SINGLES BAR 24

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.
www.merryhell.co.uk

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.
https://www.velvetstonemusic.com/

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.
https://19thstreetband.com/

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.
https://www.alicehowe.com/

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.
www.chrisfoxmusic.org

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.
https://www.facebook.com/owenwilliamsmusic/

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.
http://www.robrichings.com/

Video Wall 5

We just realised that the backlog of videos has built up again – it must be something to do with the summer weather bringing them out of hiding – so here is Video Wall 5.

We begin with Davey Dodds, formerly of Red Jasper, live at The Fleece in Bristol with ‘Kick Of Your Shoes’ from his new album Kernowcopia. This song features Martin Solomon on fiddle, Keven Taylor on harmonica and Bradders Bluesinger on bodhran.

DARLING WEST are Norwegian but you wouldn’t know that from listening to their brand of Americana/Folk. ‘After My Time’ is one of their newest songs.

Our friends MERRY HELL have a new EP out next week. The title track is ‘Come On, England!’ taken from their album, Bloodlines, as is the second track, ‘We Need Each Other Now’. Also on the disc are a preview of the forthcoming live album and a live track from the full band recorded in Clitheroe. The official video is still under wraps but here’s a live cut to be going on with.

 

This is the title track from the debut album from Chicago-based bluegrass-old-timey quartet, BIG SADIE. It’s called ‘Keep Me Waiting’.

Not quite so subtle are JO CARLEY AND THE OLD DRY SKULLS. ‘Dance ‘Til You’re Dead’ is from their new album, Them Old Bones.

MERRY HELL – Bloodlines (Merry Hell Music MHMCD 0116)

bloodlinesI was always a fan of The Tansads back in the 90s and the reunion of three Kettle brothers, singer Andrew, guitarist John and mandolin player Bob, along with John’s wife Virginia, in 2010 under their present name has done nothing to change my mind. Bloodlines is their fourth full-length album since then, the first to feature the voices of all eight members (the others being keyboardist Lee Goulding, Neil McCartney on fiddle with bassist Nick Davies and drummer Andy Jones comprising the rhythm section) and not only continues to see their political veined folk flourish, but also takes both that and the songs of personal relationships up a few notches.

It opens with ‘We Need Each Other Now’, John’s stirring anthemic cry for unity in a world divided over a martial beat and ringing guitars, a theme further explored on Bob’s swaying folk rock ‘Come On, England!’, here, again featuring the band’s massed voices, focusing at the divisions at home, a call for arms in a show of the nation’s tradition of tolerance and defence of people’s rights in the face of the troubling rise nationalism and racism in the name of the red, white and blue.

Sandwiched between is the title track, penned and sung by Virginia, a song that, presumably inspired by the current trend to trace family trees, again celebrates connections, this time within the family and generations, scraping fiddle and tumbling drums providing the song’s spine. ‘Coming Home Song’ is another from Bob, a heartfelt call for peace born of the refugee crisis sung a capella by himself, Andre, Virginia, Neil and Nick, while, again raising the anthemic flag and setting a martial beat, ‘All The Bright Blossoms’, on which he’s joined by Goulding on writing duties, addresses mortality and how love lives on in memory.

Virgina provides two in a row, echoing the theme of ageing on the acoustic slow guitar and fiddle waltzing ‘When We Are Old’, which she also sings, and striking political notes with ‘Stand Down’, a defiant message from those seeking freedom, mercy and justice to those who seek to oppress and exploit. Co-penned by John and Bob, the weary ‘Sailing Too Close To The Wind’ is another call to action, and not sing lullabies to our demons and simply “lie there and wait for the end to come.”

‘Chasing A Bluebird’ is something new from the band, the first to be written by McCartney, a country tinged waltzer duet between Andrew and Virginia about an inconstant restless lover leaving broken hearts behind, carried along, as you might guess, on a fiddle tide.

The final four numbers are all from Virginia. The traditional coloured ‘Over The Wall’ a rousing tale of a now or never prison escape by men locked up for striking for better pay and this, in turn, leads into the dreamy ‘Under The Overkill’, pizzicato fiddle and snare introducing a tumbling celebration of a love affair and its “wonderful moments in glorious technicolour”, Andrew providing the chorus refrain to her verses.

She shares credits with Bob and Goulding, who also wrote the music, for the penultimate ‘Man of Few Words’, another tender love song – a la ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ – about being unable to express what you want feel, before bringing things to a close with ‘Sweet Oblivion’, a playfully frisky, mandolin and fiddle driven hoedown, each member taking a bow on their respective instruments, about seizing love and life (“kiss me like it was the last night on earth”) and not going grimly into the dark night. If I was planning a party for the apocalypse, this lot would be top of the list for the house band.

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 MERRY HELL – Bloodlines link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk

‘Come On, England!’ – live at the Citadel, St Helens: