CHRISTY SCOTT – Amaranthine (Christy Scott Music CSMO1EP)

AmaranthineAmaranthine is a terrific five track EP released by Christy Scott. She has written all five of the songs and selected a well-respected group of musicians to support her.

Christy has a great voice and had created a really enjoyable EP. However, I am having difficulty categorising it. Neither the lyrics nor the arrangements would fall into a typical folk category. The lyrics all carry a personal in love theme and I personally am not keen on that. The romantics of the world will enjoy them more. I would place this EP more in pop or even country bracket. I know that there are many people who enjoy that and the record sell very well.

The one major criticism I have had nothing to do with Christy Scott. This EP has a problem which I am identifying more and more in folk albums issued by younger artistes. They are pushing vocals back and back allowing their music to be dominated by clever instrumentation. This is Christy’s record. She is a clever song-writer with a great voice. This CD is issued to promote Christy Scott, her singing voice and ability to write songs, not the backing musicians.

Tracks one and five recognise that. Tracks two, three and four are slightly overshadowed by the backing musicians and this is the fault of the producer. I am not saying they are not good, I am stressing a selfishness that has allowed the main reason for the release of the set to be dominated by the studio musicians.

Never mind, Christy, I like it and you are very good. Would I recommend it – yes, I would. It is a first release for Christy Scott and she will develop from this. The studio does not need to be so crammed. It is Christy’s voice and lyrics she need to promote. Me, an old ‘folkie’, has listened to this CD many, many times and so will you if you buy it. It is good!

Fraser Bruce

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

ORDER – [EP]

Artist’s website: https://christyscottmusic.bandcamp.com

‘Another Song About Another’ live:

SINGLES BAR 19

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 19KADIA are a young trio from Dorset who already have one album, East Of Alexandria, to their name. The Outlandish Collection is a five-track EP of traditional songs and tunes. The band comprises Lee Cuff on cello, double bass and piano; Chris Bailey on guitars and accordion and David Hoyland on mandolin and percussion. All three sing and with the range of instruments at their disposal they can produce a variety of sounds and moods. They open with the well known ‘Captain Ward’ followed by ‘The Cricketers Set’ which opens with ‘Cooley’s Reel’ (I would have sworn it was ‘Drunken Sailor’) and  ends with ‘King Of The Fairies’. Their lead single is ‘Lady Isabel & The Elf Knight’ and they finish with ‘The Keeper’ and ‘Randy Dandy’ – I never realised that the former was “full of innuendo and metaphor” and I wonder if our primary school teachers knew! I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more of Kadia.
www.kadiaband.co.uk

A prelude to her forthcoming tour, California-based singer-songwriter/artist CORINNE WEST releases a cover of The Battlefield Band’s ‘The Yew Tree’ (Make Make 333). It’s far more stripped down than the original; West hauntingly intoning the lyrics about Scotland’s history, referencing the slaughter at Flodden Field and the preachings of John Knox, to the backdrop of a cello drone, giving it a potent protest feel.
https://www.corinnewest.com/

Formerly trading as Alessi’s Ark, Alessi Laurent-Marke.has now pared herself down to just ALESSI and, after a three year absence following 2013’s The Still Life, is readying a new album, Love Is The Currency. As a taster she’s just self-released Wives (the limited edition 8” having sold out, it’s now available as a download), a swirringly atmospheric slice of chilled out folk-pop that muses on womanhood, women’s roles and responsibilities, and the importance of nurturing their own spirit as the best way to sustain a partnership.
http://www.alessisark.com/

‘He’ll Fight’ is the first single from the debut album by SPEAK, BROTHER an indie-folk quartet from the midlands. Written by singer and guitarist, James Herring, it’s a powerful song of drug addiction and redemption built on acoustic guitar and keyboards with solid bass and drums and clear harmonies. Speak, Brother are already making a name for themselves after two EPs and this song suggests that we can expect good things from their album.
http://speakbrother.co.uk/home

COVEN – Unholy Choir (own label COVENCD01)

Unholy ChoirIn case you haven’t been paying attention, let me explain. Coven combines the prodigious talents of Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans) and Grace Petrie. They have worked together, when commitments permit, for about three years having got together for International Women’s Day but Unholy Choir is the first time they have recorded. A word of warning, though, this six-track EP will only be available at gigs on their tour starting on March 1st.

Much of the material is drawn from back catalogues but these are all new recordings that combine the power of six voices and their instrumental skills. The opening track is ‘Coil & Spring’, written by O’Hooley and Tidow with the assistance of Boff Whalley about the Pussy Riot protest. I must have chosen itself as it gives the EP its title. Next is ‘Bread & Roses’. Rowan has given the song a new tune which makes it less of a march with a much more English feel. An inspired move.

‘This Woman’s Work’ is an obvious choice and Kate Bush’s song gives the group something to get their musical teeth into but, being old and male, I prefer ‘Quitting Time’ by the late Maggie Roche. Its footloose feel is enhanced by Belinda’s rolling piano but softened by the sweetness of six voices in harmony. Grace wrote ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ and she sings it an appropriately confrontational style. The message is simple: get out there and do something, however small.

The final track was recorded live. It’s Pat Humphries’ anthemic ‘Never Turning Back’. It’s a song I didn’t know from a writer I hadn’t heard of but I wasn’t surprised to learn that Pat knew Pete Seeger. Coven sing it a capella (the way Pat does) using the natural acoustics of Cooper Hall where they made the record and it brings the set to a rousing, optimistic close.

You have twelve chances this year to hear Coven live and acquire a copy of Unholy Choir. Don’t miss out.

Dai Jeffries

Tickets: www.ohooleyandtidow.com/gigs

‘This Woman’s Work’ live:

SINGLES BAR 18

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Having released their Death and Other Animals album to wide acclaim last year, FAUSTUS return to the well to lift ‘Slaves’ (Westpark Music 87333) to head up their new 5-track EP, their first for the Germany-based label. You should, of course, be familiar with the number, an arrangement of an 1840 call to arms against injustice meted out to the common man in England taken from the Ruth Tongue archive at Halsway Manor. Also from the album is a radio edit of ‘One More Day’, while ‘The Knife of Brian/ Bluebells and Beech Woods’ is a six-minute instrumental comprising two waltzes, the first a melodeon wheezer, the second a more stately woodwind led affair, hitherto available as an album bonus download. Meanwhile, ‘Thresherman’, the Roud 19 ballad about the rural poor, was, as long time fans will know, recorded by Sartin and Kirkpatrick on The First Cut, the 2003 album in their previous incarnation as Dr. Faustus. Here, it’s a live March 2015 recording from The Lights in Andover, as is the fifth track, a what was then work in progress preview of ‘Slaves’ itself.
http://www.faustusband.com/

THE SWEET WATER WARBLERS are an all female Michigan trio, comprising Lindsay Lou, lead vocalist with The Flatbellys and 2016 Best Vocalist nominee for the International Bluegrass Music Association and fellow singer-songwriters Rachael Davis and Mary Erlewine who, as well singing, trade such instruments as piano, banjo, uke, double bass, banjo and fiddle.

Out at the start of March, the self-released With You is a five-track collection of self-penned material and, featuring Davis on powerful gospel-styled lead, an inspired arrangement that sets the lyrics of one traditional number to the melody of another with ‘House of Amazing Grace’. Davis also contributes and plays banjo on the pure-voiced close harmony Appalachian-styled ballad ‘Lazarus’, featuring Erlewine on mountain fiddle.

Erlewine herself has two numbers, ‘Too Soon’, a number that lives up the trio’s name and is sure to earn them a new Be Good Tanyas tag, and the closing guitar and piano love song yearner title track. The remaining number comes courtesy of Lou, kicking the EP off with the bluesy a capella ‘Sing Me A Song’, herself on lead and sharing the three part harmony chorus, setting the seal on an auspicious debut and introducing a name we’ll be hearing a lot about in the months to come.
https://sweetwaterwarblers.com/

Bringing Americana closer to home, BROKEN FLOWERS are a three-piece alt-country outfit from West Yorkshire, lining up as singer Anna Mosley on rhythm guitar, Darren Gibbs on lead and Mike Brown on bass. They’ve alreadty released an album and follow that up with the self-released six-track So Many Shadows. They’ve cut their teeth on the UK country circuit and the EP reflects an awareness of the need to appeal to a range of tastes and audiences while keeping the feet on the dancefloor. Opener ‘Stephen’s Song’ is a solid mid-tempo chugger with swaggery hooks and is, in turn, followed by the slower dance paced ‘Easy On Me’, a mood echoed by the bruised heart love and loss notes of ‘Right About Now’.

But if they colour within the lines, they do so with confidence and bold strokes, prepared to challenge the quick fix approach with two six-minute plus numbers, the rolling punchy country rock of ‘Anywhere’ and mid-tempo demo closer ‘Sunday Morning’ with is Texicana guitar flavours and Mosley’s twang. And to top that there also a near eight-minute ‘I Saw A Light’, a slow burn soulful smoulder about the 1838 Huskar colliery disaster in Barnsley that shifts into a thundering, desert guitar howl climax before ending with the words “You keep the gold we pay the price,” spoken by Mosley’s seven-year-old son, the same age as her great great great uncle, James Burkinshaw, the youngest of the 26 children to drown when the pit flooded.
www.brokenflowers.co.uk

THE BROTHER BROTHERS are actually twin brothers Adam and David Moss based in Brooklyn. Adam is plays fiddle in a variety of old styles. Guitarist David is originally from Peoria – no, we can’t figure that out, either – and has two albums to his credit. Together they play a sophisticated Americana which still maintains the edge you look for in the genre. Tugboats would seem to be their recording debut, a six-track EP of mostly original songs – the cover isn’t very informative.

The title track is a slowish country waltz with a clever lyric rooted in their home city and a nice bit of philosophy: tugboats go slow because that’s the way to pull a heavy load. ‘Bird In A Tree’ is an up-tempo fiddle song that could pass as traditional. ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ is traditional, made famous by Doc Watson and here given a rhythmic finger-style guitar part and a brief fiddle break. ‘Come Back Darling’ is a fiddle backed exercise in harmony singing – rather ponderous when compared with the rest of the set but ‘Notary Public’ restores the lightness we’ve enjoyed so far. ‘Cairo, IL’ is probably by David, Illinois being the link. It has a slightly west coast feel except for the fiddle breaks which firmly locate the song further east.
www.thebrotherbrothersmusic.com

Oft-compared to Ray Davies, following on from last year’s mental-health themed concept album, Silver Meadows, [Fables from the Institution], VINNY PECULIAR has released a new four track EP, The Fairer Sex (Shadrack & Duxbury SAD EP 012). Another concept collection, this time it centres around gender-linked identity, opening with gradually swelling piano-backed reincarnation ballad ‘I Came Back As A Girl’. Sexual exploitation provides the theme for ‘House of Girls’, a deceptively dreamy keyboards-led melody couching a lyric about porn webcams and the ‘gentlemen’s’ clubs run by the likes of Stringfellow and Hefner. Again built around melancholic piano, ‘No Reply’ is a wistful reflection on the end of a relationship (“I don’t want to be your new best friend, so I can never see you again”), while the final track, ‘Trial By Lingerie’, is a synth and percussive click track setting of a playful poem offering “a lighthearted look at male humiliation in an M&S Lingerie department.” Basque in its delights.
http://vinnypeculiar.com/

SINGLES BAR 17

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 17Having released their latest album, Good Times Will Come Again last year, MEGSON now lift the lead track, ‘Generation Rent’ (EDJ), as a single. A punchy protest against how today’s young generation find it impossible to get on to the property ladder, it comes as both album version and radio mix. Sandwiched in-between, there’s Morning Mist, a traditional-flavoured ballad that spotlights Debbie Hanna’s vocals, Stu providing harmony, set to a minimal acoustic guitar, and a live recording of Stu’s near six minute The Longshot, a football-themed song that celebrates striving against the odds rather than giving up, because when. there’s no hope, “ a longshot is better than none”.
http://www.megsonmusic.co.uk/

Barbara DicksonAs a prelude to her spring tour with Troy Donockley BARBARA DICKSON releases an EP of Five Songs. The opening track is the traditional ‘Palace Grand’ – although it goes by several titles – accompanied initially by piano and acoustic guitar until the strings sweep in. Next is ‘Farewell To Fiunary’ starts with bodhran and drone building via multi-tracked vocals to a magnificent finish in which you can almost hear the creaking of oars on the Sound Of Mull. ‘The Hill’ is a Dickson/Donockley original with another lush arrangement while ‘The Laird Of The Dainty Dounby’ is an all-too familiar tale of the villainy of the aristocracy. Finally we have Robin Williamson’s ‘October Song’, a nicely thoughtful setting that honours the original and boasts a pipe solo from Donockley.
http://www.barbaradickson.net/

Singles Bar 17Born in Hampshire but based in East London, THOM ASHWORTH deals in the British folk tradition, his a stripped down approach played on bass. His self-released debut EP, Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture (available as a download from his website or as a limited edition CD) offers four examples of his work. Two traditional numbers load the front end with a sonorous reading of ‘Tyne Of Harrow’ and a moody drone-like treatment of familiar folk chestnut ‘Lord Bateman’. Not strictly traditional, the EP ends in striking style with a dark, minimal and spooked version of Sidney Carter’s ominous anti-war protest song ‘Crow On The Cradle’, the percussive heavy self-penned title track initially striking a kindred note, Named after a computer game apparently, it started out with a left over verse from a track on Interregum, the Marillion-like swansong album by Ashworth’s former band, Our Lost Infantry, and grew into a comment on how technology is taking away today’s livelihoods, as it did the weavers and miners before. A name to watch.
http://thomashworth.com/

Whitney RoseWHITNEY ROSE may come from Canada, but her South Texas Suite (Six Shooter) EP celebrates her recent two month residency at Austin’s Continental Club with six songs of a Lone Star persuasion. It opens south of the border with the gorgeous Three Minute Love Affair, the sort of timeless Texicana ballad you could imagine either Marty Robbins or the Mavericks (Raul Malo produced 2016’s Heartbreak Of The Year album) doing. Four of the other tracks are also self-penned, ‘My Boots’ a playful twangy guitar Loretta Lynn-like tribute to her footwear, the steel-streaked ‘Bluebonnets For My Baby’ harking more to 60s doowop balladry, the reflective mid-tempo swayer ‘Looking Back On Luckenbach’ sounding pretty much as you might imagine from the title (Waylon’s spirit presumably hovering over the recording session) and the brief – and a touch pointless – guitars, steel, fiddle and honky tonk piano instrumental closer ‘How ‘Bout A Hand For The Band’,. The remaining number finds her in a laid back swing mood for a cover of Brennen Leigh’s ode to good old retro technology, ‘Analog’. She’s touring here in May and, on the evidence here, will be well worth catching.
http://whitneyrosemusic.com

Runaway HorseAnd while we’re musically in Austin, RUNAWAY HORSE are a trio from the same fronted by the breathily voiced Mari Tirsa, accompanied by guitarist Daniel Barrett with Rick Richards on drums. Their self-released five-track EP, Beautiful Blue, harks to cosmic Americana with songs rooted in the landscape her New Mexico raising. It’s all fairly sedate and dreamy (though closer ‘Arrive’ has a persistent percussive one foot marching beat underpinning its tinkling starry skies feel), with both opener Holy Water and the title having a gentle, hymnal quality. They’re a little bluesier on the five minute plus ‘The Well’ (the Fleetwood Mac to the Cowboy Junkies elsewhere) while the ticking rhythm of the slowly swelling ‘Once’ sees Tirsa stretching her keyboard wings to fine effect.
http://runawayhorseband.com/

VARIOUS GUISES are the duo of Blanche Ellis and Maya McCourt and Tide Take Him marks their recording debut. They mix acapella vocals with guitar and cello and a little assistance from Tom Hyatt’s piano and vocalist Dana Immanuel. The title track is a reworking of ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor’ so that it’s no longer a shanty and instead is sung with a syncopated rhythm or slowed to a funereal pace. Tackling a song as hackneyed as this is always a risk but Various Guises really do something with it. With one more exception the songs are original ending with ‘The Sound And The Fury’ and the traditional ‘Bedlam Boys’ both of which are nicely nuts.
http://www.variousguises.co.uk/

SINGLES BAR 16

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 16We’re a bit late with this one but we can’t let the year turn without a mention of ANGE HARDY’s Christmas single. There are two tracks, both original compositions and both sung acapella. ‘The Quantock Carol’ should immediately go into every seasonal repertoire – it’s a plea for peace now and in the future, a simple and beautiful song. ‘Mary’s Robin’ is based on the Gaelic legend about how the robin got its red breast and should be snapped up by unaccompanied groups and community choirs everywhere.
http://www.angehardy.com/

CRAIG FINN has a new album, We All Want the Same Things, out in March preceded by a single ‘Preludes’. Finn grew up in Edina, Minneapolis and describes ‘Preludes’ as “this was what I remember 1994 being like, coming back to the Twin Cities after being away for college.” ‘Preludes’ gives us snapshot of this time in life: “I came back to St Paul’s and things had progressed and got strange”; images of his friends who have moved away to Seattle while he is back in the hometown hitting the bars; of a guy who jumped out at him with a pistol (“I considered my options and decided to do what he said”); and, above all, “I got stuck in a snowbank, I was too drunk to drive to a diner/ Right there was proof of my faith that God watches us”, leading to the refrain which permeates and ends the song “God watches us”. It sounds heavy, but it’s not. The musical feel is reminiscent of the driving energy of the Counting Crows and it’s a fun song capturing that time of life in your early twenties when you return home after time away and re-evaluate your relationship with your home town and family.
http://www.craigfinn.net/

Don’t look for JAKE ISLAND on a map – you won’t find it. Jake is a he: a singer/songwriter/ producer from County Meath. He’s rather modest about what he does on his EP Kindest Of Our Days, listing musicians including featured vocalists Rowan and Driver 66. The four songs here are a sort of Irish-Americana with banjo, fiddle, flute and whistles as well as the standard guitar-bass-drums trinity. There’s an odd melancholy about the music. ‘Last Drunk In Town’ and ‘Lose The Love’ should be sung in a late-night bar and ‘Horizon Blues’ is the story of an old musician reminiscing and perhaps thinking about a comeback tour. The title track, which opens the set, is the most upbeat of the collection but even here there is nostalgia in the strictest sense: a pain and regret for what is past. There are four great songs here.
www.jakeisland.co.uk

‘Alive’ is a download only single from Scottish band SKIPINNISH. It opens as a gentle piano-based meditation on the blessing of being alive complete with angelic backing vocals, something of a reaction to 2016 you might think. At the minute mark it takes off with drums, fiddle and electric guitar before almost settling into a meditative mood – fooled you, they were just gearing up for a big finish. “You’re alive, you’re alive and the stars are on your side” is a good thought to begin the year with.
http://www.skipinnish.com/