song of urban alienation with fingerpicked acoustic guitar and muted harmonica, followed by the vocally cascading, pared back ‘The Other Woman’ which, as the title might suggest, is about getting involved with someone who’s already spoken for. Double bass counterpointing the fingerpicked guitar and harmonica, ‘Ghosts At Night’ is a gently sad song that may address the plight of refugees, but certainly concerns those who, caught up in things they can’t control, have lost their sense of being rooted as she sings “You’ve lost the feeling in your wings, you’ve lost the sight of land below.” The sense of confusion and displacement filters thematically into the remaining number (and arguably the most striking after the title track), the impassioned, gradually building swayalong ‘Die This Way’, a song about today’s world with its extremism, a “wretched frontier” with “planes falling through the sky, shot down by the enemy side” sung from a frightened child’s perspective, strummed in Dylanesque protest fashion and featuring a similarly influenced harmonica break. It’s a hugely impressive and confident step forward that underscores Oliver as one of the new torchbearers of contemporary British folk and one which, I suspect, will give her the craft and experience to produce album number three herself.

Mike Davies

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

‘Miles To Tralee’ – official video:


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Latest WaxingHis first new material since 2012 album Seven Songs, HENRY SPARKS releases the aptly titled Latest Waxing, an EP of five acoustic tracks sung in his distinctive swallowed vocals style. Incorporating lines from Blake’s poem, the tumbling ‘While We Were Building Jerusalem’, accompanied by Catriona Bryce on cello, sings of striving for a better life while, enveloped by fiddles, ‘If She Falls’ is a hymnal-sounding song of love and devotion. Again accompanied by cello, ‘So Like A Child’ is a slow waltzer lament for things lost, giving way to the unrequited love themes of ‘The Cowboy Song’ which, despite the title and featuring Alan Cook on pedal steel, sound quintessentially English in a Lilac Time sort of way. Accompanied by just sparse acoustic guitar, the last number is the moody, dark and leafy folk of ‘Migrant’, a timely musing on the hopes and fears of refugee in transit. He waxes eloquently.

Of Maids And MarinersThe idea of singing Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ a capella, slowed down with handclaps and percussion is just so far out but that is what SAID THE MAIDEN have done on their debut EP, Of Maids And Mariners. It is just such a great idea and it works. The lead track is an up-tempo version of ‘The Soldier And The Maid’ showing off Hannah Elizabeth’s fiddle playing and after ‘Jolene’ comes the Davenports’ ‘Spring Tide Rising’ featuring Kathy Pilkinton’s whistle and Jess Distill’s shruti. The first two tracks were produced by Stu Hanna and the latter two were recorded live. Said The Maiden will be huge before too long.

Green OnionsIn celebration of Record Store Day 2016 Topic release a unique double A-side vinyl single. On top is a version of Booker T’s ‘Green Onions’ by MARTIN SIMPSON, ANDY CUTTING and TOM WRIGHT. Cutting takes the lead with Wright drumming and playing guitar lead. There’s a bass in there, too, although there is no indication who might be playing it. Underneath is SIMPSON CUTTING KERR with a specially recorded version of ‘Willie Taylor’ with Simpson on lead vocal and banjo. There is a distinctly transatlantic feel about this variant with a chorus that isn’t heard in English versions. Hedy West claimed it as an Anglo-American ballad but everyone seems to agree with enjoying the fact that the heroine was rewarded rather than punished for her action.

English Songs 2In support of the same event Fledg’ling release the latest of their replica EPs. English Songs Volume 2 features SHIRLEY COLLINS accompanied by Robin Hall. ‘Dance To Your Daddy’ carries none of the baggage that the last fifty-something years have added to it and doesn’t sound anywhere near as naive as you might expect. The version of ‘The Sperm Fishery’ is different from that on False True Lovers – no banjo, which only appears on ‘The Foolish Boy’. That track, together with ‘My Bonny Miner Lad’ seems rather slight by modern standards and the chorus of ‘The Foolish Boy’ is rather silly but all four tracks were recorded with a simple dignity that sometimes seems lost these days. The inner sleeve includes a vintage photograph of Alan Lomax And The Ramblers.

GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR – The Silent Majority (Fellside FECD275)

The Silent MajorityI have to say that this album represents everything that folk music should be about. There is tradition, there is musical invention and evolution of the tradition and there is the sort of protest on which the revival was based.

The opener is ‘Prologue’, ethereal, other-worldly sounds that morph into what I’m guessing is a traditional tune before finally resolving into the title track. ‘The Silent Majority’ was written by Lionel McClelland and seems particularly appropriate in our present circumstances. The examples it cites – Hitler, Chile – are familiar but still it’s a song to make you stop and think. From the global we turn to the local and ‘George’, the story of a Glasgow bad boy written by Findlay Napier and Nick Turner. George is not a pleasant character but I’m sure that there are men like him all over the country.

‘We Must Be Contented’ is a piece of social commentary from the 19th century; a sort of cousin of ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ with the optimism of the latter replaced by a weary resignation. The words are old but the tune is modern, written by Ron Flanagan, which leads into ‘Did You Like The Battle, Sir?’. Why have I never heard this song before? Its form is old but it was written in the 70s by Bev Pegg and John Richards and I thank Greg and Ciaran for bringing it to my attention.

After Ciaran’s epic instrumental ‘The Tide’ which he describes as his attempt to write film music the attention switches to Greg for two traditional songs, ‘Limbo’ and ‘Brisk Young Man’. Both have been tweaked, the latter to the extent of having a new tune written for it and some new words added. What a cracking version – I can imagine Eddi Reader borrowing it. After a second mostly traditional tune set, ‘Swipe Right’, featuring Ali Levack’s whistle and pipes the album closes with Pete Coe’s ‘Rolling Down The Ryburn’. Pete’s summary of the life of a travelling musician is a cut above the usual “life on the road it tough” lament. He still sings it, of course, but it’s good to have it on a new album.

The Silent Majority will be on my list next awards season

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website:

‘Did You Like The Battle, Sir?’ – official video: