A round-up of recent EPs and singles
Having released their Death and Other Animals album to wide acclaim last year, FAUSTUS return to the well to lift ‘Slaves’ (Westpark Music 87333) to head up their new 5-track EP, their first for the Germany-based label. You should, of course, be familiar with the number, an arrangement of an 1840 call to arms against injustice meted out to the common man in England taken from the Ruth Tongue archive at Halsway Manor. Also from the album is a radio edit of ‘One More Day’, while ‘The Knife of Brian/ Bluebells and Beech Woods’ is a six-minute instrumental comprising two waltzes, the first a melodeon wheezer, the second a more stately woodwind led affair, hitherto available as an album bonus download. Meanwhile, ‘Thresherman’, the Roud 19 ballad about the rural poor, was, as long time fans will know, recorded by Sartin and Kirkpatrick on The First Cut, the 2003 album in their previous incarnation as Dr. Faustus. Here, it’s a live March 2015 recording from The Lights in Andover, as is the fifth track, a what was then work in progress preview of ‘Slaves’ itself.
THE SWEET WATER WARBLERS are an all female Michigan trio, comprising Lindsay Lou, lead vocalist with The Flatbellys and 2016 Best Vocalist nominee for the International Bluegrass Music Association and fellow singer-songwriters Rachael Davis and Mary Erlewine who, as well singing, trade such instruments as piano, banjo, uke, double bass, banjo and fiddle.
Out at the start of March, the self-released With You is a five-track collection of self-penned material and, featuring Davis on powerful gospel-styled lead, an inspired arrangement that sets the lyrics of one traditional number to the melody of another with ‘House of Amazing Grace’. Davis also contributes and plays banjo on the pure-voiced close harmony Appalachian-styled ballad ‘Lazarus’, featuring Erlewine on mountain fiddle.
Erlewine herself has two numbers, ‘Too Soon’, a number that lives up the trio’s name and is sure to earn them a new Be Good Tanyas tag, and the closing guitar and piano love song yearner title track. The remaining number comes courtesy of Lou, kicking the EP off with the bluesy a capella ‘Sing Me A Song’, herself on lead and sharing the three part harmony chorus, setting the seal on an auspicious debut and introducing a name we’ll be hearing a lot about in the months to come.
Bringing Americana closer to home, BROKEN FLOWERS are a three-piece alt-country outfit from West Yorkshire, lining up as singer Anna Mosley on rhythm guitar, Darren Gibbs on lead and Mike Brown on bass. They’ve alreadty released an album and follow that up with the self-released six-track So Many Shadows. They’ve cut their teeth on the UK country circuit and the EP reflects an awareness of the need to appeal to a range of tastes and audiences while keeping the feet on the dancefloor. Opener ‘Stephen’s Song’ is a solid mid-tempo chugger with swaggery hooks and is, in turn, followed by the slower dance paced ‘Easy On Me’, a mood echoed by the bruised heart love and loss notes of ‘Right About Now’.
But if they colour within the lines, they do so with confidence and bold strokes, prepared to challenge the quick fix approach with two six-minute plus numbers, the rolling punchy country rock of ‘Anywhere’ and mid-tempo demo closer ‘Sunday Morning’ with is Texicana guitar flavours and Mosley’s twang. And to top that there also a near eight-minute ‘I Saw A Light’, a slow burn soulful smoulder about the 1838 Huskar colliery disaster in Barnsley that shifts into a thundering, desert guitar howl climax before ending with the words “You keep the gold we pay the price,” spoken by Mosley’s seven-year-old son, the same age as her great great great uncle, James Burkinshaw, the youngest of the 26 children to drown when the pit flooded.
THE BROTHER BROTHERS are actually twin brothers Adam and David Moss based in Brooklyn. Adam is plays fiddle in a variety of old styles. Guitarist David is originally from Peoria – no, we can’t figure that out, either – and has two albums to his credit. Together they play a sophisticated Americana which still maintains the edge you look for in the genre. Tugboats would seem to be their recording debut, a six-track EP of mostly original songs – the cover isn’t very informative.
The title track is a slowish country waltz with a clever lyric rooted in their home city and a nice bit of philosophy: tugboats go slow because that’s the way to pull a heavy load. ‘Bird In A Tree’ is an up-tempo fiddle song that could pass as traditional. ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ is traditional, made famous by Doc Watson and here given a rhythmic finger-style guitar part and a brief fiddle break. ‘Come Back Darling’ is a fiddle backed exercise in harmony singing – rather ponderous when compared with the rest of the set but ‘Notary Public’ restores the lightness we’ve enjoyed so far. ‘Cairo, IL’ is probably by David, Illinois being the link. It has a slightly west coast feel except for the fiddle breaks which firmly locate the song further east.
Oft-compared to Ray Davies, following on from last year’s mental-health themed concept album, Silver Meadows, [Fables from the Institution], VINNY PECULIAR has released a new four track EP, The Fairer Sex (Shadrack & Duxbury SAD EP 012). Another concept collection, this time it centres around gender-linked identity, opening with gradually swelling piano-backed reincarnation ballad ‘I Came Back As A Girl’. Sexual exploitation provides the theme for ‘House of Girls’, a deceptively dreamy keyboards-led melody couching a lyric about porn webcams and the ‘gentlemen’s’ clubs run by the likes of Stringfellow and Hefner. Again built around melancholic piano, ‘No Reply’ is a wistful reflection on the end of a relationship (“I don’t want to be your new best friend, so I can never see you again”), while the final track, ‘Trial By Lingerie’, is a synth and percussive click track setting of a playful poem offering “a lighthearted look at male humiliation in an M&S Lingerie department.” Basque in its delights.