A round-up of recent EPs and singles
The 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.