SINGLES BAR 32 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 32Named for the Virginia city, but based in Nashville, ROANOKE are a rising Folk Americana five-piece led by guitarist Joey Beesley and Taylor Dupuis, alongside fellow band members Zach Nowak on mandolin, acoustic guitarist John Fiorentino and drummer Kyle Breese. Following on from their self-titled 2016 debut, the songs written in a remote Michigan cabin, Where I Roam is a self-released five-track EP that augments the band’s instrumentation with pedal steel, violin, lap steel, bass and keyboards, opening with the Fleetwood Mac-like Tennessee Stone, Dupois playing Nicks to Beesley’s Buckingham. Dupois again on lead, ‘Don’t Let Me Leave The Road’ is more of a keening country persuasion while Beesley steps upfront for slow waltzer ‘Ghost Of Love’.

Their pop sensibilities can be heard to good effect on the harmonies sung violin-emboldened wistful ballad ‘Silent Films’, the collection closing on another ballad note, Breese’s harmonica providing backdrop flourishes as Beesley and Dupois, at her best Southern country soulfulness, trade verses on the organ-backed weary of the road ‘I’m Coming Home’, their harmonies showcased in the build up to the climax. A few UK dates would help spread the word.
http://www.roanokeband.com/

My Home In ArgyllYou won’t be surprised to learn that ELIS MACFADYEN comes from Argyll even though he’s now a well-known figure around Inverness. My Home In Argyll is his debut EP on which he’s accompanied by multi-instrumentalist producer Marc Clement and, on the title track, by Michael J MacMillan. These four songs are all Macfadyen originals, frequently employing a country style that so often suits Scottish songwriters. In fact, ‘The Girl From The Rodeo’ was written for a local country band.

‘Too Young To Settle Down’ is a clever tale of misadventure over the rhythm of a train rattling across the country and initially you think you understand why the young man is in such a hurry only to realize that the situation is quite the reverse. Finally, ‘She Smiled For Me’ abandons the country style for that of a big pop ballad, perhaps a little overdone but it shows off Elis’ musical ambitions.
https://www.facebook.com/elismacfadyenmusic/

The Road BookBorn and bred in the south of Belgium (in an area called Gaume to be precise) NICO G now lives near Stirling, Scotland, where he continues to make music. He is an instrumentalist; a guitar player and a very good one at that. His most recent offering of songs is in the form of a five track EP, titled The Road Book. The format is simple, one man and his guitar – and it works wonderfully.

Four of the five tracks are originals, with the exception of an intriguing arrangement of Rolling Stones’ classic, ‘Paint it Black’ which opens the disc. It’s not overbearing or forced, in fact, it fits the record’s mood perfectly, as similar shades and approaches continue to be found in the folkily fingerpicked ‘From The Beginning’ and its equally folkie companion, ‘No More Questions’. Written in Austria, this is quite possibly the most beautiful track on the disc. It has a wandering, bitter-sweet summer feeling to it, created through its simple melody…that isn’t actually all that simple at all. It has the flowing qualities of classical guitar techniques, as well as those of the folk revivalists. Bowing out on some lovely harmonics, we are gently ushered into the twists and twangles of the penultimate ‘Jour 100’, before Piedmont-esque styled ‘The Wee Blether’ concludes the recording.

It is ironic that a ‘blether’ should end a collection of instrumentals, and indeed a collection of instrumentals might not appeal to everyone, but believe me, this is simply beautiful. Nico’s talent is obvious and this taster of his work only leaves you wanting a little bit more of the uplifting melodies, pitch-perfect harmonics and beautiful guitar playing which make up The Road Book.
www.nico-g.eu

ConsilienceTHE Nth DEGREE are a trio from Cardiff – Will Christofides, Tim Johnston and Sarah Johnston – making their debut with a four-track download EP, Consilience. It opens with the logic-twisting ‘Things’ which has a simple guitar based arrangement until Tim breaks in on cello with Sarah on whistle. Sarah takes over the lead vocals for ‘Summer Night’ while the two chaps enjoy interplaying guitar parts. ‘Broken Earth’ expands the arrangement a little with Tim’s synthesiser – it’s a song protesting the damage done to the land by industry but the lyrics could be clearer. There’s a real twist at the end with ‘Never Weather Beaten Sail’ by Thomas Campion and Charles Hubert Parry. The Nth Degree perform it like a folk trio tackling a hymn with cello for gravitas and harmony vocals. Good as their original songs are, this could be the track that makes them.
thenthdegreeuk.bandcamp.com/releases

WoodsA CHOIR OF GHOSTS is the secret identity of Swedish singer James Auger, whose debut EP, Woods, was released at the end of June. James doesn’t sound very Swedish either stylistically or vocally but the title track was inspired by the sound of tree-felling in the north of the country – timber is a major source of Sweden’s revenue. This isn’t a song of ecological protest however, the sound merely sparked his imagination. ‘Ester’ and ‘Morning Light’ have already been released as singles but it’s worth going for the full set.
http://www.achoirofghosts.com/

Perfect‘Perfect’ is the first single from Welcome To The Batlands, the debut album from Belfast singer ETHAN HANNA. It catches you out at first, opening with a thoughtful acoustic guitar before the band crashes in and once you get over that you’re grooving to a gravel-voiced rocker with a song that’s full of compelling images: “did you want to ink your arms to say ‘look at the mistakes I made’”; “Here’s a tape I made/it follows all the mistakes I made” and “I miss you now that we’re twenty-three/I think we might have lost our fight”. The track peters out with a sad acoustic guitar, a few notes that spell desolation. Excellent stuff.
https://www.facebook.com/EthanHannaOfficial/

WeightJOSH McGOVERN growls his idiosyncratic way through his new single, ‘Weight’ describing, in a very bleak style, the end of a relationship and the state of his mental health. You might think from that description that it’s going to be hard work but far from it. It opens with a stunning line; “On a cold early morning on the hill all my best man fell” – a battle, real or emotional, with the singer as the loser? You can go where you want with that idea.
https://www.facebook.com/Joshmmusic/

Billy LockettSinger-songwriter BILLY LOCKETT has released a double A-side single in advance of his summer/autumn tour. ‘Fading Into Grey’ is a big heartfelt song about a relationship dragging on beyond its use-by date. ‘My Only Soul’ is equally powerful but slightly off-the-wall as the singer wishes that he believed in ghosts so he could see his loved one – his only soul – again.
http://www.billylockett.com

High TideVELVET & STONE have released a rather lovely single, ‘High Tide’ with all the profits going to Cancer Research. It opens with a gentle but insistent acoustic guitar with a few notes of electric guitar before Lara Snowden’s vocals come in and Kathryn Tremlett’s violin lifts the song to another level before her piano leads it away.
https://www.velvetstonemusic.com/

Velvet & Stone announce new EP, Embers

Velvet & Stone Embers

Devon based band Velvet & Stone release their EP Embers on 13th October 2017! The four-track EP, recorded at Cube Recording in Cornwall, is the second EP released by the band who will be celebrating the release at a launch party at the Bike Shed Theatre Cocktail Bar in Exeter on 13th October followed by a string of dates around the South West.

The EP follows on from their successful single release ‘Raise Your Ghosts’ in August 2017. which received critical acclaim from the music press and airtime on BBC Radio 2. In addition to recording, the band have been focusing on their live appearances, with performances at Cambridge Folk Festival and Celtic Connections under their belt.

Since releasing their first EP, The Storm, in April 2016, the band have had some changes to their line-up, with Lara Snowdon [guitar and vocals] and Kathryn Tremlett [violin and piano] welcoming Roger Styles on guitar and vocals, and Barry Muir on bass and double bass. The new EP also features acclaimed cellist Caroline Lavelle [Radiohead; Massive Attack; Muse; Loreena McKennit; Afro Celt Sound System], and producer/engineer Gareth Young on percussion across all of the tracks.

Lara, vocalist and writer, explains that

“We’ve had a really inspiring time over the past twelve months – working with new musicians, doing a lot of writing, and honing our sound. We draw on modern singer-songwriter influences such as Ben Howard, Bon Iver, Beth Orton, Lisa Hannigan, Sarah Jarosz, Martha Tilston, in addition to folk rock bands like Seth Lakeman, The Levellers, The Cranberries, and the classics – Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Fairport Convention”.

Inspiration for these new tracks is drawn from the sea and natural landscapes, choosing to record at Cube Studios in Cornwall with acclaimed producer Gareth Young has been a natural progression. Velvet & Stone recorded a demo there last winter when Gareth – who has worked with many pop and folk artists – was immediately taken by the band and by Lara’s voice.

“There aren’t many times when we just go – Blimey! Lara’s got one of those voices definitely. There’s just a quality to it that’s just really good, really stunning, and just easy to make sound good.”

And what influence has he brought to the EP?

“There’s more going on with a bit more of a ‘band’ sound than their first record. I think they’ve got a great EP, with some fantastic songs and some great lyrics.”

Radio 2 Folk Award winner Sam Kelly is equally excited having heard the new material:

“Velvet & Stone push the boundaries of genre by combining folk themes with catchy pop hooks and great songs, all lead by Lara’s brilliant vocals. I would recommend this record to anyone”

Artists’ website: www.velvetstonemusic.com

‘Embers’ – official video:

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/

Velvet & Stone announce debut album

Velvet & Stone

The Storm is the debut release from Devon-based alt-folk trio Velvet & Stone. Lyrically drawing on a rich palette of life stories, life events, the natural world and melancholy West Country tales, The Storm is exquisitely delivered in six haunting compositions, topped by distinctive vocals, crisp guitars and soaring violin.

Formed by “fates colliding” at a Devon pub in February 2014, Velvet & Stone comprises Lara Snowdon (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Holly Jo Gilbert-West (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) and Kathryn Tremlett (violin, piano).

“We all bring different things to the group,” says Lara. “Holly and I have a folk background. Kat adds another dimension with her classical past.”

“We all contribute to the writing and play around with a mix of genres. Our songs focus on stories of us, people we know, or things we’re inspired by. We’re lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world and that comes through in our music,” Holly explains.

Within months of forming, the talented trio won an opportunity to record at The Convent – a venue and studio in Stroud, Gloucestershire and The Storm is the stunning result.

Joining Velvet & Stone for the recording sessions were renowned musicians Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman, Patsy Reid) on bass, and drummer Andrew Tween (Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands), while producer Jack Henderson (Over The Rhine, Cowboy Junkies) also played guitar and keyboards.

The Storm opens with the sublime ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, which focuses on a girl growing up in a fishing town. “It’s a folk song from a female perspective and is about the cycle of life,” says Lara, while ‘Forget About The Rain’ concerns heartbreak, and ‘Patchwork’, an equally poignant take on love, but with references to Devon, closing with the majestic title track.

“I wrote ‘The Storm’ on a beach in Cornwall,” says Lara. “It’s about the sense of feeling alive when there’s a storm coming. Soon after that we went up to Holly’s house and her mum was going storm chasing, so that added to it, although it’s metaphorical, not just about a physical storm.”

A compact, diverse and beguiling debut set, The Storm is sure to boost Velvet & Stone’s growing reputation.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artists’ website: https://velvetstonemusic.com/

‘Same Old Record’ and ‘The Storm’ – live at The Convent: