A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 27MERRY HELL will launch their eagerly awaited acoustic album, Anthems To The Wind, in a couple of months. Forget Costa del Folk, Wigan will be the place to be! To whet our appetites they have an EP, Bury Me Naked, led of by one of our favourite songs. The acoustic line-up has given them the opportunity to completely rearrange the song with Virginia Kettle’s voice well out front and what sounds like a barrel organ giving it a jolly lift. ‘Sailing Too Close To The Wind’ is based on acoustic guitar and ‘Drunken Serenade’ is given a ceilidh feel with Neil McCartney’s fiddle driving the song. The set is finished off with an anthemic ‘No Place Like Tomorrow’. Brilliant from start to finish.

Gary Miller‘The Durham Light Infantry’ is an old song by the mighty Whisky Priests. It has now been re-recorded by writer GARY MILLER and is now the lead single from his new project, From Coalfield To Battlefield. In this version Gary is accompanied by The Ferryhill Town Band brilliantly scored by Sam Lord and producer Iain Petrie. The single includes vocal and instrumental versions and is one of the very few occasions when an instrumental is the equal of the vocal version. There’s a gorgeous riff, if that’s the right word, that serves as a fill in the song and decorates the second version. Lovely stuff.

Ben Morgan-BrownHaving self-produced his first two EPs, BEN MORGAN-BROWN has enlisted Josh Clark to oversee his third, Cold Rooms. You might think that a solo voice and guitar doesn’t require a huge amount of production but Josh has certainly got the best out of the Exeter based singer songwriter. The opening title track begins gently enough but Ben’s guitar rings underneath his voice while building up to a big finish. The instrumental, ‘I See That You’, is gorgeous with an almost retro feel as Ben finger-picks a low continuo while striking plangent top notes. There are some nice synth tones at the end of ‘No More Fooling’, too.

The DarkDARWIN’S DAUGHTER is better known to her family as Fiona Ruth Hannon. She lives in Ireland and The Dark is her first EP. The first thing to say is that she has one hell of a voice which stands up well to the orchestra that tries to dominate the opening track, ‘Dark Fires’. It’s better when the production takes its foot off the gas and lets us hear the trio of Anthony Gibney, Max Greenwood and Kim V Porcelli – Greenwood’s piano played at the top end of the keyboard decorates beautifully.

Inni-KEithne Ní Chatháin goes by the INNI-K which is a blessing for those of us who don’t have the Gaelic. Following her debut album, The King Has Two Horse’s Ears she releases a single, ‘Edges’, before going on tour. She’s impossible to categorise with her powerful voice, fiddle and electric guitar supported by double bass and percussion. We need to hear more.

I Am A BoyKRIS WOODBIRD is something of an enigma. He lives n Stockholm and has released a number of singles over the last year of which ‘I Am A Boy’ is the latest. Very simple: just one voice and one voice, it’s desperately fragile with self-destructive overtones. He talks about smashing his head against a wall, being unworthy and living far away from home. A new album is expected this year.

CAITLIN KING – Flower Crown (SoSlam)

Flower CrownMusicians, like policemen, are looking younger and there is a new young musician on the beat.  Southend-on-Sea based Caitlin King has only just turned 16 and has released a début EP Flower Crown which shows a lot of promise.

Caitlin has been writing since she was 12 and it’s encouraging to see that all five tracks on the EP are her own compositions.  That’s a brave choice as the temptation must be to put a couple of well known covers in, but it also means that the performer has a chance to establish their own identity and not bind themselves to a particular genre.

I would pitch this album in the folk realm, as the songs are very personal, but it certainly isn’t just a folk album.  It has to be mentioned that Caitlin may lack years but has experienced loss in her life, which influences two of the tracks in particular.

‘Metaphor’, the opening number, is about facing loss and having to deal with that the time leading towards it where hope begins to fade and praying for the best doesn’t work. This track is quite pop orientated and is the only one that has a drum accompaniment.

‘In The Wilderness’, which follows it, is musically a much simpler track with just voice and guitar and is very much a song of somebody whose life is starting to take on a new direction and with new distractions such as relationships.  It has more of a folk feel and is rather beautiful.

‘Heal your Heart’ is a song that also refers back to Caitlin’s loss but what this song has in common with ‘Metaphor’ is that it has a positive message that throughout everything love remains and that love becomes part of the healing process.

For ‘Flower Crown’ Caitlin accompanies herself on piano. There a blues feel in a song about basically about love and being there for people and has an impressive build before ending with a gentle outro.

‘Like You Once Did’ returns back to the folk idiom and can also be considered a love song although the love isn’t happy and fulfilling.  Interestingly this song also includes spoken words, which is something not often heard in songs and yet it works very well here.  Hearing Caitlin’s real voice, with even a few “you know’s” thrown in for good measure, does bring home how young she is.

Caitlin’s voice, as with the songs, can vary across the tracks.  She’s certainly capable of putting on an accent that would not be out of place in a jazz bar but she also has a simpler and, for me, more natural sound that is very pleasant.  As a début this EP does exactly what it should.  Caitlin has set out her stall and showcased her talents well.  There’s a good range of skills on display and she’s not afraid to experiment, but also manages to avoid the trap of attempting to over-complicate things for effect. It’s a very promising start, from somebody learning their trade the right way, and I think there is more to come.

The album was released at the end of 2017 and is now available to download or stream through various platforms including iTunes and Amazon.

Tony Birch

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Artist’s website:

‘Flower Crown’ – official video:


The Christmas bonus edition

Singles Bar 26When RALPH McTELL wrote ‘Streets Of London’ it was a song of its time. Everyone, but everyone, sang it. In the intervening decades it became a song that we heard but didn’t really listen to and, of course, Ralph had to sing it everywhere he went. The thing is, nothing has improved in the last fifty years and Ralph has returned to the song with a new version featuring ANNIE LENNOX and THE CRISIS CHOIR released as a single for the benefit of the homeless charity Crisis. If that doesn’t convince you to spend 99p on it, there’s Richard Thompson on guitar, too. Download from:

‘A White Cliffs Christmas’ is the new single by folk collective 51:13. It was written by Nick Esson who says that “my hope was to ameliorate the vibe of the 1970s Christmas song with the contemporary experience of being a parent and grandparent at this time of the year”. You might expect a measure of cynicism but no, this a genuinely joyful song even though “the turkey’s frozen and I don’t like greens”. It’s really uplifting and half the profits will go to the Dover Soup Kitchen. Buy from:

If you’re looking for cynicism look no further than PROSECCO SOCIALIST, a new trio featuring a gravely Dave Rotheray, Eleanor McEvoy at her hard-bitten best and Hull’s “living legend”, Mike Greaves. ‘This Dog’s Just For Christmas (Not For Life)’ attempts to answer John Lennon’s famous question: “And so this is Christmas, and what have we done?” and Dave’s list involves seventeen Guinness extra-cold and a Jaegerbomb, not to mention a jaffa cake vodka shot. It’s a great song with the witty, acid lyrics you expect from Eleanor and it really is our sort of Christmas!

JARROD DICKENSON is mellow and nostalgic on ‘Christmas Time In The City’. It’s a country song topped off with steel guitar and packed full of Bing Crosby, coloured lights, freshly fallen snow and couples in love. American audiences will love it but it’s only just on the right side of parody. The bluesy, piano driven, ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’, written by Charles Brown more than fifty years ago is more like our idea of nostalgia.

ALEX HEDLEY’s new single is ‘Let It Roll On’ and it has nothing to do with Christmas. Alex is the frontman of Dorset band Saturday Sun and the single comes as a taster for his solo EP, This Life, released next month. The single is built on acoustic guitar and harmonica and you might label it Americana except that it has a decidedly British feel of existential misery. Alex has been likened to many other artists but you might be hard put to find the common ground – he really is an original.


A round-up of recent EPs and singles with compliments of the season

Singles Bar 25WOLFNOTE are a new trio from Berkshire making their debut with an EP, Frightened Of Your Own F#. The three female members, Bex, Gill and Ceri, have strong voices and harmonise well and between them play guitar, violin, cello, dulcimer and recorders and their silent partner, Mike, plays guitar, bass and cajon. The record starts with a cover of Dylan’s ‘Girl From The North Country’ taken a little more quickly than most people do – it can drag, sometimes. The other songs are originals and ‘Love And Light’ is particularly good. The production is excellent, concentrating on the voices with the instrumental leads clear and bright. A name to watch.

‘The Tug Of The Moon’ is the first single to be taken from If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, the forthcoming album by SARAH McQUAID. This could be the only song ever inspired by Newton’s third law of motion and its effect on sidereal time.  Behind the science is the thought that we are all spinning towards the end of the universe and perhaps we should make the most of our time. Sarah creates a wonderful sound with fingerpicked electric guitar drenched in reverb.

While her new band settles in DARIA KULESH releases a single supported by two of her duo partners, Jonny Dyer and Marina Osman. ‘Vasilisa’ is an old Russian fairy tale from a book that Daria read as a child and still has. The story contains certain elements of Cinderella but far nastier and involves a supposedly deadly errand, the famous witch Baba Yaga and some unpleasant deaths. It has the mysterious air of Daria’s other Russian adaptations with the drone of a shruti box, dramatic piano, percussion and bouzouki.

It’s that time of year, so folk have been getting into the festive mood for seasonal singles. First up comes the rather lovely download (from the usual sources) only ‘What Will Christmas Be’, a melancholic piano (Danny Mitchell) and cello (Chelsea McGough) ballad duet from BEN GLOVER and NATALIE SCHLAB about absence and loss at a time traditionally about being together, set off with a final peal of bells.

Season Bright is a seasonal EP from EMILY EWING & ROBERT LANE. Robert is well known to folking readers and Emily is a singer-songwriter with a download EP to her name and a growing reputation. The lead tracks begins with Robert and Emily lamenting the fact that they’ll be spending Christmas alone (surely not) and moves on to the exhortation to “keep your loved ones near” over some lovely ringing electric guitar. The other tracks are the guitar-led ‘Get You’ and ‘Own It’, built around Emily’s piano. Available from iTunes.

Jo Whitby aka LAURENCE MADE ME CRY mirrors the mood with her download single ‘It’s Not You, It’s Christmas’ (from her bandcamp site), a slow walking fuzzed reverb guitar (sounding like a kazoo on acid) and drums ditty about choosing to spend the festivities alone at home, although she still wishes everyone seasonal cheer.

SKINNY LISTER also get into the act with ‘Christmas Calls’ (XtraMile), an epic sounding arms-linked swayalong anthem very much in the Pogues ‘Fairytale’ mould, complete with military drums, bells and whistles.

From last year’s Edison Gloriette album, JESS MORGAN releases download Jay Chakravorty remix of the Moonstruck-inspired ‘Come To The Opera With Me Loretta’ (Drabant Music) that removes the piano, putting more focus on the vocals and giving it an anthemic seasonal synths and drums shimmer makeover.

Away from the holly and ivy,Yorkshire’s FRAN WYBURN self-releases ‘Foolish Sea’, George Birkett’s fingerpicking and Rachel Brown’s cello backdropping her pure, little girl vocals on a quirky tale of unrequited love that serves as a taster to her forthcoming album.

There is not so much Christmas spirit but an awful lot of pain in ‘Love Left Lost’, the second single from Brighton-based singer-songwriter JOSH McGOVERN. Quite which subterranean depths that voice comes from is hard to say but the tragedy is delivered over minimal acoustic and with soulful backing vocals on the choruses.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the death of blues guitarist LUTHER ALLISON Ruf records have released a limited edition eleven disc box set of his later work. As a taster there is a 7” vinyl single: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and ‘Night Life’. The lead track starts with a deceptively simple Hammond organ and Luther waits until the chorus comes round for the band to kick in and then it takes off with some wonderful “doo-de-doo” backing vocals.

SAM RYAN – The Traveller EP – (own label)

TravellerDevon based up and coming singer songwriter Sam Ryan, has released his debut EP at 19 years of age, and has a bevvy of fans already.With an excellent pedigree of folk legend talent in his family, Sam’s amazing raw edged debut EP entitled The Traveller will be launched in Exeter at The Sorry Head on August 26th. All four tracks are self-penned, and have great story telling lyrics.

First track – ‘High’ – gives an interesting mix of lyrics and skiffle type riffs. It has cracking passionate guitar work with attitude too.

‘Men’ has lots of passionate guitar work. The lyrics talk about different aspects of men, fathers and sons, brothers, Kings etc. A line in there asks ‘when will we learn’?

‘Shield Wall’ is about three brothers. I sense a kind of rap in this track, alternating with regular guitar. Rather progressive. Catches you off guard!

‘The Beach Of Camlann’ is about thoughts and actions I believe. It has an interesting guitar rhythm and perhaps my favourite track, but the whole album is good.

I would like to mention that Sam wrote and played on the title track of his father, Rev Hammer’s, latest album with Nick Harper entitled Skald. A talent in the making and one to watch on the up and coming circuit.

You can purchase the digital download by contacting Sam on his Facebook Page: and on Twitter:

Jean Camp

CONNOR WALSH – The Hardest Path EP (own label)

The Hardest PathConnor Walsh – a very talented, young, upcoming musician, based in Devon is to release his new EP, The Hardest Path, on September 2nd, and a fabulous EP it is! Connor has written this from experiences in his own life, and says that “…there is a strange beauty in the Darkest of Times”. All tracks are self-penned. The Hardest Path has four tracks and perfectly shows his wealth of talent.

‘Down The Line’. A story of relationships and time. Starting slowly and then reaching a high point, beautifully crafted and belted out on the guitar, harmonies and bodhran from Emma Mcelhinney.

‘Fellow Man’ has a strong Irish flavour asking us to rise your glass to those that look after our country, and hoping that they will not be sent to a foreign land. Very dramatic and rhythmic track played on mandolin. Harmonies and bodrhan from Emma.

‘Hold On’ leads us into a false quiet beginning then let’s rip as only Connor can do! In the song he is experiencing pain, and needs holding on to. Very clever voice mix and guitar, you can feel the anguish.

‘The Call’ is probably my favourite track. Dramatic beginning then ends with frenetic guitar. Listen to ‘The Call to guide us home to our sons’! Amazing song writing and tune! Again harmonies and bodrhan from Emma.

Connor is certainly going to be going places on the music scene and is already making waves in the local Devon area. He is very confident and has a great stage presence. The album launch will be August Bank Holiday weekend at The Sorry Head in Exeter, and I’m looking forward to seeing him live again.

Folk-rock legend Rev Hammer, who has also helped sponsor the album with Barry Walsh says this of Connor’s work:

“A great collection of street balladry from the Gutter Rat King. Powerful and evocative song writing aided and abetted by dancing fiddle and some sweet, sweet backing vocals. This perfectly captures the live essence of the man”

Says it all really!

Ably produced by Alex Johnstone in Exeter.

Jean Camp

Artist’s website:

‘Hold On’ – official video: