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:


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 24MERRY HELL describe the title track of their new EP, Come On, England, as an alternative National Anthem. Needless to say, the song bears no resemblance to the chants of the football terraces or EDL marches. Instead Bob Kettle invokes the Diggers and the Levellers and “the spirit that will never lie down”. The song has a singalong roll that almost disguises its powerful lyrics. The second track is brother John’s ‘We Need Each Other Now’, also from the Bloodlines album, which complements ‘Come On, England’ as a rallying call. ‘Lean On Me, Love’ is a taster for the band’s forthcoming acoustic album – looking forward to that – and the set closes with a live version of ‘The War Between Ourselves’. It’s all inspiring stuff.

Singles Bar 24Based in Devon, VELVET & STONE line up as Lara Snowden and Roger Styles on vocals and guitars, Barry Muir on bass and double bass and Kathryn Tremlett providing violin and piano with producer Gareth Young on hand for percussion and Caroline Lavelle, who’se worked with Radiohead, Muse and Afro Celt Sound System on cello. The self-released ‘Raise Your Ghosts/Embers’ is a two track single taster for October’s EP and, while I’d have thought it would make more sense to release them all altogether rather than fans buying the numbers twice, it certainly whets the appetite. The first has definite mid-tempo Fleetwood Mac shades, or more specifically Stevie Nicks, while the second is a more reflective ballad, Lara’s soft vocals enrobed with strings as the song swells to a head. Nice stuff, but, as I say, waiting for the EP would seem the more sensible option.

The Things That Matter is the debut record from Irish/American duo THE 19th STREET BAND. Caolaidhe Davis and his wife Meghan are the principals, doing the singing and playing guitars, fiddle and mandolin, and are supported by Brian White, Patty Dougherty and Tom Verratti on bass, drums and banjo. Their sound is a mixture of Americana styles: ‘Jump In The Water’ is heavy bluegrass with modern lyrics while ‘Long Runs The Fox’ is sort of slide guitar blues – Meghan has a hell of a voice for that. ‘It’s True What They Say’ is a real shit-kicker; in fact, the pace barely lets up until the closing title track.

Singles Bar 24You’ve Been Away So Long is a self-released 5-track EP from Boston singer-songwriter and guitar picker  ALICE HOWE that winningly draws on such retro 60s American folk influences as Guthrie, Rambling Jack, Kate Wolff, Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell, while, accompanied on dobro by Jeff Fielder, opener ‘Homeland Blues’ has definite echoes of Baez.

Described by folk singer Vance Gilbert has having a voice like “a broken angel’s bell”, she brings an emotional catch to ‘Nothing But You’, an elegy to her late father while, another Baez echo, the playful Appalachian-flavoured country waltz ‘Make A Fool Out Of Me’ pays homage to Steve Martin. Her fingers work the frets for ‘Don’t Worry Honey’, a cleverly ambiguous fatalistic love song and how “it’s always in the dark that I liked you best” that has her doing her best Joni soaring notes.

In the unlikely event you’ve not yet been won over, the closing title track makes resistance futile, Fielder on a Gibson L-1 archtop for a song about knowing yourself and being comfortable with who you are. Putting me in mind of Dar Williams’ ‘Mercy of the Fallen’, with its cascading melody lines and her wistfully dusty voice, it’s up there with the very best of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gretchen Peters and Williams herself, as well as those icons of her raising.

I confess I’d not come across her before and this is her first release in three years following an eponymous EP in 2009, her debut album in 2013 and the Tiger Lily EP a year later. I’ll be adding those to the collection and trusting a new full album will be down the road sometime soon.

Loose |EndsThe covering letter that accompanied Loose Ends, the second record from CHRIS FOX, asked if we’d consider reviewing it for fRoots. Ignoring the poor first impression, Loose Ends turns out to be pretty good. Chris does everything himself: finger-picked acoustic guitar, tasteful bass and percussion that make the record very easy to listen to. Chris wrote seven of the eight tracks and they are thoughtful, often witty – the line about lying drunk on the lawn “holding on to the grass to keep myself from falling” is particularly memorable: ‘Howl At The Moon’ is a cracking opener and says what a lot of us are probably thinking. The only non-original track is ‘Lord Franklin’, a gentle, reflective reading of the song.

Small WorldADRIAN BATES makes his recording debut with a four-track EP, Small World, of original songs supported by Chris Miley, Carl Leighton and David Leighton. The opener, ‘Hard Working Man’, is a particularly fine song, putting a 21st century spin on the age-old complaint of the put-upon worker. ‘The Apple’, featuring the Leightons’ violin and cello, is a reflective piece in which the writer laments that he has become what his father was and what he swore he would never be. In the final song, ‘Winding Wheels’, Adrian looks back on his childhood in the Yorkshire coalfields and, in doing so, laments the loss of an industry. An impressive start.

Singles Bar 24‘The Man Who Ate A Hurricane’ is the first single to be drawn from Standing Still Will Kill You, the third album from Essex based singer-songwriter OWEN WILLIAMS. It’s a gritty, hard-edged song with apocalyptic lyrics, supported by piano and backing vocals. We’re looking forward to the album.

A singer-songwriter from Swindon, ROB RICHINGS delivers a shuffle along busker-like song about not closing our eyes to the social problems around us with ‘Carry On Regardless’ (Crescent), its catchy loping crunchy percussion chorus about how “we all stick our head in the sand and carry on regardless” firmly lodging itself in those singalong neurons.

BLIND RIVER SCARE – Pastures New (Creosote CR004CD)

Pastures NewBlind River Scare is the performing vehicle for South Wales based singer-songwriter, Tim Manning, here, on their fourth album, working as a trio with Steve Loosemeore on upright bass and Mike Hopkins providing harmonium, mandolin and Hammond augmenting his acoustic and resonator guitar. Musically, he’s rooted in Americana, alt-country and roots, the gently rolling resonator backed cowboyish ‘Restless Soul’ nodding to the genre’s retro influences.

It’s only a six track release, but Manning ensures each one counts, opening with the strummed title ballad about two lonely souls in a bar looking for, as it says, pastures new but experienced enough to realise they may not necessarily be green.

More fingerpicked, ‘Close To Home’ is another old school flavoured number, a song about a driver and a series of encounters with, variously a young girl, old lady and a drunk, all in need of help with no idea where they came from or how they got there, driving home on the road past the local cemetery; this being country, the presumption is they’re all ghosts.

Nodding to folksier influences and with mandolin frills, ‘But Still You Stay’ is another relationship themed song, this time about domestic abuse and the victim’s inability to leave, while, with more of a percussive guitar style with bluegrass notes, ‘No Jericho’ concerns dreams unfulfilled, falling apart not in some dramatic crash but slowly, stone by stone, over the years.

It ends, all too soon, but on an hopeful note that echoes how it began, with ‘Sideways Slide’, a honky-tonk waltzer about a chance encounter across a railway carriage between two people in need of someone to want them. They’re gigging throughout the late summer and autumn around the Midlands and the South, if they’re in your neck of the woods you should check them out and pick up a copy of this their other CDs while you’re at it.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:


‘Close To Home’ – live:


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 23SAILING STONES is the name by which Irish born, London-based Jenny Lindfors plies her trade, the digital self-produced, self-released ‘Telescopes’ her second release, piano, brass and mellotron coming together for an atmospheric five-minute electro-folk reflective ballad about learning what love is and means that seems sure to garner yet more Laura Marling comparisons.

Singles Bar 23‘Opium Of The Masses’ is the new single from SHARON LAZIBYRD. Sharon plays ukulele which gives the song a deceptively light opening but which is quickly overtaken by a much bigger arrangement, including a gorgeous piano passage, featuring Damon and Kate Bridge and Tom Cory. This is a powerful song about consumerism and pressure to conform to market forces. And no, Sharon, it’s not just you.

Singles Bar 23A Norwegian Americana trio comprising Mari Sandvaer Kreken, husband Tor and Kjetil Steennaes, DARLING WEST lay the ground for next year’s new album with two singles, ‘After My Time’ and ‘While I Was Asleep’ (Ja), the first a strong combination of psychedelic folk, pop and swirling Appalachian influences, while the other foregrounds mellotron, harmonica and mandolin for a mid-tempo folk pop number that perhaps suggests a middle ground between First Aid Kit and Lady Antebellum. The respective B-sides, the dreamier ‘Someone Like You’ and the banjo accompanied, and to my mind, catchiest number, ‘The Sweetest Tune’ both easy on the ear, melodic mid tempo ballads that should raise anticipation for the album.

Singles Bar 23There’s some nice finger-picking and slide guitar on You’ve Been Away So Long, the new EP from ALICE HOWE. A lot of the guitar work is down to Jeff Fielder but the songs are all Alice’s. The opener, ‘Homeland Blues’, is a catchy song with a heavy country vibe belying the fact that Alice is from Boston and the record was made in Seattle. ‘Make A Fool Out Of Me’ is a country waltz with contrasting hard-bitten lyrics and the title track is a lovely atmospheric piece.

Singles Bar 23Although curiously not mentioned in the press release, MARK OLSON was, alongside Gary Louris, co-founder of seminal 80s Americana outfit The Jayhawks, quitting in 1995 to join then wife Victoria Williams in The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, subsequently reuniting with Louris for their duo album Ready For The Flood and, eventually a Jayhawks reunion. Since 2007, he’s also had a solo career and now he and wife Ingunn Ringvold, the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, are readying their second album together. As a taster, he’s releasing the jangling, chords cascading ‘Dear Elizabeth(Glitterhouse) paired with the equally tumbling backwoods folksy ‘You Are All’. If the rest of the album matches these, it should be a real treat.

Singles Bar 23More country-pop comes from JESSICA LYNN’s EP Crazy Idea which was produced by Patrick Hamilton at Globe Studios in Belgium. She’s been dubbed ‘the new Shania Twain’ and she sure has a powerful voice and big band behind her – that must be Steven Wright-Mark playing the screaming lead guitar on ‘After Party’.

Singles Bar 23Where do bands get their names from these days? THE ANATOMY OF FRANK are a trio from Charlottesville, Virginia and, ahead of their latest album South America, they release a single ‘Holy Mountain’. Nice finger-style guitar and ethereal voices: it is a song about death and loss.

Singles Bar 23Neil Wardleworth used to be in Steel Threads, a band we rather liked. Now he’s teamed up with Harriet Brooke McDonnell in HARRIET! who have a debut double-A side single on both CD and vinyl. ‘Just Sign’ is heavy without being overwhelming and features Harriet’s lead vocals while ‘Those Three Words’ presents a (slightly) more acoustic duet. Nice one.

Singles Bar 23SEÁN KEANE sings ‘The Coast Of Labrador’ composed by Brendan Graham and Denis Carey as part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary and now available from iTunes. The song is set during the period of Irish emigration and tells of a young man who finds a new life with an Inuit girl and eventually teaches his son to play hurling on the ice. Who knows what that might lead to?


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 22Following four independent releases, Ontario siblings THE ABRAMS BROTHERS mark their major label debut with a self-titled EP (Warner Music 237811), a six tracker collection of country tinted pop that kicks off with ‘Champion’, a number that mixes together American Football’s ‘When The Summer Ends’ and Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ in a way that echoes fellow Canadians Barenaked Ladies. The latter can also be heard on the jaunty banjo jogalong ‘Fine’, its summery vibe also washing through ‘Still In Love’ a stadium-style ballad with another lyric about sustaining romance in the face of change.

‘Perfect’ is another bouncy track that follows their template of toe-tapping melody and a big chorus rush as is the last cut, the rhythmically scampering ‘Spend Your Life With Me’, while, sandwiched in-between is the EP’s other mid-tempo love song, ‘Miracles’, it’s chorus again encouraging arms aloft swaying. They already have a solid reputation in Canada and, if this gets the international airplay it deserves, there’s no reason why they couldn’t follow in the footsteps of both BNL and that other fellow countryman, Bryan Adams.

Singles Bar 22ROBERT LANE releases a delightful summer single, ‘Right By My Side’ which is now available to preorder from iTunes. It opens with solo acoustic guitar before the band and strings join in and there is a lovely electric guitar fill towards the end. It reminds me a bit of The Kinks’ ‘Days’ although really they have nothing in common apart from the sunny feeling.

Singles Bar 22The son of the late great king of skiffle, Lonnie Donegan, PETER DONEGAN has long been fronting his own band playing a mix of his dad’s classics and his own material, releasing a debut album in the same vein back in 2009. However, it’s long been his ambition to make a full on self-penned country record, one that comes to fruition with the self-released 5-track Superman EP. Recorded in Nashville with sessioneers whose credits include Krauss, Lynn and Morrison, it’s a fine set that gets underway with the mid-tempo radio friendly jingling title track with Bob Williams on dobro. The pace is a little slower for the soulful swayer ‘I’m Yours’ with its organ backing an lyrical nod to Van’s ‘Into The Mystic’ indicating the influences at work.

With its plangent electric guitar and mandolin, ‘Ode To A Friend’ starts slow but builds to a sprightlier number with piano and marching drums, while, a song to his son, the steady Hammond-backed balladeering of ‘Little Man’ adopts a more acoustic approach.

For the five-minute closer ‘Shakin’’, the hints of hints of father’s voice are enveloped in a strong Southern blues groove with a fierce electric guitar solo that suggests this is likely to prove a bit of a live stormer.

Singles Bar 22From Portland, Oregon comes AVERY LEVINE who spent five years living in Dublin, a time which clearly had a profound effect on him to judge by his debut EP, Lonesome City. He plays bouzouki and flute and mixes traditional Irish songs and tunes with his own compositions. The flute solos, ‘Seán Ó Duibhir a Ghleanna/Statia Donnelly’s’ and ‘Patsy Hanley’s/The Boys Of Ballisodare/The Crosses Of Annagh’, are nice enough, as is ‘Herbert Park’ (about a public park in Dublin), but Avery seems to be trying too hard to sound like a Dubliner and the opener, ‘Coins On The Ground’, sounds a bit forced. His singing style is also rather intense and even on the best track, ‘Lonesome City’, it would be nice to hear him sing in his natural voice.

Singles Bar 22JEANES is essentially a vehicle for Yorkshire-based songwriter and guitarist Russell Jeanes, debut EP Sleeping Leaves (Folkstock) a four track collection of songs to do with nature, brought into being after gathering dust for thirty years and featuring three different female vocalists. Recorded in a Parisian garden, Catherine Hershey fronts the first two, the breathily sung ‘Simply Jayne’ with its courtly troubadour arrangement and the sound of blackbirds, and the similarly styled ‘Barley, Hops & Yeast’, a metaphorical love song built around the origins of alcohol with its circling guitar pattern and strings, redolent of the sun on golden country fields.

The birds chirping again, the equally breathy Emily Grace Zornado takes over for the plucked acoustic ‘Smiles With Her Eyes’, the double-tracked vocals recorded in Danielson National Park then its off to Brussels for the strings-enrobed arrangement of the pastoral headiness of ‘Trees Hug Bees’ sung in childlike tones by Lea Duncan. Bewitching stuff.

Singfles Bar 22CIRCE’S DINER are Rosina Buck and Bronte Shande who met while studying in Bristol. Their new single, ‘Who Dares’, features delicate guitar and piano accompaniment (by Paul Quinn) under striking harmonies. It’s another optimistic summer song about bouncing back from setbacks and standing up for yourself.

Singles Bar 22Husband and wife duo Jools and Malcolm Heyes are RUBY MUSE, a Cambridge duo who’ve earned comparisons as diverse as Yes, Morcheeba and Fleetwood Mac, although it’s really on the latter’s influence you’ll hear on self –released EP, Just Like You, most notably on the five-minute lo fi, sultrily sung title track opener. To be honest, never deviating from the path it sets at the start, it rather outstays its welcome, but the more concise, bluesier ‘Diamonds’ with its snap percussion is a stronger proposition. However, it’s the folksier final track, the moodily acoustic fingerpicked ‘Winter Hellebore’, a song about growth through adversity, that features African drum and tambourine that leaves you wanting to hear more.

Singles Bar 22Featuring, as it does, sax, double bass, trumpet and flugelhorn, you’ll not be surprised to hear that To Gentlemen (SoDak004), the debut release by multi-instrumentalist, producer/singer-songwriter/sessioneer Rachel Ries under her new name of HER CROOKED HEART, has some clearly discernible jazz shadings. They’re at their most obvious on the opening midtempo ‘Are You Good You Are’ with its shifting rhythms and time signatures. The two tracks in the middle are folksier, the brushed drums shuffle of ‘Adrian’ with its spoken midsection and brass warmed play-out and the simple acoustic strum of the intimately-sung ‘Loving You’, the EP ending with the piano instrumental title track. Featuring lyrics that incline to poetry, it’s an interesting taster, but this jury’s going to delay the verdict until the full album offers some more supporting evidence.

Singles Bar 22JACK COOKSON comes from Devon and was a Radio 2 Young Folk Award nominee last year. He already has several recordings to his name but his single, ‘Thistles’, is the first time his music has come to our attention. One of his early tracks was ‘Nebraska’ and you can tell that he’s a Springsteen fan – if Bruce came from Plymouth rather than New Jersey, this is how he might sound. There is no information on Jack’s band but he probably did most of it himself and somebody really should help to put him on the map.

Singles BarHailing from the North-West, ROBIN ELLIOTT is a fingerpicking troubadour folkie whose new Ben Walker-produced EP is At Sunset (Textbook). The title track with its smoky, breathy vocal delivery has ragtime nods and a guitar style reminiscent of Bert Jansch while the lazily laid-back ‘Lean Times’ conjures up a sort of calypso Paul Simon. Originally released on Folkroom’s 2015 Anthology Three, but here shorn of the organ, drums and backing vocals for just voice and nervy guitar picking, the five-minute jazzier folk ‘William V’ is a storysong about an orphan set on the notorious Broadwater Farm estate. Given that number’s traditional influences, it’s appropriate that the EP concludes with an actual tradition tune, Elliott’s Nick Drake-tinged interpretation of ‘Poor Murdered Woman’, the Roud ballad that recalls the true story of how, in 1834, the Surrey Union Hunt found a woman’s body on Leatherhead Common, Elliott’s added lines about news crews and cameramen giving it a contemporary spin.