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/

SINGLES BAR 21

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.

http://www.rickfoot.com/songs-of-idiocy.html

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.

www.thetrialsofcato.com

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.

http://www.joemartinmusic.com/

‘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.

http://www.anniekeating.com/

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.

https://www.facebook.com/thenickajackmen/

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.

http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/artists/maria-kelly