SINGLES BAR 15 – Merry Christmas Everybody

A round-up of festive EPs and singles

Singles Bar 15It’s been a busy few months for THE CHANGING ROOM, aka Cornish duo Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain. Having released both their Names On A Wall EP for Armistice Day and the Picking Up The Pieces album, featuring mandolin and accordion, they now return for Christmas special, The Magic Of Christmas. Two of the three tracks are sung in Cornish by Kelly, opening with a lovely snowflake waltzing version of The Pretenders’ 1994 festive hit, ‘2000 Miles’ and closing with a chiming frosty air arrangement of the traditional carol ‘Silent Night’. There’s also a snatch of its melody on ‘There’s Magic In Christmas Eve’, which, sandwiched in-between, is penned by Brittain, who, singing in English, accompanies herself on piano as the song swells midway on drums and strings before a gentle fade.
www.thechangingroommusic.com

its-christmas-timeIf you’re more a “Bah Humbug” sort of person JOHN CEE STANNARD’s EP, It’s Christmas Time, should be just up your street. Of course, Christmas can be a sad and lonely time for a lot of people and we shouldn’t take that lightly but the blues does seem to lend itself to the season. Black Ace’s ‘Beggin’ Santa Claus’, first recorded in 1937, is the perfect example of how low things can get while Shifty Henry’s ‘Let Me Go Home – It’s Christmas’ is a plea to whiskey to allow a barfly to get home while he still can. The other three songs are by Stannard and, starting with the title track, they get progressively happier and the closing ‘Winter Love’ is almost soppy. We reckon John’s an old softie really.
www.johnceestannard.co.uk

god-rest‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is a more traditional Christmas single from JOSHUA BURNELL. That said, we’re told that it’s a 15th century protest song – the protest being against the Latin dirges of the church. Joshua gives it an appropriate folk-rock vibe – he usually performs in a trio or a seven-piece band in which Hammond organ features heavily. The second track is ‘The Official Brawle’, a 16th century French dance tune taken at a tasty lick. The tune was, as you all know, co-opted by the church as ‘Ding-Dong Merrily On High’ but Joshua returns it to its original form. Good stuff.
www.joshuaburnell.co.uk

marys-boy-child‘Mary’s Boy Child’ was originally written as a calypso so ANDREW JOHN & LISSA decided to record the backing tracks in Trinidad, adding the vocals back home in Denmark while Jime Hoke recorded his flute part in Nashville. It’s very pretty but I can’t help but I do think that an opportunity to do something really original has been missed. Turn up the steel drums and add a Caribbean choir and think on what it could be.
www.anyon.co

the-starEMILY MAE WINTERS’ single ‘The Star’ was inspired by lines from John Keats and having a star named after her as a birthday present. It doesn’t actually mention Christmas but it has a nicely seasonal feel. It’s a big, piano-driven song awash with strings. It is available only as a digital download at the moment but it will appear on Emily Mae’s debut album next spring.
www.emilymaewinters.com/

THE CHANGING ROOM – Picking Up The Pieces (TCR Music TCRM75068)

picking up the piecesA fluid Cornish collective built around the constant foundation of Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain who share vocals and play guitar/bass/piano and accordion, respectively, Picking Up The Pieces, their second album sees them joined by Jamie Francis on banjo, percussionist Evan Carson and Morrigan Palmer Brown on harp with various contributions from Kevin McGuire (upright bass), John McCusker (fiddle) and Belinda O’Hooley (piano).

As with their debut, it’s firmly rooted in Cornish soil, something underlined from the start with traditional-sounding album opener ‘Caradon Hill’, a portrait of life above and below ground for the miners and their families in what was once the UK’s biggest copper mine, it’s decline presaged in the lyrics as, McCusker’s fiddle providing the spine, it builds to the a cappela coda.

Moving to Polperro, the sprightly’ Zephaniah Job’, the pair alternating vocals, tells of the 18th century Cornish entrepreneur who, though always mindful of making a profit, served as benefactor to the local fishermen, smugglers and schoolchildren alike. Talking of smugglers, ‘The Grayhound’, sung by Kelly with McCusker on fiddle and whistle and Francis’s banjo bolstering the arrangement, is an account of the three-master privateer charged by the government with chasing down smugglers’ ships, though the chorus line about pillaging and raiding the south Cornish coast suggests its crew may well have exceeded their mandate.

Co-penned by Brittain and Boo Hewardine, just as Louise Jordan’s latest turns the spotlight on the role of women during WWI, ‘Bal Maiden’s Waltz’ details the generally overlooked contribution of women and girls to the Cornish mining industry, Kelly adding cittern to his guitar parts with Brittain taking lilting lead on a song about how the so-called ‘bal maidens’ would crush, grind and break down the ore sent up from the mine before going home to feed the families, go dancing and break hearts.

Penned by Brittain, but sung by Kelly, featuring harp, harmonium, fiddle and upright bass, ‘Gwrello Glaw (Let It Rain)’ is the first of two numbers in Cornish, a reflective song about living life to the full regardless of what storms come your way. This is followed by the more musically energetic ‘The Cinder Track’, a driving banjo and guitar led stomp forming a sort of tarmac shanty in tribute to the men who build the roads. One of two numbers not penned by band members, ‘Koh-I-Noor’ is, simply arranged for guitar, banjo and accordion, a waltzing Hewardine composition, a musing on mortality drawing comparison between the lengthy existence of the titular diamond and the brief lives of those who coveted and killed for it.

Kelly provides the music for the second of the Cornish numbers, a gently rippling and tumbling airy treatment of the traditional ‘Delyow Sevi’ (winner of Best Traditional Song in a Celtic Language at the 2015 International Pan Celtic Song Contest), the duo sharing vocal duties, Carson tapping out percussion while harp shimmers throughout.

The running order reversed on the sleeve and lyric sheet, ‘Tie ‘Em Up’ is Geoff Lakeman’s rhythmically itchy protest against successive governments’ imposition of EU-agreed fishing quotas and the cost to Cornish fishermen and their families, followed by the sombre and sober anti-war ‘We Will Remember Them’, a track which also appears on their forthcoming Armistice Day commemorative EP, The Names on the Wall, O’Hooley accompanying Kelly on piano.

The album ends with another duo composition, ‘It’s All Downhill From Here’, a lively banjo bouncing singalong romp (again referencing the copper mines of Caradon) celebrating the men who built the railroads, even if the title hints that this was the peak of the Industrial Revolution.

If Seth Lakeman was the vanguard of the revival of Cornwall as a bastion of the contemporary folk scene, The Changing Room are leading the pincer movement.

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 THE CHANGING ROOM – Picking Up The Pieces 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.thechangingroommusic.com

SINGLES BAR 13 (I Ain’t Superstitious)

A round-up of recent and forthcoming EPs and singles

Singles Bar 13This year, Armistice Day, November 11, also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of, not just WWI, but all history with over one million wounded or killed. Among the Tommies who fought and gave their lives in the fight for freedom, were at least 13 of the 22 gardeners from Heligan, the Cornish country seat of the Tremayne family. Of these, only four survived. Before they left to do their duty, in August 1914, the men signed their names on the wall of the Thunderbox Room; however, with the gardens quickly falling into decline with the workforce absent, everything was soon overgrown. It was not until 1990, that the gardens were rediscovered and excavations and restorations begin on what would become known as The Lost Gardens of Heligan. During this, buried under fallen masonry in the corner of one of the walled gardens, the tiny room was discovered, on its wall, etched in pencil, the signatures of the men who had tended them. In 2013, the Imperial War Museum recognised Heligan’s Thunderbox Room as a ‘Living Memorial’ to ‘The Gardeners of Heligan’ and a plaque, a Cornish shovel and a WWI helmet now mark the spot .

A further tribute has now been made by THE CHANGING ROOM, a Cornish folk collective fronted by guitarist and singer Sam Kelly and accordionist Tanya Brittain, who, in a joint project with The Lost Gardens of Heligan, have recorded Names On The Wall (TCR Music TCRM75044), a four track EP (the inner sleeve of which features a photo of the gardens’ staff) headed up by the Brittain-penned hymnal title number that, featuring chiming mandolin and piano, movingly recalls the men (“our husband and our brothers, our fathers and our sons”) who went to war (“they read their Bibles whilst in hell and they said their last farewell”) and warm brass from Jason Hawke adding to the poignancy.

The other tracks maintain the theme of lives lost to the war, the stark ‘We Will Remember Them’ written and performed by Kelly and Brittain and taken from their recent Picking Up The Pieces album, while, with military drum percussion from Gareth Young, the latter does vocal duty on her own traditional-styled ballad ‘He Died With His Boots On’ which, touching on those who, returned from the war but traumatised by their experiences, found it hard to adjust to normal life and, like her great grandfather, ended up committing suicide as the tells of the soldier, medals proudly pinned on his chest and bible in hand, prepares to die with dignity. The fourth number returns to the title track, this time sung, fittingly and even more affectingly in Cornish, the whole EP a magnificent tribute to those who served and those who paid the ultimate price.
www.thechangingroommusic.com

stars-and-rabbitThere are very few Indonesian folk-pop duos on the scene so STARS AND RABBIT may be unique. Their first official single will be ‘Man Upon The Hill’ released next month but in the meantime ‘The House’ is available as a free download. It opens with acoustic guitar and Elda Suryani’s lead vocal, somewhat reminiscent of the gymnastics of Bjork. Guitarist Adi Widodo has a distinctive style but before you can fully appreciate the nuances of his playing the record is taken over by a big band. To employ a word that should never be used: interesting.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/artists/stars-and-rabbit1

my-nirvanaSAM JORDAN is a former builder and ballet dancer (go figure) who leads a musical collective known as The Dead Buoys. ‘My Nirvana’ is taken from their forthcoming EP, Thoughts of Paradise, their follow-up to When Golden Morning Comes. Sam describes it as love song if you don’t listen too hard and their experimental approach makes it more rock than anything else with some screaming electric guitar and heavy-duty drums. It’s beguiling enough to make you want to hear more.
http://www.officialsamjordan.com/

peace-of-mindSAM BROCKINGTON is a much-travelled singer/songwriter now based in Bristol and Peace Of Mind is his debut EP. The title track is soulful, almost rocky and that’s followed by his previous single, ‘Follow’. Sam has a very distinctive vocal style with which he twists and sometimes truncates words. ‘Follow’ opens with a clever guitar part – it sounds like an electric played as though it were an acoustic – but by the end he’s pulled out all the stops. ‘Manta Ray’ probably stems from his time in Australia, ‘Cold Feet’ is a gentle finger-picked song, at least at the start, and ‘Unstitched’ follows a similar pattern. Sam has definitely got something here.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/artists/sam-brockington

maria-kelly‘Stitches’ is the pretty new single from MARIA KELLY from County Mayo. Based on acoustic guitar it is awash with strings but still leaving Maria’s voice out front. I wish the words were clearer: a couple of the refrain lines are easy to pick out “Here I go again” and “I don’t know what to say to you” but too much of the rest is lost. The sound is lovely and you can enjoy the record on a superficial level but if a singer-songwriter has something to say it should be readily discernible.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/artists/maria-kelly

Jon Cleave and The Oggymen moonlight as Cornish wreckers in new single

WreckersThe Changing Room will release a new single `Wreckers‘  on 5th January. The first single from the band’s eagerly anticipated debut album, the song features Fisherman’s Friends front man Jon Cleave and Falmouth-based performers The Oggymen.

Jon Cleave’s dark and atmospheric lead vocal lends a theatrical quality to this musical tale about the sinister underbelly of old Cornwall. The Port Isaac-based mustachioed author has been performing with shanty group Fishermen’s Friends for over fifteen years, and has performed at the Royal Albert Hall and the BBC Folk Awards.

The Changing Room band member Sam Kelly said: “Jon Cleave’s vocal on ‘Wreckers’ can only be described as epic.”

The Oggymen, a twelve-strong a capella singing group has gone from strength to strength over the past year, having performed to capacity crowds at the Hall for Cornwall and Minack Theatre in recent months.

“We invited The Oggymen to appear on ‘Wreckers’. They were so good that they ended up on four of our album tracks” laughs songwriter Tanya Brittain.

“As a taster for the new album ‘Wreckers’ certainly does the business”, writes folking.com’s Dai Jeffries. “The timeless pastoral feel of A River Runs Between is replaced by a the darkness of Jon Cleave’s growling lead vocal and the slightly ghostly echoing chorus of The Oggymen. Sam Kelly’s voice provides a hint of light in the dark – isn’t that how wreckers worked? Once again we’re left on tenterhooks with just one new track and there are still three or four months to wait for the album.”

The Changing Room’s forthcoming album, Behind The Lace, due for release in spring, promises more fabulously evocative original songs inspired by other Cornish preoccupations such as sharks, pilchards, real ale, dancing and rowing. Tanya and Sam are Joined on the album by Jamie Francis, Evan Carson, John McCusker, and Kevin McGuire.

‘Wreckers’ is now available to pre-order on iTunes. For more information about the band and their music visit: thechangingroommusic.com

Fisherman’s Friend enters The Changing Room

New Chaning Room

The Changing Room’s debut EP A River Runs Between has created quite a stir. Released at the end of September, it’s already attracted Radio 2 airplay, positive reviews calling for ‘more’, and a queue of willing guest performers wanting to get involved in the forthcoming debut album.

At the front of that queue was Fisherman’s Friends frontman Jon Cleave who joined the band in the studio in Truro, Cornwall in October to add guest vocals to two of the album tracks.

The Changing Room is a joint project between singer/songwriter Tanya Brittain and musician/vocalist Sam Kelly, and promises to be one of the most exciting new folk collaborations of 2014. Tanya manages to weave deeply evocative narrative around enchanting and addictive melodies, and Sam has one of the best young male voices in British roots music. Together they conjure up magic.

The Changing Room was featured on Mark Radcliffe’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Show on 15th October. The show finished with ‘A River Runs Between’ … nestled between Bellowhead live in the studio, and the U2 sessions at Maida Vale.

Other guest performers on the album will include Kevin McGuire, Jamie Francis, Polperro Fishermen’s Choir, Jennifer Crook, and Falmouth-based shanty group The Oggymen. Adding to an already impressive line-up, The Changing Room’s first album will be produced by Boo Hewerdine and mixed by Jon Kelly.

Sam and Tanya are working hard to complete the album (which they hope to release in late December/early January) so that they can share more of their original music with their growing band of followers.

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.thechangingroommusic.com

EP REVIEWS

“This record just isn’t long enough and I’m relieved to read that a full length album is on the way.” Folking.com

“From the first track ‘A River Runs Between’, I knew that I was in for a treat. The only issue I have with The Changing Room’s EP is that I want to hear more of their music – three tracks is a great taster, and I look forward to the main course when the full album is released.” Alan Morley, UK Folk Music

“It feels like a little musical magic happened.”   Dai Jeffries

 “It does my heart good to hear a project that’s speak to Cornwall, from Cornwall and about Cornwall. It pushes all the right buttons in evoking a soundscape that reflects the sea, the sky and the people of the West … hats off to all involved.”  Sam Lakeman

THE CHANGING ROOM – A River Runs Between (The Changing Room Music TCRM75006)

Changing RoomThere can’t be many songs written about the Cornish pilchard industry but the third and final track on The Changing Room’s debut CD, ‘Row Boys Row’, is one such.

At the core of the band are Tanya Brittain, who wrote all the songs on their debut, and Sam Kelly. They started working together on a funded project and it feels like a little musical magic happened. The EP is produced by Boo Hewerdine and guests include Jennifer Crook and the Polperro Fishermen’s Choir but little of that actually matters. This record just isn’t long enough and I’m relieved to read that a full length album is on the way.

The title track presumably refers to the Tamar although I was unaware of such tension between Devonport and Torpoint – or perhaps it’s just the bridge that caused the problem . It’s a song that should have Steve Knightley and 3 Daft Monkeys wondering why they hadn’t written it while ‘Deep Beneath The Sea’ is a warning against dissing a mermaid should you encounter one in Cornish waters. ‘Row Boys Row’ is, as I’ve said, a tale of the lives of Cornish fishermen. It could have been written at any time in the last fifty years and I suppose that one could be critical and say that it paints a rather rosy picture of life between the English Channel and the Celtic Sea but it sounds and feels so good that it would be churlish to do so. Bring on the album.

Dai Jeffries

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.

Artist’s website: www.thechangingroommusic.com