SINGLES BAR 36 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 36Following her debut album, Away From My Window, Aberdeenshire singer IONA FYFE looks across the Atlantic for her EP, Dark Turn Of Mind. Aside from Gillian Welch’s title track and Gregory Alan Isakov’s ‘If I Go, I’m Goin’, all the songs are traditional and have roots in the Ozarks and the Appalachians. ‘Swing And Turn’ comes from Jean Ritchie and uses the tune often associated with ‘Gypsy Davy’ and is a typical southern mountain song.

‘The Golden Vanity’ is found in variations all across the English-speaking world including Scotland of course. Iona’s version combines Child’s version with Cecil Sharp’s and she notes that it was recorded by Jean Ritchie more than fifty years ago. ‘Little Musgrave’ comes from Sharp and Jeannie Robertson in this version although it was known in print in the 17th century. Between these is ‘Let Him Sink’, an Ozark variant of ‘Farewell He.”

The EP is built on Rory Matheson’s piano which gives Iona scope for some powerful singing. Aidan Moodie plays guitar and adds perfectly judged harmony vocals while Graham Rorie adds more decoration on mandolin.
https://ionafyfe.com/

Singles Bar 36THE MARRIAGE is a new Americana union formed by singer Kirsten Adamson, the daughter of Skids and Big Country founder Stuart Adamson, and former ahab member Dave Burn on guitar and harmonies, making their debut with the self-released folksy strum of ‘Live, Love, Cry’, a rather fine taster for an EP and full album in 2019.
https://www.wethemarriage.com/home

Singles Bar 36She Wynds On was commissioned to promote a new tourist route through the Cairngorms – a project called SnowRoads. The music was composed by CALUM WOOD and he is supported by Robert Black, Ross Ainslie, Stuart Spence, Charlie McKerron, Tom Oakes, Brigid Mhairi and Julia Dignan. It opens with the title song, a sort of overview of the four sections of the route from Blairgowrie to Grantown-On-Spey via Braemar, Ballater and Tomintoul. I suppose there was a contractual obligation to include the line “the heart of the Cairngorms” but that’s the only jarring moment. The four instrumental tracks are dramatic without being overblown and Scottish at their very heart.
www.callumwood.com

Singles Bar 36Black country Americana singer-songwriter Joseph Hicklin, aka DEATH BY STAMPEDE, has released Contemporary Depressive, a 5-track download/stream EP from his Soundcloud site that, exploring the contemporary nature of depression (“this great big, looming Monster/ That holds you near and calls itself your home”), serves as an acoustic introduction to his music. With a dusty, slightly gravelly vocal reminiscent of the Handsome Family, Rod Picott or Willard Grant Conspiracy, it opens with ‘Daydream 27’, a mid-tempo fingerpicked chug musing on how “we all die on our own”. It’s followed by the choppier, early Dylan-like strum of ‘Neon (Reflecting)’ with its urban paranoia, the notion that reflecting on the past can be pointless and a chorus about “going to where the neon glows. where angels dance without halos.” ‘Songs of Love & Truth’ takes the pacing down again before building to an urgent climax, lines like “the moon is a thumbprint on a dirty widow” and the future being “just a fat man with a bird upon his shoulder singing songs of death, but also love and truth” underscoring his way with words and imagery.

‘Fool’ is another aching, world weary, introspective fingerpicked ballad (about being stuck in a rut and a sense of impotency how, since “life isn’t real and death is a joke” you may as well make the most even if “it seems so brave and it seems so cruel to live like a god and die like a fool.”

It ends with the slow melancholic gradually building sway of ‘My Morning Pill’, a feeling of helplessness and ennui where “nothing but smoke came out of my mouth” and “my whole life is like a train past my window sill” mingled with a desire to crawl out of the black hole “and get through the year and get through the day.” Closing with the line “I was an addict, just after one taste, it’s not too bad, I know now darling”, this is a breathtaking debut and unquestionably among the finest Americana releases of the year, you really should seek him out, he has the potential to be one of the greats.
https://www.facebook.com/deathbystampede/

Singles Bar 36‘Shooter On The Mound’ is the second single from country-folk duo HENGISTBURY and is also the opening track on their debut album, Add Another Minute. Jessica Mary and Pete Briley produce a big sound and this song reverberates with earthy guitar, banjo and lap steel. Both single and album are available in digital format and physical copies of the album are available from the band’s website:
www.hengistburymusic.com

Singles Bar 36An early taster for their forthcoming self-released album, Rivers That Flow in Circles, Birmingham’s BOAT TO ROW release ‘Spanish Moss’, a musically variegated, tempo-shifting affair that layers African percussion and electric guitars over a persistent bass line, before the instrumental playout with a wash of guitars, synths and violins. The album promises to be a more expansive and explorative musical palette than their debut.
https://www.boattorow.com/

Singles Bar 36Familiar Strangers is a fine debut by NEW TOWN JACK, a singer-songwriter out of Southampton. The theme of the EP is, reasonably enough, strangers but it isn’t that simple. Friends can become strangers in ‘Change The Rules’ – something we’ve all experienced – and people can deliberately isolate themselves as explained in ‘Let Me Be’, although the story is rather fanciful. Deeper down, it’s also about people looking for people in both the physical and metaphorical meanings.
www.newtownjack.co.uk

Singles Bar 36Also from Birmingham, RED SHOES contribute to the festive singles list with their download only ‘Time Stands Still’, Mark Evans providing the cascading strummed acoustic chords while Carolyn sings a moving lyric that draws attention to the homeless at this time of year, 50% of all profits being donated to Crisis UK. Available from their website:
www.redshoes-music.com/charity

Singles Bar 36CARA DILLON has also been into the tinsel cupboard and, in response to the reaction performing it on her last couple of Christmas tours, emerged with her cover of Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed ‘River’ from her classic Blue album. Featuring John Smith on acoustic guitar and John Garrison on keys, it’s a beautiful version that conjures the feeling of snow falling on a silent night. To complement it, she’s also covered The Pretenders’ festive hit ‘2000 Miles’, giving it a folksy serenade with cascading guitar notes and fiddle. Both are downloadable from the usual platforms.
http://www.caradillon.co.uk/

Singles BarRICK FOOT’s Christmas song isn’t terribly Christmassy, nor is it very long. In fact ‘A Message To The Future’ weighs in at just 39 seconds! It can be argued that this is quite long enough to tell the future to get its shit together and Rick sums up the current situation in seven words and double-tracked double bass.
http://www.rickfoot.com/

Singles Bar 36Back on a Christmas note, YVONNE LYON offers up the twinkling ‘I Believe In Christmas ‘(Self-released) with its silvery rippling keys and bells backdropping the strummed acoustic guitar as it builds to a choral finale. It’s backed with the ringing guitars of the more folk rock ‘Dear December’ with its hints of Amy Macdonald.
www.yvonnelyonmusic.com

Canadian singer-songwriter ALLISON LUPTON joins forces with BBC Radio 2 Folk Music award winning trio The Young’uns and guitarist Craig Werth for the self-released ‘The Eve Of Christmas Day’, a more carol-like affair that also features a warm silver brass quintet arrangement by Tom Leighton.
http://allisonlupton.com/

 

SINGLES BAR 35 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Released to commemorate the 100th anniversary on the end of WWI, ‘Letters From Walter’ is a poignantly movie number from Cambridge folk crew RED VELVET released on Clunk and Rattle in aid of the Riders Branch, Royal British Legion. Written and sung by Les Ray, who plays guitar and banjo, and featuring harmonica by George Harper, it’s based on letters sent home by his grandfather, Private Walter Mabbutt, to his younger sister Edie in Titchmarsh, who, shortly after being despatched to France after training at Felixstowe, died in combat in Picardy, aged 19, just a few weeks before the end of the war. The song also included a spoken passage by Deirdre Muphy who reads from a letter, dated 24th November 1918, sent to Walter’s parent by Lance Corporal W. L Mandeville offering his condolences at Walter’s death, and describing some of the circumstances surrounding it.
www.clunkandrattle.com

Singles Bar 35With war on our minds, punk-folk rockers SKINNY LISTER release ’38 Minutes’ in advance of a new album next year. The song was prompted by a ballistic missile alert in Hawaii earlier this year and is typically high energy as it portrays the sense of impending doom felt by the island’s population. “This is not a drill.
https://skinnylister.com/

Singles Bar 35Here’s a Christmas song with a difference. ‘Xmas Back Home (War Has Begun), in part inspired by John Lennon’s similarly titled song, is the recording debut by MUDDIBROOKE, a mysterious being whose true identity is a secret. It is the story of a young female soldier away from her children but who wants them to have the best Christmas possible in spite of her absence and serves to remind us that it’s not just men who are on the front line. Proceeds from downloads will go to The Royal British Legion.
www.muddibrooke.com

MARINA FLORANCE offers up another self-released EP commissioned by the Warm & Toasty Club, a Colchester-based intergenerational community organisation working in music, arts and social history. Named for the latest project, Colchester Memory Afternoons features three numbers co-written with Jules Fox Allen drawn from the stories and reminscences of some of the town’s senior residents, opening with the gently jogging, ‘Photograph Album’ (part Emmylou, part Don Williams) featuring harmonica, cajon, melodeon and violin with Fox Allen on backing vocals. Perfectly living up to its title, ‘Warm & Toasty’ is a folksier and more specific English nostalgia track closing with spoken samples from residents at Enoch House retirement home with the third number being the violin and trombone-coloured slow waltzer ‘Take Me Back In Time’. A lovely musical comfort blanket all round.
www.marinaflorance.com

Notes To Self is the new EP by MARIA KELLY. It opens with the delicate and fragile ‘Prelude’ which builds up until the repeated last line is lost in the mix, justifying her alt-folk tag. The other tracks are ‘June’, ‘July’ and ‘August’, the first two having already been released as singles. They tend to follow the same template as ‘Prelude’ – a simple acoustic opening building up with sound effects and more instrumentation until the production threatens to overwhelm the song. Maria’s voice is mixed too low or is perhaps not big enough to stand up to this treatment all the time.
www.mariakellymusic.com

JONAS AND JANE are a Surrey-based Americana duo, he on guitar and banjo and the pair sharing vocals. Sedona Rain is their third self-released EP, a five track set that highlights both their harmonies and bluegrass inclinations, although the opening ‘Hold Me’, with Jonas on lead, is a spare and harmonica haunted rootsy ballad. He’s also to the fore on the banjo speckled and equally moody ‘Jumping Ship’, while the three other numbers see them sharing the vocal spotlight. ‘Too Little Time’ is an equally world-wearily paced but more Appalachian flavoured number, while pedal steel bolsters the aching title track. The pace eases up a notch for the remaining track, fingerpicked and dobro styled break-up number ‘Don’t Cry For Me’ being cast in the type of bittersweet break-up song that recalls such classic pairings as Gram and Emmylou, The Civil Wars and Welch and Rawlings
http://www.jonasandjane.com/

Named for the Highland settlement, BIRICHEN is a new project by Catriona Sutherland, a regular performer in the Highlands, mostly with the 10-piece Dancing With Sharks. Working with fiddler Iain-Gordon Macfarlane and Robert McDonald on dobro slide, Hush (Birnam) is the debut EP, a five-track collection that opens with the latter’s ‘Holding On To Each Moment’, the sound of birds and running water backdropping a fingerpicked and fiddle accompanied number about appreciating the time and the things we have.

While steeped in folk, she also brings Americana influences to the table with two covers, first up bring the Welch and Rawlings number Scarlet Town, here given a stark British traditional folk setting with the fiddle serving as a drone-like backing. The other harks back to the music of her raising with a terrific unadorned version of Guy Clark’s ‘L.A.Freeway’ where her pure Scottish tones take on a touch of earthier dirt track roughness .

‘Gonnae Get Good’ is a slightly jazz and blues shaded self-penned number that pulls together a spectrum of influences, the final track being another cover, Jim McLean’s ‘Smile In Your Sleep, sometimes known as ‘Hush, Hush, Time To Be Sleeping’, hence the EP title. Chiming with her own family history and the history of the area, it’s Scottish lullaby set to the tune of the Gaelic air ‘The Mist Covered Mountains’ which charts the eviction and emigration  of  the crofters during the Highland Clearances, her given a nakedly sung reading that gradually gathers in suitably moody instrumentation and features evocative sampled distressed voices and rain and storm effects.  This is, apparently, her first commercial release. Hopefully, there’ll be many more to follow.
http://birichen.com/

An acclaimed bluegrass musician and one half of 10-String Symphony, RACHEL BAIMAN gets into the (American) holiday spirit with Thanksgiving (Free Dirt), a four track EP of introspective songs centred around themes of indigenous rights, home and homelessness, and love in hard times. Opening number ‘Tent City’, a lively bluegrass number with echoes of ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and featuring, among others, Tristan Scroggins and Molly Tuttle, was inspired by a Nashville homeless community and is sung from the perspective of a man fallen into homelessness and addiction, making him a person rather than a statistic.

Taking the tempo down, the title track emerged from a writing residency and concerns indigenous rights and relationships as embodied in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the song fuelled by “the irony of Thanksgiving being celebrated right as people were being arrested and sprayed with water guns for protecting their right to clean water.”

Again joined by Tuttle with whom she worked up the number during their UK tour, ‘Madison Tennessee’ is a cover of the John Hartford love letter to his home town (to where she herself has recently moved), the EP ending with ‘Times Like These’, a pedal-steel lined and fiddle slow waltz testament to what gets us through the bad, co-written with Thom Shuyler and duetted in harmony with Josh Oliver.
http://www.rachelbaiman.com/

‘I Think I Saw You On The Street’ is the first single from a new EP by MARBL, an Israeli duo possibly based in Germany – the information available is a bit vague in places. It’s a reflective song inspired by a chance encounter with an ex and the thoughts that it provokes – a scenario that everyone can relate to.
www.marblmusic.com

BEANS ON TOAST (aka Jay McAllister) brilliantly tackles the shock of the new with ‘Alexa’ – “Alexa, have you considered your military capabilities?” – the second single from his forthcoming album, A Bird In The Hand. It’s a punkish sort of song with words tumbling over one another as Jay races to beat the three minute mark. It’s all true – we may be suspicious of Amazon but it’s just too damn convenient.
https://beansontoastmusic.com/

Following last year’s debut album, Alight & Adrift, Suffolk-born, York-based mandolinist singer-songwriter TILLY MOSES returns with a new single ‘Cradled And Cared For’ (GingerDog Records), a lovely softly sung fiddle-hued number, about how friendship and a warm kitchen can give you the strength to get through hard times and fight to improve the world.
www.tillymoses.com

‘Haunted Man’ is the debut digital single from THE KILPECKS, a band formed in the Welsh Marches by members of Lonesome Stampede. It’s big and funky with a knockout bass line and a powerful lead vocalist and although it was released for Halloween it has a link to #MeToo. It would be nice to think that an album might be in the wind.
https://thekilpecks.bandcamp.com/releases

Scottish outfit ATTIC LIGHTS have a new album, Love In The Time of Shark Attacks, set for release next year, trailing it with the jangly folk-pop ‘Never By Myself’ (Elefant), a number written on a bus by singer Colin McCardle after somehow being left behind by the band following a show in Inverness. It’s paired with a sparkling cover of ‘Bright Eyes’ given a Teenage Fanclub treatment.
https://www.facebook.com/atticlightsband/

‘Bless The Ground You Grow On’ is the first single from ODETTE MICHELL’s forthcoming debut album. It was produced by Stu Hanna and has the pastoral autumnal feel of Robin Williamson’s ‘October Song’. It’s coupled with ‘The Eastern Seas’, a song about Irish emigration built on shruti drone and acoustic guitar with violin and bouzouki. Odette has a strong voice and songwriting talent that we should be hearing a lot more of in the future.
www.odettemichell.com

SINGLES BAR 34 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 34Tablelands is the third of the trilogy of EPs by INDIA ELECTRIC CO. that began in the city with EC1M and ends somewhere hot, red and swampy. The format is much the same as before: Cole Stacey on vocals and percussion and Joseph O’Keefe on everything else. The difference is in the sophistication and confidence shown by the duo. The songs are rich and mysterious with lines that lodge in your brain. “There’s something in the water, we all know” comes from ‘Mareeba’, which is a town in Australia, although that knowledge doesn’t really help. ‘In Absence’ is particularly good with more intriguing lines that don’t quite make sense unless you have the context. The closing ‘Gold In The North’ sums up, in a wave of nostalgia, the city/country dichotomy that has threaded its way through the trilogy. “There’s gold in the North”, they admit, “but it’s hard to leave here”.
http://indiaelectricco.com/

MerrymakerRisen from the ashes of Merrymouth, the folk project by Ocean Colour Scene’s Simon Fowler, MERRYMAKER comprises Dan Sealey, who was a member of both (and now, alongside his dad, also part of the revived Cosmotheka which featured his last uncle) alongside Adam Barry (also ex-Merrymouth and the third Cosmotheka member), Paul McCormack and Hannah Lawson. Sealey has a similar Bee Gees-like warble to Fowler, providing a vocal continuity between the bands, and also happens to be an equally excellent songwriter.

Following on from three singles, including 2016’s ‘We Don’t Want A War’ protest against the bombing of Syria, ‘Unnatural Progression’ (self-released) is their debut EP, a five-track collection of four originals and a version of the traditional ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’. Orchestrally arranged opener ‘Evergreen’ is a majestic, soaring anthem that sets the nature theme that runs through the Harvest Moon-like Neil Young trot of ‘Rainclouds’, fiddle-driven midtempo catchy chorus stomp ‘Midst of Summertime’ and the brass-tinged and jazzy woodwind eco-warning ‘The Future Looks Back’. Can we have a whole album’s worth soon, please?
https://www.merrymakermusic.co.uk/

The Girl With The Cloak is a beautiful little bundle of songs by Ayrshire based musician, EMMA DURKAN. At just 25, she already has an impressive array of accolades and honours to her name, not to mention an undeniable talent. Performing on the fiddle and clarsach, the EP is made up of six tracks which are written, arranged and sung by Durkan, creating a tangible fusion between traditional and contemporary.

A majestic, fiddle-led number, titled, ‘The Truth’ kicks off the record, and flows into the equally pretty, if comparatively more stripped back ‘Green Light’. For me, it is ‘Trying’ which steals the show, dealing with the monotonies, expectations, struggles and challenges of daily life in its relatable lyrics, which sit nicely alongside Durkan’s musical arrangement. The title track is perhaps the most mournful of the EP, with its “Girl With The Cloak” protagonist being revisited and referenced in final number, ‘Stepping Stones’ creating a sense of closure, as the record bows out on a truly beautiful note.
www.emmadurkanmusic.co.uk

Available from her website, DARIA KULESH offers up Autumn Delights, the final of her four seasonal EPs (available in a limited handmade sleeve edition) and a prelude to next year’s Earthly Delights album. A four track selection, it again affords an eclectic and geographically wide-ranging mix, opening with a cover of Kara’s ‘Union Street’, a waltztime song celebrating the harvest, here given a gorgeous Quartet arrangement featuring Tristan Seume on guitar, Marina Osman’s descending piano chords and, bookending the number, Kate Rouse providing shimmering hammered dulcimer.

Osman’s also on hand for ‘Boston Waltz’ which, despite the title, is actually of Russian origin, where it’s known as ‘Vals-Boston’. An autumnal vision of a young dancer whirling through the neighbourhood leaves written by Leningrad-born songwriter Alexander Rosenbaum (or, to be accurate, Aleksandr Jakovlevič Rozyenbaum), a highly significant and influential figure on the Soviet cultural scene, it’s his biggest hit though little known outside of Russia. Kulesh (who, at 16, apparently performed it at an Italian beauty pageant, winning the Miss Mystery title), naturally, sings it in her native tongue. There’s a touch of Piaf about the song, so it’s surely no accident that, backed by Jonny Dyer on guitar, she ends singing (in full smoking torch mode) in French, her choice being ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’, a song of longing, loss and decay written in 1945 by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert and, more commonly known in its translated version as‘Autumn Leaves’, first popularised by Yves Montand from whose 1951 recording Kulesh learned it, complete with the original spoken intro.

Again featuring Dyer, the remaining track, by popular request, is her achingly tender and highly emotional reading of the sad and angry ‘No Man’s Land’ (aka ‘Green Fields of France’), Eric Bogle’s classic anti-war song and as fine a recording as you could wish to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary Remembrance Day.
http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

PILGRIM ST release The EP in advance of their debut album. Although Irish in origin their influences come from the other side of the Atlantic – bluegrass and mountain music are to the fore. ‘My Little Blackbird’ is a banjo driven foot-stomper to open the set and you might be suckered into thinking that you’re in for four tracks of rousing “yee-hah”. But…’Givin’ It Up This Time’ is entirely different. It’s slow and sad, talking about “the insomnia train” and “polluting your system”. It’s a bit grim, actually. ‘Emerald’ possibly comes from ancient Irish history but it also speaks to every invasion of one country by another that has ever happened and finally ‘Hurt People Hurt People’ goes back to Americana but without the swagger of the first track. It leaves us wondering.
www.pilgrimst.com

Based in London, CATTY PEARSON trades in folk, country and blues on her October released debut streaming/download EP Time Tells Me (AWAL), recorded with the legendary Chris Kimsey, on which she’s joined by Ollie Clarke on the guitar, drummer Evan Jenkins, Flora Curzon on violin, and folk luminary Lukas Drinkwater on bass with Nichol Thompson and Jansen Santana providing trombone and percussion, respectively playing percussion. Likened to a folksier Norah Jones, she describes five tracks as an enquiry into materialism and the insidious creeping of technology into all areas our lives, opening with the fiddle adorned, steady rhythmic pulse of lead single ‘Electricity’, while ‘Time Tells Me This’ has a smoky late night soul feel reminiscent of Wendy Waldman and ‘Smothered Love’ steeped in prowling jazzy blues flavours. Another breathily sung ballad, this time more acoustic in nature, ‘Northern Sky’ has a suitably clear night air tone, the EP rounded off with the softly sung, circular fingerpicked patterns of ‘Moment Too’. Definitely a name to watch.
https://www.cattypearson.com/

Sunlight is the debut EP from Leicester sing-songwriter TIMOTHY HOAD and it’s a delight. The title track, which opens proceedings, is an up-tempo and, indeed, uplifting song built on a drum and handclap rhythm. Timothy has a gift for both melody and lyrics and the second track, ‘The Ghost I Loved’, has a nicely twisty story and is perversely optimistic given that the singer is about to be executed – or was that his plan all along? The third track is ‘Shapeshifter’ and it just leaves us wanting a whole album.
https://www.facebook.com/timothyhoadmusic/

O&O are a London-based American-Israeli duo consisting of Obadiah Jones and Orian Peled, both graduates of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Truth Comes Out being their self-released debut EP. Described as Fleetwood Mac meets the Civil Wars, they bolster the claim with the steady rolling rhythm of the blues tinged title track and the country-rock chug ‘Saturday Morning’, showing a softer side duetting on the rippling missing-you ballad ‘Tears In The Rain’ (a former single) and the slow burn, pedal-steel stained waltz ‘Rolling On’. A very fine addition to the burgeoning UK Americana scene.
https://www.oandoduo.com/

Some musicians make an EP on a shoestring to get their name out there while they save up to make an album. Not so DAVID LEASK, whose Six In ›6/8 was recorded with nineteen musicians in Toronto, Montreal, Nashville and Muscle Shoals. Scottish-born David lets his native country peep through with some lovely whistle on ‘Red Balloon’ but ‘Caught In The Tide’ quickly crosses the Atlantic to Canada where he now lives and grows in the crossing. Six wants to be an album when it grows up but at six regular-length tracks it doesn’t really make the cut while, at the same time, it’s too heavy duty for an EP. ‘Can’t Make It Back Home’ is probably the best song in the set but it’s swamped by the arrangement.
www.davidleask.com

Another duo with Mac-influences, this time from Birmingham, GASOLINE & MATCHES are Sally Rea Morris and Steve Marks who, aside from regularly hosting local Nashville Sounds in the Round sessions for upcoming UK country names, are establishing their own solid momentum having been nominated alongside The Shires and Ward Thomas for Duo of the Year at the 2018 British CMA Awards. Produced by Gavin Monaghan, their third single is the mid-tempo but full-blooded ‘Not Into Country’, a musical differences break-up number with Morris on lead and Marks providing the muscular guitar breaks.
https://www.gasolineandmatchesmusic.com/

Everything’s Fine is the latest three-track by YVONNE LYON and, like many musicians it seems, she has chosen to be upbeat and optimistic in face of the chaos that is taking over the world. It’s a fine song but ‘Where The Poor Find Gold’ may be even better although not such an obvious lead track while ‘Hope’ rounds out the set with soulful vocals over an electronica backing.
www.yvonnelyonmusic.com

RUSTY SHACKLE provide a taster for their upcoming new Passion, Death & Joy album with ‘Sam Hall’ (own label), a typically driving slice of folk-rock, emphasis on drums and fiddle, telling the story of the 18th century highwayman, here reflecting on his life as chimney sweep to thief to the gallows.
http://www.rustyshackle.com/

LICKING THE MOOSE are a Norwegian Americana band and their single ‘Murder Ballad’ is the audio equivalent of Scandi-noir television. Pained, whisky-soaked vocals sit on a rather ponderous piano-led accompaniment. It’s a strange song, probably something to do with the voice that the singer is hearing. Not a lot of laughs.
https://www.facebook.com/Licking-The-Moose-46368089157/

JOEY COSTELLO has previously featured in these pages and is back with a new single, ‘So High We Lose Our Minds’. Nicely simple with ringing guitar chords and backing vocals and Joey’s all-but-impossible falsetto.
https://joeycostello.com/

 

 

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SINGLES BAR 33 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 33BURNING SALT – Hannah Hull (vocals, guitar), Bobby Williams (electric guitar) and John Parker (double bass) – base their music on Hannah’s distinctive voice and sometimes painfully direct songs. Among other things, Hannah is resident artist on Islington Museum’s Echoes of Holloway Prison project, focused on oral histories from Holloway Prison, which closed in 2016. She has used some of those transcripts, from ex-prisoners, prison officers and other staff, as a starting point for a number of songs to be released on the EP Dirt.

The six songs on the EP deal with difficult topics. The slow and lyrically bleak ‘Anon’ deals with the cycle of abuse. The rockier ‘Born Again’ is more abstract, but closes with the merest hint of hope. ‘F2052SH’ takes its name from the form prison staff could open when a prisoner was considered to be at risk of suicide or self-harm: its inspiration is drawn from the writing of a nurse at Holloway, and graphically suggests the frustration of many who have worked within the mental health system. The comparatively upbeat ‘Ginnie’ is based on the account of a woman held for protesting at Greenham Common. The harrowing ‘Dirt’ is about prisoners trained and paid to clean up after dirty protests and questions the “economy of pain”. The EP closes with an ambivalent “love letter” to the prison – ‘The Worst Place I Was Ever Scared Of’’ set to a sparse piano accompaniment. The combination of these topics and Hannah’s unusual low-register vocals, understated yet with an extraordinary underlying intensity, may not suit those who prefer their listening easy, but an exceptional recording that demands and deserves close attention. It may change the way you think about the prison system: it might even change your life a little. In any case, it’s an important release from a major upcoming talent. And the other members of the band, incidentally, do an excellent job of providing sympathetic musical support.
www.burningsalt.com

Singles Bar 33MATT SPICER, a Glasgow-based singer-songwriter, is busily forging his own path, including the July 2018 release of this self-titled, self-recorded and self-produced EP. In a deceptively gentle voice that conceals a steely core and a powerful falsetto, Spicer delivers a quartet of his own compositions, accompanying himself on guitar and piano, augmented with some satisfying drum, violin and cello playing.

Having enjoyed the pleasure of encountering Spicer out busking with his guitar, his EP production feels rather too rich, initially. Although it grows with repeated listens, becoming easier to hear what he’s trying to achieve, it’s perhaps not quite ‘there’ yet. ‘On Clouds’ offsets Spicer’s falsetto vocalising against bright electric guitar and thudding drums. The semi-submerged, layered vocals on the shimmering, dreamlike ‘Build You A Home’ are underscored by melancholy violin, cello and a shuffling percussion.

There’s more simplicity to ‘Strangers’, about the uncommunicative sadness of a dying relationship, “your mouth is sealed, your thoughts a mystery”. But it’s final track, ‘Where You Are’ – a complex, grown-up love song – that is the EP’s standout, its moody piano and cello underscoring some mature songwriting. A strong debut from a talented artist.
https://www.facebook.com/mattspicermusic/

SongsTHE KING HEAT ENSEMBLE are Jeff Kightley and  Dave Goldsmith and their debut EP, Songs, is an impressive piece of work. The opening track, ‘While The Snow Falls’ begins with what sounds like reversed tape but may just be Goldsmith’s keyboards. There is a lot going on and the duo have recruited a number of friends to support them. In contrast ‘Give Or Take’ is based around Kightley’s acoustic guitar and pared-back percussion. ‘Landslide’ leans less heavily on the Americana style of the first two tracks but it boast an electric guitar solo that doesn’t sound quite like anything you’ve ever heard.

Kightley has a rough gravelly voice – most of the time – but also has a surprising range that he exploits on ‘Triumph’. They almost save the best for last with the slow bluesy ‘Ten Years’ – stripped down guitars and percussion and Kightley’s soulful voice. This is a fine debut.
www.thekingheatensemble.co.uk

In The DarkIn The Dark is the new EP from Aberdeen’s blues-rock trio, FULL FAT. The opening track, ‘Le Funk’ is a bit heavy for folk tastes and is a fine vehicle for Fraser McKain’s guitar but with ‘Come Break My Heart’ they get back to old-fashioned rootsy blues and ‘Doctor Longhair’ is pure rockabilly. ‘Brand New (Again)’ gives Fraser Urquart’s bass and McKain’s guitar the opportunity to duet and you can imagine how that could expand on stage. ‘Temper Temper’ takes us back to blues-funk but with a surprisingly delicate vocal line at the beginning before moving to a big finish with wah-wah guitar.
http://www.fullfatband.com/

Allan Yn Y FanThey have been together for twenty-one years and finally ALLAN YN Y FAN release their first single. They have several albums, of course, but who’s counting. The record has two contrasting tracks. ‘Ym Mhontypridd Mae’n Nghariad’ is a bucolic love song involving speckled cows and, in contrast, ‘Gorthrwm Y Gweithiwr’ is a 19th century song warning the Ironmasters of dire consequences if they don’t mend their ways. Both songs appear on the band’s last album, Newid, and have been remastered for this release.
www.ayyf.co.uk

Barry AllenBARRY ALLEN, singer-songwriter from South London, has released two CDs and now a single, ‘We’re Here We’re Queer We’re Not Going Away’. No need to guess where he’s coming from but the song specifically tries to imagine how it must have been to be gay in 1967 and Barry laments that fifty years after the Sexual Offences Act gays are still ghettoised. It is a clever song – strong words and tune with a tasteful accompaniment assisted by Paul Carr on guitar, keyboard and drums.
www.facebook.com/barryallenmusic1

Hung Up Alone‘Hung Up Alone’ is the first single taken from their debut album Cut It Down, Count The Rings by COPPER VIPER. It opens with the sound of bullfrogs and a verse sung like a gentle gospel hymn before the song bursts out in a blaze of fiddle. We’re clearly in the deep south … and then we learn that we’re closer to south London. Copper Viper are Robin Joel Sangster, who wrote the song, and Duncan Menzies and they went to the US north-west to record their album. Nice one.
https://www.copperviper.com/

SINGLES BAR 32 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 32Named for the Virginia city, but based in Nashville, ROANOKE are a rising Folk Americana five-piece led by guitarist Joey Beesley and Taylor Dupuis, alongside fellow band members Zach Nowak on mandolin, acoustic guitarist John Fiorentino and drummer Kyle Breese. Following on from their self-titled 2016 debut, the songs written in a remote Michigan cabin, Where I Roam is a self-released five-track EP that augments the band’s instrumentation with pedal steel, violin, lap steel, bass and keyboards, opening with the Fleetwood Mac-like Tennessee Stone, Dupois playing Nicks to Beesley’s Buckingham. Dupois again on lead, ‘Don’t Let Me Leave The Road’ is more of a keening country persuasion while Beesley steps upfront for slow waltzer ‘Ghost Of Love’.

Their pop sensibilities can be heard to good effect on the harmonies sung violin-emboldened wistful ballad ‘Silent Films’, the collection closing on another ballad note, Breese’s harmonica providing backdrop flourishes as Beesley and Dupois, at her best Southern country soulfulness, trade verses on the organ-backed weary of the road ‘I’m Coming Home’, their harmonies showcased in the build up to the climax. A few UK dates would help spread the word.
http://www.roanokeband.com/

My Home In ArgyllYou won’t be surprised to learn that ELIS MACFADYEN comes from Argyll even though he’s now a well-known figure around Inverness. My Home In Argyll is his debut EP on which he’s accompanied by multi-instrumentalist producer Marc Clement and, on the title track, by Michael J MacMillan. These four songs are all Macfadyen originals, frequently employing a country style that so often suits Scottish songwriters. In fact, ‘The Girl From The Rodeo’ was written for a local country band.

‘Too Young To Settle Down’ is a clever tale of misadventure over the rhythm of a train rattling across the country and initially you think you understand why the young man is in such a hurry only to realize that the situation is quite the reverse. Finally, ‘She Smiled For Me’ abandons the country style for that of a big pop ballad, perhaps a little overdone but it shows off Elis’ musical ambitions.
https://www.facebook.com/elismacfadyenmusic/

The Road BookBorn and bred in the south of Belgium (in an area called Gaume to be precise) NICO G now lives near Stirling, Scotland, where he continues to make music. He is an instrumentalist; a guitar player and a very good one at that. His most recent offering of songs is in the form of a five track EP, titled The Road Book. The format is simple, one man and his guitar – and it works wonderfully.

Four of the five tracks are originals, with the exception of an intriguing arrangement of Rolling Stones’ classic, ‘Paint it Black’ which opens the disc. It’s not overbearing or forced, in fact, it fits the record’s mood perfectly, as similar shades and approaches continue to be found in the folkily fingerpicked ‘From The Beginning’ and its equally folkie companion, ‘No More Questions’. Written in Austria, this is quite possibly the most beautiful track on the disc. It has a wandering, bitter-sweet summer feeling to it, created through its simple melody…that isn’t actually all that simple at all. It has the flowing qualities of classical guitar techniques, as well as those of the folk revivalists. Bowing out on some lovely harmonics, we are gently ushered into the twists and twangles of the penultimate ‘Jour 100’, before Piedmont-esque styled ‘The Wee Blether’ concludes the recording.

It is ironic that a ‘blether’ should end a collection of instrumentals, and indeed a collection of instrumentals might not appeal to everyone, but believe me, this is simply beautiful. Nico’s talent is obvious and this taster of his work only leaves you wanting a little bit more of the uplifting melodies, pitch-perfect harmonics and beautiful guitar playing which make up The Road Book.
www.nico-g.eu

ConsilienceTHE Nth DEGREE are a trio from Cardiff – Will Christofides, Tim Johnston and Sarah Johnston – making their debut with a four-track download EP, Consilience. It opens with the logic-twisting ‘Things’ which has a simple guitar based arrangement until Tim breaks in on cello with Sarah on whistle. Sarah takes over the lead vocals for ‘Summer Night’ while the two chaps enjoy interplaying guitar parts. ‘Broken Earth’ expands the arrangement a little with Tim’s synthesiser – it’s a song protesting the damage done to the land by industry but the lyrics could be clearer. There’s a real twist at the end with ‘Never Weather Beaten Sail’ by Thomas Campion and Charles Hubert Parry. The Nth Degree perform it like a folk trio tackling a hymn with cello for gravitas and harmony vocals. Good as their original songs are, this could be the track that makes them.
thenthdegreeuk.bandcamp.com/releases

WoodsA CHOIR OF GHOSTS is the secret identity of Swedish singer James Auger, whose debut EP, Woods, was released at the end of June. James doesn’t sound very Swedish either stylistically or vocally but the title track was inspired by the sound of tree-felling in the north of the country – timber is a major source of Sweden’s revenue. This isn’t a song of ecological protest however, the sound merely sparked his imagination. ‘Ester’ and ‘Morning Light’ have already been released as singles but it’s worth going for the full set.
http://www.achoirofghosts.com/

Perfect‘Perfect’ is the first single from Welcome To The Batlands, the debut album from Belfast singer ETHAN HANNA. It catches you out at first, opening with a thoughtful acoustic guitar before the band crashes in and once you get over that you’re grooving to a gravel-voiced rocker with a song that’s full of compelling images: “did you want to ink your arms to say ‘look at the mistakes I made’”; “Here’s a tape I made/it follows all the mistakes I made” and “I miss you now that we’re twenty-three/I think we might have lost our fight”. The track peters out with a sad acoustic guitar, a few notes that spell desolation. Excellent stuff.
https://www.facebook.com/EthanHannaOfficial/

WeightJOSH McGOVERN growls his idiosyncratic way through his new single, ‘Weight’ describing, in a very bleak style, the end of a relationship and the state of his mental health. You might think from that description that it’s going to be hard work but far from it. It opens with a stunning line; “On a cold early morning on the hill all my best man fell” – a battle, real or emotional, with the singer as the loser? You can go where you want with that idea.
https://www.facebook.com/Joshmmusic/

Billy LockettSinger-songwriter BILLY LOCKETT has released a double A-side single in advance of his summer/autumn tour. ‘Fading Into Grey’ is a big heartfelt song about a relationship dragging on beyond its use-by date. ‘My Only Soul’ is equally powerful but slightly off-the-wall as the singer wishes that he believed in ghosts so he could see his loved one – his only soul – again.
http://www.billylockett.com

High TideVELVET & STONE have released a rather lovely single, ‘High Tide’ with all the profits going to Cancer Research. It opens with a gentle but insistent acoustic guitar with a few notes of electric guitar before Lara Snowden’s vocals come in and Kathryn Tremlett’s violin lifts the song to another level before her piano leads it away.
https://www.velvetstonemusic.com/

SINGLES BAR 31 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 31Special Commissions is just that, a set of songs written or recorded by JIM CAUSLEY, for one-off projects and left in search of a home. ‘City Of  Trees’ is about Exeter and initially sounds very folky but Jim cleverly quotes other bits of music as he writes about wassailing and oak-apple day. Tony Deane, of ‘Following The Old ‘Oss’ fame, wrote ‘Diamond Of The Moor’ about a murder and possible miscarriage of justice on Bodmin Moor in 1844 and ‘Green Lanes’ was written to accompany a series of talks by Valerie Belsey, the country’s leading expect on the subject.

Inevitably there is a Charles Causley poem, ‘On The Border’, written for an event in Launceston. Its richness sent me for checking for the names of other musicians but this is all Jim’s work although producer Mark Tucker may have had something to do with making it so. ‘Pride Of The Moor’ concerns the Devon tin-mining industry, less celebrated than its western neighbour while ‘Glorious Devon Morning’ is a paean of praise for Jim’s native county – written by a Scot.

Finally we have ‘Unearthed Theme’ one of sixty-something songs written for the Villages In Action’s Unearth scheme. This one is used to top and tail each show to explain to audiences what these strange people are doing in their village. It also exemplifies much of Jim Causley’s work – celebrating “this wonderful place we call home”. The Special Commisions EP is available exclusively from
www.jimcausley.co.uk

DARIA KULESH continues her series of seasonal EP releases with Summer Delights which features her regular collaborators, Jonny Dyer, Marina Osman and Tristan Seume. This begins with a rather nice take on ‘Like An Old Fashioned Waltz’ –it’s hard to tell who’s doing what. Is that Jonny or Tristan on guitar; Jonny or Marina on keys? Whichever, Daria gives the song the same distant, romantic feeling that informed the best of Long Lost Home. From then on it’s all Russian. ‘Mokhnatyi Shmel’ is a piano-driven and madly operatic song … about a bumblebee; ‘Rusalka’ is a long-time favourite from Kara’s first album and still present in the new band’s repertoire and ‘Perevoz Dounya Derzhala’ is another big, vibrant song and that is definitely Marina on piano. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, it sounds wonderful. These releases are available only from Daria on subscription: visit her website to find out more.
www.daria-kulesh.co.uk

It’s funny how popular ‘Jolene’ has become over recent years and it’s the first track on The Undercover EP by MAZ O’CONNOR, a set of her favourite covers. She must have been a hell of a woman to put Dolly Parton in the shade! Second up is a gorgeous version of Paul Simon’s ‘Kathy’s Song’ with echoey fingerpicked guitar and a slight reverb on Maz’s multi-tracked vocals. Green Day’s ‘Good Riddance’ is third, opportune as the Donald flies in, followed by ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ sung with an air of resignation that tugs at the heartstrings as she mixes old and new. Maz does the choir bit on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ which raises a smile. ‘Stay With Me’ is the Sam Smith song, not the Faces’ rocker, which would have been too much to ask for and the set closes with ‘Wonderful World, a difficult song to do anything new with but Maz just about pulls it off. This is a really nice set.
http://mazoconnor.com/

‘Air Fàir An Là ft Sian’ is a new single by folk/electronica band NITEWORKS. The words were written by Màiri nighean Alasdair Ruaidh on the Isle Of Skye in the 17th century. Sian are a trio of female Gaelic singers who specialise in the songs of female Gaelic bards which might make them something of a niche market but the addition of Niteworks’ traditional instruments and modern techno sounds opens it up to a wider audience.
www.niteworksband.com

STEAMCHICKEN are working on a new album and from it comes ‘Violet Lane’ a wonderfully off-the-wall Victorian tale of working girls who take the law into their own hands when faced with violence. A blend of folk and swing, it will available to download this week. Violet Lane is in Croydon, by the way. Who knew?
http://www.steamchicken.co.uk

‘The Ballad Of Davey Graham’ is a title to stop any music-lover in his tracks. TOM BAXTER wrote it for the unveiling of a blue plaque in honour of the guitarist. It takes a gifted, and perhaps brave, man to attempt to emulate Graham’s unique guitar style and unconventional song structures and Tom rises to the challenge with considerable aplomb. The track will be found on his forthcoming album, The Other Side Of Blue.
https://www.tombaxter.com/

LOZT are a duo comprising Tom Ryder, of whom we have written before, and Lauren Scudder who is new to us. I Want You is their debut EP; a sophisticated mix of folk, pop and soulful singer-songwriter. The title track, which is third up, is decorated with treated instruments but it is dominated by acoustic guitar. The opener is ‘Change My Mind’ followed by ‘Quake’ which benefits from a remix to close the set.
https://www.loztmusic.com/

Six is the new EP from LEATHER’O, a follow-up to Five, obviously. They describe their music as alt-Celtic/Gypsy and pride themselves on their energy but someone should have pressed the loud pedal in the studio or on the mixing desk. The balance is great and Angela Gordon’s vocals don’t get lost on ‘False Lady’ or ‘Black Is The Colour’.   ‘Risipit/Bim Bim Hora’ is all gypsy fiddle and is absolutely splendid proving how well Leather’o can play as does the closing ‘Weasel Set’ but, please, turn it up a bit next time.
www.yorkcelticband.co.uk

SIMEON is a young acoustic singer-songwriter with a voice that can be soft and gentle or bend steel as the occasion demands. ‘Ground Down’ is the first single taken from her forthcoming EP A Serpentines Curve. Although she’s been working and recording for a while her profile isn’t what you’d call high. We don’t think it will stay that way for long.
http://simeonturtle.com