SINGLES BAR

A round-up of recent EPs and singles that have come our way

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ANGE HARDY releases a seasonal single, ‘When Christmas Day Is Near’, all multi-tracked a cappella full of joyous optimism which is something we all need plenty of these days. The tune insistently reminded of something I couldn’t quite identify but which I eventually pinned down as ‘Three Jolly Rogues’. It’s coupled with ‘William Frend’ from her album Esteesee leading neatly into a short plea for ‘Solidarity’ written in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
http://www.angehardy.com/

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ROSA REBECKA is a Swedish-American singer who came to Devon to study and stayed to work for Wren Music. Home is her first recording for Folkstock records although far from her first outing. The opening title track has a beautiful melody. That’s followed by the traditional Swedish ‘Det Står Ett Träd’ which is a complete contrast. The top is probably ‘Jonah’s Song’ in which Rosa is reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell as her voice soars into the stratosphere. The final track is the traditional Jewish ‘Sh’Ma’, as Rosa pulls the threads of her heritage together. For collectors, Home is also available as a guitar shaped USB stick with bonus tracks from her debut album.
http://www.rosarebecka.com/

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 CHRIS WHILE & JULIE MATTHEWS take a hard-hitting approach with their single ‘Are We Human?’. Written by Matthews it’s an attack on our collective inhumanity in the face of the refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. It features Neil Marshall, Ken Nicol, Liz Frencham and Christine Collister and all the proceeds will go to Migrant Offshore Aid Station. The song put me in mind of ‘Jewel In The Crown’ which she wrote more than twenty years ago and similarly attacks the political mind-set of this country.
http://www.whileandmatthews.co.uk/

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ‘Lampedusa’ is a download single from EWAN McLENNAN – another not very festive seasonal offering – but its proceeds will go to Médecins Sans Frontières. Lampedusa is also an island roughly midway between Sicily and the North African coast and a place where many refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean find themselves. With songs of migration a major feature of Scottish song this is a natural subject for Ewan and although the title is very specific the theme and sentiments are universal. Finger-picked guitar is backed by slide and fiddle – ‘Lampedusa’ is a fine song, a serious subject and a worthy cause.
http://www.ewanmclennan.co.uk/

CHRIS WHILE & JULIE MATTHEWS – Who We Are (Fat Cat FATCD029)

Who We AreAfter 20 years and nine albums, Chris While and Julie Matthews, the undisputed queens of British female folk duos, continue to come up with the goods, delivering songs about human frailty and human endurance that showcase their seemingly inexhaustible creative talents as both writers and performers.

They get the ball rolling in vigorous style with ‘If This Were Your Last Day’, an uptempo, fairly self-explanatory titled don’t put off until tomorrow number from Matthews that blends folk and country with mandolin and accordion, before joint composition ‘Gone Girl Gone’ takes the tempo down slightly for a bittersweet tale of a free spirit always moving on in search of herself. Joined by daughter Kellie, While’s first track is ‘Get Through This Somehow’, a mid-tempo song about having to make a life on your own that conjures a cross between Kathy Mattea and Christine Collister before ‘I Don’t Know’, another shared credit brings in banjo for a bluegrass tinged number that casts them as the UK’s answer to Lady Antebellum and The Indigo Girls in one package.

The album then takes on a more serious mood, beginning with the uplifting ‘Dancing Under The Gallows’, written and sung by Matthews with While on lap steel, that (with a faint musical echo of ‘Born Free’) pays tribute to the fortitude and courage of Alice Hertz Sommer, the oldest survivor of the Holocaust who died this year, aged 111. Then comes While’s history lesson, ‘Heaven Is Changing’, a tender acoustic guitar and piano number which recounts the plague that devastated the Derbyshire village of Eyam in 1665 as a passer-by rescues an unaffected baby, one family’s sole survivor.

Two songs mark both World War I and II. The first is While’s worksong-like ‘Drop Hammer’, sparse percussion backdropping her lead vocals and a female chorus that features daughter Kellie, Kit Bailey, Mel Ledgard and the ubiquitous O’Hooley & Tidow on a song that celebrates the women of Sheffield that kept the steel mills running during both wars. A rather less upbeat narrative informs ‘White Feather’, which, featuring Bryan Hargreaves’ hand percussion and a fierce electric guitar solo from Howard Lees and penned by Matthews for the BBC’s Radio Ballads, recalls the notorious white feather movement of WWI whereby women would cast a white feather in at men in civvy street, accusing them of being cowards for not enlisting.

Changing focus, ‘Mad Men’ is a bluesy and bluegrass co-written environmental protest about global warming featuring While on bowed psaltery before, for the final two numbers, things return to a lighter more optimistic and intimate note for the hymnal-like piano shimmering ‘That’s Not Who We Are’ about putting aside differences and pride “to recover our senses and heal this scar”. Introducing brass, strings, glockenspiel and ukulele, the carousel-swaying, oompah rhythms of ‘Under A Button Moon’ brings things to a lovely, pick me up romantic conclusion, linking back to the opening number’s seize the day theme and, ever so subtly, recalling the theme music to the 80s children’s programme of similar title.

So, first class songs of female fortitude, the iniquities of the world, history, heart and humanity, delivered with to die for harmonies, immaculate musicianship and melodies that lodge themselves in your brain. Pretty much While & Matthews business as usual then.

Mike Davies

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

Artists’ website: www.whileandmatthews.co.uk

‘Drop Hammer’ from the album Who We Are live in Bristol: