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.


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 21In the wake of his criminally underrated album Rain Machine, RICK FOOT returns with a six-track EP, Songs Of Idiocy & Expedience. It’s pared down even from the minimalism of the album and Rick says that the songs were arranged with an eye to live performance. It is amazing what you can do with just voice, double bass and a bit a technology. Rick double-tracks himself and throws in some percussive noises on ‘Your House: Full Of Twigs’.

Rick’s voice is laid back and sounds despairing at times and there is a political dimension to several songs. The opener, ‘Whoever You Vote For’ leads inexorably to the tag-line “the government still gets in” and ‘Your House’ is, I think, about a collapsing or collapsed society. Rick’s lyrics are often witty and sometimes quite surreal so ‘Potato’ and ‘House Of Cows’ require further study. The idiocy comes in ‘Lincolnshire Poachers’ but I won’t spoil it by telling you the story. Just go out and buy Rick’s records.

Singles Bar 21Anglo-Welsh trio THE TRIALS OF CATO formed in Beirut but now they are back home with an eponymous EP. They sound thoroughly traditional and it’s only when you start to listen carefully that you realise that these are original songs. ‘Matthew VanDyke’ has the rolling feel of an eighteenth century sea song but like the origins of the band it’s centred on the tragedy of the Middle East. ‘Reynard And The Goose’ is a conversation between the titular creatures – think ‘The False Knight On The Road’ – and is very clever. ‘Fighting Jack’ takes us back to the army and back to the war zones while ‘Aberdaron’ is sung in Welsh and paired with ‘The Shaskeen Jig’. There is so much potential here – we should hear more from The Trials of Cato before too long.

At first JOE MARTIN sounds American but the subtlety of his lyrics suggest otherwise – he’s really based in Leeds. He’s supported on Small World by Andy Leggett on double bass and Henry Senior on pedal steel. ‘Denver’ is pure Americana as is ‘When The Time Is Right’. The former has a lovely wistful lyric with a clever closing line that suggests that he’s not totally subsumed into the genre but can also look in from the outside. Joe’s acoustic guitar playing is clever without being flashy and his voice, and indeed his songs, are front and centre.

‘Trouble’ is the new digital-only single from the rather wonderful Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter ANNIE KEATING. A smooth country blues, ‘Trouble’ follows on from Annie’s recent album, Trick Star, and heralds her upcoming UK tour. It settles quickly into its groove with a simple bass line echoing her acoustic guitar decorated with restrained slide guitar.

Falkirk band THE NICKAJACK MEN make their recording debut with an EP, Wasting Away. They fall somewhere in the alt-rock/country field but the best track here is probably the nearly-folky ‘Marilyn’ with some really nice echoey vocals by Lewis White and the slow bluesy ‘Erb’ is pretty good, too. Twin guitars and keyboards give The Nickajack Men a full, rich sound over the bass and drums of Jamie Burns and Matthew McAlister. An excellent debut.

MARIA KELLY releases her first EP in download-only format. The Things I Should follows three singles all produced by Matt Harries. The second track ‘Far Below’ reveals a hidden strength in her voice as the arrangement cranks up the pressure. In contrast ‘Where’s The Worth’ is more delicate with lots of strings and a spare drum arrangement while ‘Pretend’ takes a more folk-pop direction.


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 20The first of three self-released themed EPs set for 2017 from Devon duo INDIA ELECTRIC CO., pianist/violinist and accordionist Joseph O’Keefe and Cole Stacey vocals/ percussion, EC1M (Shoelay) offers five tracks variously coloured by influences drawn diversely from Ireland, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America. Named for the building in which they lived when they moved to London(the EP title its postcode), ‘Farmiloe’ makes for an intoxicating opener, keys, violin and squeezebox conjuring a sort of mutant Gallic atmosphere (it features found sound recorded in Paris) filtered through Eastern vibes while the chorus references both the traditional ‘Farewell He’ and e e cummings.

Another American poet, Barbara Guest, feeds into ‘Parachutes’ which, with its pulsing fiddle and prepared piano, quotes the title of her poem Parachutes My Love Could Carry Us Higher while also enfolding in midway the traditional tune ‘The Green Gowned Lass’. Tempo shifting ballad ‘Camelot’ is a heavily percussive piano number with plucked violin notes while, named for a champion 1913 racing pigeon to underscore its theme of endurance, ‘The King Of Rome’ takes off into avant-jazz territory, the musical backdrop designed to conjure nonstop traffic. All of which climaxes with the swirling crescendos of the pizzicato ‘Castles In Spain’, inspired by a passage in the celebrated French medieval poem The Romance of the Rose. Impressively inventive and eclectic, I can’t wait to hear that the other two EPs will have to offer.

Robert Jackson and Isaac Collier are two buskers who met in Bristol and became local stars as A DIFFERENT THREAD since when their name has spread nationwide. Their debut EP, Home From Home, produced by Luke Cawthra, might best be described as Anglo-Americana. Jackson writes the songs, sings them and plays guitar and harmonica and Collier plays cello and arranges parts for the half-dozen guest musicians including singer/songwriter Ruth Royall. The opening track, ‘Big Crane’, has a lazy bluesy feel and ‘The Same Cloth’ uses Jonny Bruce’s trumpet to add a touch of classic swing. ‘A Wayward Sun’ is the sort of complex song that you would expect from much older writer and this debut bodes well for a very bright future.

Championed by Bob Harris, Scotland’s YVONNE LYON is building a name for herself in the folk Americana field, her latest bid for the spotlight being the self-released Till We Meet Again, a piano backed swayalong song of loss co-written with a friend whose young son died from septicaemia and forming part of her Masters degree on the connection between songwriting and grief. It comes with two extra cuts, the quietly acoustic Celtic-tinged love song ‘Already Made’ and, again musically nodding to her heritage, the eight and a half minute ‘Spike Road Gardens’, a spare piano and fiddle instrumental suite with a brief passage of spoken but not clearly decipherable lyrics.

MIKE WEST makes his recording debut with Rusted. He plays acoustic guitar influenced by blues and rock but you can tell that he used to play electric and these five tracks were recorded off the floor for authenticity. Mike’s voice frequently strays into Tom Waits’ territory, notably on the opening track, ‘Work On’, but it is probably more effective when he lightens the tone a little. ‘Rock Ferry’ is possibly the best track but ‘Keep Going’ runs it close.

A quick follow up to his recent album, PAUL McCLURE and the LOCAL HEROES is the self-titled EP (Clubhouse) result of getting a band together to record five of the songs he’s had hanging round but which never quite fitted on his past two albums. The first of a planned shelf-clearing series, it opens on wailing harmonica with ‘Million Dollar Smile’, a number that should chime well with fans of labelmates The Dreaming Spires and the Redlands Palomino Company, members of which also happen to feature on the EP. Rhiannon Payne who can be heard to good effect providing harmonies on the waltz time, brushed drums ‘Weight In Time’, a fine country gospel drinking away my hurt honky tonk number.

Elsewhere ‘Baby That’s You’ is firmly in the tradition of 60s pop n roll, ‘The Good And The Bad Of It’ is a melancholic strung out and moping lost love piano ballad, while, conjuring Dylan by way of The Byrds, the strummed closer ‘Troubadour’s Lament’ was born of listening to a bunch if CDs while stuck in traffic on the way to a gig, musing on pop star billboards, the family, service stations and radio-phone ins among other things. Let’s hope he does his housekeeping on a regular basis.

In anticipation of their debut album later in the year THE BLACK GUARDS release their first EP, Drawn In, which opens with the full length version of the title track, their first single. Next up is ‘The Ballad Of Mrs O’ which is scheduled to be their second single. The Black Guards are a six-piece from Cumbria and Dublin who mix folk and roots-rock and anything else they can get their hands on. ‘Karma’ has an old-fashioned mittel-European feel built around Anne Marie McStraw’s fiddle and the final ‘Boat Cuts A Water’ begins as a languid, bluesy acoustic guitar piece before everyone sweeps in for the big finish. We’re looking forward to the album already.

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 helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.


Artist’s website:

‘Another Song About Another’ live:


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.

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.

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.

‘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.

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


‘This Woman’s Work’ live: