SINGLES BAR 29 – a round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 29VIRGINIA KETTLE is one of Merry Hell’s front line as songwriter and singer and formerly a successful soloist around the clubs. This eponymous EP with The Dreamcatchers (who are not named but who look suspiciously familiar) is, we’re told, the precursor to a solo album. Her songs tend to be human stories, often with a twist, some of which scale up for the band but these would not.

‘The Butter Song’, which opens the set, begins with the brilliant lines “Ever considered someone like me to spread the butter on your bread” and is sung over hand percussion. ‘More Than This’ sees The Dreamcatchers joining in, initially gently pastoral then building up and finally slipping away. As I’ve come to expect the songs are clever; sometimes quirky like ‘Little Warm’ or deceptively deep like ‘Freedom (The Sweetest Taste)’. We’re looking forward to the album already.

A collaboration between Brighton songwriters, Rebecca Brandler and Scott Booth, PAPER HAWK make their debut with The Tide, a four track download EP via local label Folklore Sessions recorded in the living room of their flat. The opening track, ‘Trails’, a number about the death throes of a volatile relationship, is what you’d probably call psych-folk with whispery-sung ethereal, echoey vocals, shimmering keyboard swirls, understated drum beat and skitterings of guitars. It’s a mood sustained with the watery finger picked acoustic guitar work accompanying Booth’s vocals on the breathily-sung and rather positive and idealistic ‘The Fourteenth Floor’, clattering percussion and a thumping drum beat gathering for the instrumental play out.

Underscored by spare bass guitar notes and plucked acoustic guitar, ‘Northern Sky’ is another airy piece from Brandler and, largely down to producer Josh Trinnaman, again builds the soundscape towards the close. That bass drum thump also underpins the final number, ‘Written In The Lines’, an electronic ambience enfolding Booth’s hushed vocals on a song that bookends the EP by both returning to the theme of a relationship past its use by date and with the outro mirroring the opening wordless ululation on ‘Trails’. An impressive debut that leaves you wanting to hear what else they can do.

Forget About You is a new EP by FINE LINES, a duo founded by singer-songwriter David Boardman and vocalist Zoe Blyth with a cast of supporting musicians – Mark Radclffe has been known to turn out on drums with them. The lead track and ‘Feet Don’t Touch The Ground’ both come from last year’s album, Hour Of Need while ‘Who Do You Love?’ and ‘Begging You’ are new songs. Their sound is acoustic rock with a slight country edge that sometimes forgets that it is supposed to be acoustic but it’s classy stuff.

Book SongsANNE-MARIE SANDERSON is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – guitar, cello and clarinet are among her accomplishments. Book Songs Volume 1 is her third EP and it will presumably be followed by a second volume in time. The five songs here are all inspired by novels, authors including such literary giants as Ian McEwan and Doris Lessing. As befits such inspirations, the songs are musically and lyrically complex. ‘Haweswater’ covers the same ground as Mike Turnbull’s ‘Drowning Valley’ and is a particularly fine song. ‘Mara’s Song’ is even better and like ‘Poisonwood’ is set in Africa – two very different Africas actually – one in the distant future and the other in the mid twentieth century. Anne-Marie plays every note on this EP and has fine voice with a hint of wildness in it that many critics have worked hard to describe.

ShardsEVAN CARSON is the folk scene’s go-to percussion at the moment but now we learn that he is also a composer of no mean talent. ‘Shards’ is the first part of what is intended to be a musical story of his grandfather, George Ocipinski, who escaped from a labour camp and travelled west to join the French Resistance in time for the Normandy landings.

Lead vocals are by Georgia Lewis and the music is built up by the piano of Gleb Kolyadin, Karl James Pestka’s strings and Toby Shaer’s flutes. The nine-and-a-half minutes composition begins with the sound of the wind underneath glockenspiel or chimes – or possibly both – played by Evan himself. Then it rocks a bit with percussion that, to judge from the later lyrics, might be intended to imitate a train as George makes his escape. ‘Shards’ is a dramatic piece of work and there is an EP in the offing. We can’t wait.

Evan Carson releases the first installment of a long story

Evan Carson

‘Shards’ is part of an ongoing story inspired by George Ocipinski and members of the various Polish Resistance Units across Europe during 1939 – 1945 now being reconstructed in music by Evan Carson.

A collaboration between musicians from the UK, Iceland and Russia blending, folk, progressive and classical elements. This particular track highlights only one small part of Evan’s grandfather’s journey through the Second World War from escaping a labour camp in Eastern Europe, to joining the French Resistance during the Allied Landings in Normandy and beyond. The purpose of this project is to fill in the gaps and bring the whole story of both his grandfather and other Poles to life. Musically, this song focuses on piano, strings and bodhran influenced by eastern European time signatures.

Evan explained a little more. “The initial idea was just for me to put out a series of tracks that used a lot of ideas that I couldn’t get away with in the other bands I work for. This particular release is all about my family and others in Poland during the second world war. It’s an ongoing story that we are still tracking down all the parts to.”

Looking to the future Evan hopes to continue telling stories and combining styles and musicians from very different scenes and genres.

“I’ve had a very close working relationship with the pianist Gleb Kolyadin and the others so I’m looking forward to finishing the rest of the story with them all. Hopefully I’ll put together a live set as soon as I can get them all in one country.”

Written by Evan Carson

Lyrics by Evan Carson and Georgia Lewis
Vocals – Georgia Lewis
Piano – Gleb Kolyadin
Strings – Karl James Pestka
Flutes – Toby Shaer
Percussion, Vocals – Evan Carson
Additional Sound Design, Production and Engineering – Joshua Franklin
Artwork – Todd Robinson
Mastered – Josh Clarke/Get Real Audio
Written and Recorded in the UK and Russia

Evan currently tours with folk acts Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Group Nominees), The Willows, Georgia Lewis (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Horizon Nominee) and has also performed with Seth Lakeman.

In 2016, Evan recorded percussion for Russian duo Iamthemorning’s Lighthouse (PROG AWARDS Album of the Year 2016) and has gone on to tour with them throughout Europe and Russia.

In 2018, Evan also guested on piano virtuoso Gleb Kolyadin’s (Iamthemorning) solo album opposite drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater).

Artist’s website:

There will be an EP soon but here’s a short preview:

Richard Thompson announces autumn/winter tour

Richard Thompson
Photograph by David Kaptein

World renowned guitarist and singer-songwriter Richard Thompson has announced an extensive UK tour for October and November 2018.

During a busy 2017, Thompson released two volumes of acoustic recordings:  Acoustic Classics Vol. II featuring acoustic renderings of classic songs from the Richard Thompson catalogue and Acoustic Rarities featuring new recordings of some of the more obscure songs in his repertoire. He also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Fairport Convention, the ground-breaking band he co-founded as a teenager in the ‘60s, with a performance at its annual Cropredy Festival last August.

Named by Rolling Stone as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Richard Thompson is one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. He has received multiple awards, including Lifetime Achievement Awards at the BBC Folk Awards and the US and UK Americana Music Association Awards, as well as Mojo’s Les Paul Award and an Ivor Novello Award for song writing. Thompson was appointed OBE in the 2011 New Year Honours List. Robert Plant, REM, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and many others have recorded his songs.

A brand new studio album will be released later this year on Proper Records.

Artist’s website:

‘I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight’ – live:

Tour Dates


Thursday 11                  Liverpool Philharmonic
Saturday 13                   Perth Concert Hall
Monday 15                Canterbury Marlowe
Tuesday 16                  London Barbican
Wednesday 17                Bath Forum
Thursday 18                  Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Saturday 20                   Stoke on Trent Victoria Hall
Sunday 21                  Manchester Opera House
Monday 22                York Grand Opera House
Tuesday 23                  Hull City Hall
Wednesday 24                Gateshead Sage
Friday 26                    Birmingham Town Hall
Saturday 27                   Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Sunday 28                  Oxford New Theatre
Tuesday 30                  Cambridge Corn Exchange
Wednesday 31                Salisbury City Hall


Thursday 1                     Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion
Friday 2                       High Wycombe Swan
Saturday 3                      Woking The New Victoria

Support on the shows will be Joan Shelley.

Tickets are available from:

CATH & PHIL TYLER – The Ox And The Ax (Ferric Mordant Records Fe10)

The Ox And The AxCath and Phil are based in the north-east – Phil is from Newcastle upon Tyne – but you wouldn’t know it from their music. Their greatest influence comes via Cath who was a member of Cordelia’s Dad back in the 1990s and has absorbed their take on traditional music from America. It also explains the spelling of ax. The Ox And The Ax is their third album but their first in almost a decade.

The majority of their songs come from across the Atlantic although several are known in the UK, often under different titles. The first, ‘The Two Sisters’ is sufficiently well-known not to need description but this version comes from New England via the noted collector Helen Hartness Flanders and owes its roots to several more familiar versions. ‘Finest Flower’ is a variant of ‘The Unquiet Grave’ using a tune from the southern harmony tradition and from there on we are breaking new ground. ‘Rainbow’ is a variant of ‘Locks And Bolts’ very different from the British versions but ‘Rained A Mist’, a song new to me, comes from Arkansas and is a variant of ‘The Jew’s Garden’ which is usually called ‘Little Sir Hugh’ for obvious reasons. I’ll leave you figure out the others.

I’m not sure about the thinking behind supplying a new tune to Ernest Jones’ ‘Song Of The Lower Classes’ given that the familiar one has served so well for so long. It is rather downbeat – understandably – and Cath and Phil’s new setting gives it rather more backbone, more anger.

Cath and Phil build their sound around Phil’s guitar with a heavy emphasis on the bass line, Cath’s fiddle and banjo. There’s a little percussion and trumpet on ‘King Henry’ from Glenn Bruinewoud. I have to confess that I find it a little ponderous at times although the music matches the frequent mood of death and despair in the songs. This isn’t a record to set your feet tapping but if you enjoy the cross-cultural fusion of traditional music between England and its former colony you’ll really enjoy it.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website:

‘The Two Sisters’ – official video:

THE JELLYMAN’S DAUGHTER – Dead Reckoning (own label)

Dead ReckoningA gentle beginning with cello, voice and mandolin and then the strings flow into the musicscape. ‘Quiet Movie’ is a fine opener to the new album Dead Reckoning by that marvellous duo The Jellyman’s Daughter.

This new outing is chock-full of bitter sweet ballads, laments, lullabies and dancing tunes such as the second track ‘I Hope’, a foot-tapper with a deceptively quiet start and catchy chorus.

The chugging cello riffs that punctuated their previous album are less frequent here, but still make a welcome appearance now and then. The banjo is used judiciously and joyfully on a number of the songs and, indeed, takes centre stage on the instrumental ‘The Shoogly Peg’, giving it a southern swamp-music flavour.

Emily Kelly has a super voice and Graham Coe’s vocal ably compliments hers giving cohesion to the whole.

There is more of a flow to this collection than the previous album which probably stems from the familiarity of two artists at one with each other. This album is a real pleasure to listen to and seems to offer more to the listener with each subsequent visit. I recommend you avail yourself of a copy and settle down to some fine music by an accomplished duo.

Ron D Bowes

Artists’ website:

‘Dead Reckoning’ – live:

HATFUL OF RAIN – Songs Of The Lost and Found (Long Way Home Music 004)

Songs Of The Lost And FoundHatful Of Rain were formed in 2011, have been played by Mike Harding and have performed live on the Bob Harris show. Their music crosses the borders of folk and country and Songs Of The Lost And Found is their fourth release, following two albums and an EP.

I found the album to be a little mixed. At its best are songs where you have either a great blending between the vocals of Chloe Overton and the musicianship of the band or just a great instrumental, such ‘Gathering Wood’, where the fiddle leads a lively tune, or the more Appalachian sounding ‘Won’t Be Druv’.

‘Where There’s Life’ is a country-influenced song about believing in someone despite everything “Where there’s life there’s hope/And I’m clinging to that now/Find a means to cope/I could be the making of you now/If only they’ll allow”. It’s nicely written – you’re neatly balanced between, on the one hand, believing or, on the other, thinking this is all false hope. Similarly, ‘Devil’s Dyke’ is a serious story based around the Battle of Boar’s Head, near Richebourg L’Avoue in 1916. The battle is known as The Day That Sussex died because 70% of the casualties were men from the Royal Sussex Regiment. It’s given poignancy by a slightly militaristic beat in the background and the tale is brought to life by being sung from the view of the partner of one of the men who was killed.

But there are also songs where, to my ear, the lightness of the tunes doesn’t carry the seriousness of the lyrics – ‘Down in the Town’ is a cracking melody, but doesn’t work for me as the backing to a tale of flooding, which killed thirty-four people and destroyed buildings; ‘I Thought You Would Live’ (self-explanatory title) also has a tune which feels too light for the lyric.

My two favourite tracks are the opener, ‘Start Again’ – fine playing on a tune that borders folk/country and has a story line of resilience (starting again) in the face of abuse; and ‘Sinking Like A Stone’, more country-flavoured, about an 18-year old leaving home for the city’s promise “Just a jumped up kid with a headful of dreams” who discovers the grass isn’t greener “I’m just too proud to tell you/That I’m sinking like a stone/The truth is I’m longing to come home”.

The band are on tour in June and July, details on the website. There are no videos yet available from the new album, so the link below takes you to an earlier song which gives you a good feel of the band’s style – and also gives you the opportunity to contribute to a domestic abuse charity in Sussex if you download the track.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Scarlet Ribbon’ – official video: