SINGLES BAR 29 – a round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 29VIRGINIA KETTLE is one of Merry Hell’s front line as songwriter and singer and formerly a successful soloist around the clubs. This eponymous EP with The Dreamcatchers (who are not named but who look suspiciously familiar) is, we’re told, the precursor to a solo album. Her songs tend to be human stories, often with a twist, some of which scale up for the band but these would not.

‘The Butter Song’, which opens the set, begins with the brilliant lines “Ever considered someone like me to spread the butter on your bread” and is sung over hand percussion. ‘More Than This’ sees The Dreamcatchers joining in, initially gently pastoral then building up and finally slipping away. As I’ve come to expect the songs are clever; sometimes quirky like ‘Little Warm’ or deceptively deep like ‘Freedom (The Sweetest Taste)’. We’re looking forward to the album already.
www.vkandthedreamkeepers.com

A collaboration between Brighton songwriters, Rebecca Brandler and Scott Booth, PAPER HAWK make their debut with The Tide, a four track download EP via local label Folklore Sessions recorded in the living room of their flat. The opening track, ‘Trails’, a number about the death throes of a volatile relationship, is what you’d probably call psych-folk with whispery-sung ethereal, echoey vocals, shimmering keyboard swirls, understated drum beat and skitterings of guitars. It’s a mood sustained with the watery finger picked acoustic guitar work accompanying Booth’s vocals on the breathily-sung and rather positive and idealistic ‘The Fourteenth Floor’, clattering percussion and a thumping drum beat gathering for the instrumental play out.

Underscored by spare bass guitar notes and plucked acoustic guitar, ‘Northern Sky’ is another airy piece from Brandler and, largely down to producer Josh Trinnaman, again builds the soundscape towards the close. That bass drum thump also underpins the final number, ‘Written In The Lines’, an electronic ambience enfolding Booth’s hushed vocals on a song that bookends the EP by both returning to the theme of a relationship past its use by date and with the outro mirroring the opening wordless ululation on ‘Trails’. An impressive debut that leaves you wanting to hear what else they can do.
https://www.facebook.com/paperhawkmusic/

Forget About You is a new EP by FINE LINES, a duo founded by singer-songwriter David Boardman and vocalist Zoe Blyth with a cast of supporting musicians – Mark Radclffe has been known to turn out on drums with them. The lead track and ‘Feet Don’t Touch The Ground’ both come from last year’s album, Hour Of Need while ‘Who Do You Love?’ and ‘Begging You’ are new songs. Their sound is acoustic rock with a slight country edge that sometimes forgets that it is supposed to be acoustic but it’s classy stuff.
www.wearefinelines.com

Book SongsANNE-MARIE SANDERSON is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – guitar, cello and clarinet are among her accomplishments. Book Songs Volume 1 is her third EP and it will presumably be followed by a second volume in time. The five songs here are all inspired by novels, authors including such literary giants as Ian McEwan and Doris Lessing. As befits such inspirations, the songs are musically and lyrically complex. ‘Haweswater’ covers the same ground as Mike Turnbull’s ‘Drowning Valley’ and is a particularly fine song. ‘Mara’s Song’ is even better and like ‘Poisonwood’ is set in Africa – two very different Africas actually – one in the distant future and the other in the mid twentieth century. Anne-Marie plays every note on this EP and has fine voice with a hint of wildness in it that many critics have worked hard to describe.
https://www.annemariesanderson.com/

ShardsEVAN CARSON is the folk scene’s go-to percussion at the moment but now we learn that he is also a composer of no mean talent. ‘Shards’ is the first part of what is intended to be a musical story of his grandfather, George Ocipinski, who escaped from a labour camp and travelled west to join the French Resistance in time for the Normandy landings.

Lead vocals are by Georgia Lewis and the music is built up by the piano of Gleb Kolyadin, Karl James Pestka’s strings and Toby Shaer’s flutes. The nine-and-a-half minutes composition begins with the sound of the wind underneath glockenspiel or chimes – or possibly both – played by Evan himself. Then it rocks a bit with percussion that, to judge from the later lyrics, might be intended to imitate a train as George makes his escape. ‘Shards’ is a dramatic piece of work and there is an EP in the offing. We can’t wait.
www.evancarsondrums.com

MERRY HELL ACOUSTIC – live at The Old Courts, Wigan – 29th April 2018

Merry Hell Acoustic
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

The previous evening, the electric Merry Hell had rocked the packed courtroom supported by The Trials Of Cato and Derek Martin. I’d like to tell you how good they were but that must wait for another monograph. Tonight was about the launch of their acoustic album, Anthems To The Wind, and my first chance to hear the band in a seated venue, the upstairs theatre. Merry Hell Acoustic and comfort; bliss.

Jenny ColquittSupport came from singer-songwriter Jenny Colquitt who is clearly a local favourite. She has a powerful voice and a powerful guitar style but I thought her best moments came when she soft-pedalled, particularly on the two covers she closed her set with – Sting’s ‘Fields Of Gold’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Songbird’.

If you expect the acoustic band to be gentle and pastoral, forget it. True, drums and keyboards are absent so there is a shift in the musical balance between Bob Kettle’s mandolin and bouzouki plus John’s guitar at the top and Nick Davies’ bass taking up most of the bottom. Neil McCartney’s fiddle still has the essential role it fulfils in the full line-up but with the addition of a stomp-box to hold the rhythm. For some reason John wasn’t miked so Andrew and Virginia handled all the lead vocals and the harmonies aren’t quite so overwhelming. The band seemed very relaxed and there was some looseness that the full fat version, who are now very tight and slick, have abolished –  I have to say I like it that way. Some things remain the same: Nick still hangs about at the back of the stage and Bob still lurks in the shadows and is almost impossible to photograph in action. And the passion and sincerity in the music are undiminished.

They began with two of their crowd-pleasing anthems, ‘Loving The Skin You’re In’ and ‘Let’s Not Have A Morning After (Until We’ve Had A Night Before)’. Actually, this crowd were pleased by everything. Gradually, Merry Hell brought the temperature down via the plea of ‘We Need Each Other Now’ to Virginia Kettle’s lovely ‘Leave A Light On’ which is tailor-made for the acoustic set up. That was followed by ‘Drunken Serenade’ which, with the addition of ‘The Banshee Reel’, becomes an expression of nostalgia and they worked up to another all-time favourite, ‘Bury Me Naked’ but without Beverley the spade.

As the set progressed it briefly became more light-hearted with ‘The Butcher And The Vegan’ followed by Virginia and Andrew’s song-and-dance number, ‘The Baker’s Daughter’. After ‘The War Between Ourselves’ and ‘One More Day Without You’ Neil McCartney performed an excellent Ric Sanders impersonation leading into ‘Let The Music Speak For Itself’.

The first encore, ‘Coming Home’, has been turned into a perfect fit for this line-up performed unaccompanied with everyone taking a solo line. In contrast, the floor pulsed under the pounding feet through the final ‘Sweet Oblivion’. Not so much has changed, really.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk

‘Bury Me Naked’ – official video:

MERRY HELL – Bloodlines (Merry Hell Music MHMCD 0116)

bloodlinesI was always a fan of The Tansads back in the 90s and the reunion of three Kettle brothers, singer Andrew, guitarist John and mandolin player Bob, along with John’s wife Virginia, in 2010 under their present name has done nothing to change my mind. Bloodlines is their fourth full-length album since then, the first to feature the voices of all eight members (the others being keyboardist Lee Goulding, Neil McCartney on fiddle with bassist Nick Davies and drummer Andy Jones comprising the rhythm section) and not only continues to see their political veined folk flourish, but also takes both that and the songs of personal relationships up a few notches.

It opens with ‘We Need Each Other Now’, John’s stirring anthemic cry for unity in a world divided over a martial beat and ringing guitars, a theme further explored on Bob’s swaying folk rock ‘Come On, England!’, here, again featuring the band’s massed voices, focusing at the divisions at home, a call for arms in a show of the nation’s tradition of tolerance and defence of people’s rights in the face of the troubling rise nationalism and racism in the name of the red, white and blue.

Sandwiched between is the title track, penned and sung by Virginia, a song that, presumably inspired by the current trend to trace family trees, again celebrates connections, this time within the family and generations, scraping fiddle and tumbling drums providing the song’s spine. ‘Coming Home Song’ is another from Bob, a heartfelt call for peace born of the refugee crisis sung a capella by himself, Andre, Virginia, Neil and Nick, while, again raising the anthemic flag and setting a martial beat, ‘All The Bright Blossoms’, on which he’s joined by Goulding on writing duties, addresses mortality and how love lives on in memory.

Virgina provides two in a row, echoing the theme of ageing on the acoustic slow guitar and fiddle waltzing ‘When We Are Old’, which she also sings, and striking political notes with ‘Stand Down’, a defiant message from those seeking freedom, mercy and justice to those who seek to oppress and exploit. Co-penned by John and Bob, the weary ‘Sailing Too Close To The Wind’ is another call to action, and not sing lullabies to our demons and simply “lie there and wait for the end to come.”

‘Chasing A Bluebird’ is something new from the band, the first to be written by McCartney, a country tinged waltzer duet between Andrew and Virginia about an inconstant restless lover leaving broken hearts behind, carried along, as you might guess, on a fiddle tide.

The final four numbers are all from Virginia. The traditional coloured ‘Over The Wall’ a rousing tale of a now or never prison escape by men locked up for striking for better pay and this, in turn, leads into the dreamy ‘Under The Overkill’, pizzicato fiddle and snare introducing a tumbling celebration of a love affair and its “wonderful moments in glorious technicolour”, Andrew providing the chorus refrain to her verses.

She shares credits with Bob and Goulding, who also wrote the music, for the penultimate ‘Man of Few Words’, another tender love song – a la ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ – about being unable to express what you want feel, before bringing things to a close with ‘Sweet Oblivion’, a playfully frisky, mandolin and fiddle driven hoedown, each member taking a bow on their respective instruments, about seizing love and life (“kiss me like it was the last night on earth”) and not going grimly into the dark night. If I was planning a party for the apocalypse, this lot would be top of the list for the house band.

Mike Davies

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).

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.merryhell.co.uk

‘Come On, England!’ – live at the Citadel, St Helens:

Merry Hell breaks loose!

Merry HellRising 8-piece folk-rockers, Merry Hell, release a new video and limited edition 4 track CD to tie in with their forthcoming tour and to herald the forthcoming album The Ghost In Our House (And Other Stories)coming in the new year.  The CD will be a free give away at gigs between now and Christmas but is also available to buy online from the band’s website. www.merryhell.co.uk/shop

The video was largely filmed at The Old Court Buildings in Wigan, where band member and producer John Kettle has his studio.  However, our female lead singer, Virginia Kettle did have to walk in and out of the sea off the North Wales coast in order to obtain a number of shots. The storyline was developed by the whole band and shot and produced by our fiddle player Neil McCartney.

GhostTracks on The Ghost EP are:

1: There’s A Ghost In our House (3.21) An up tempo and atmospheric track that reminds us that ghosts can come in many forms.  To describe it as haunting would be a little clichéd but once heard, the tune will inhabit the twisting corridors of your mind, emerging at the most unexpected moments. Almost but not quite the title track of the new album but certainly its inspiration.

2: The Baker’s Daughter (2.58) A memorable folk-rock anthem with a chorus that audiences have been joining in with almost as soon as they have heard it.  The lyrics tell a story that will strike a chord with many of the female listeners.

The first two tracks are taken from the album which will be out in the New Year.  The final two tracks are bonus tracks

3: Nobody Knows Me Like You (4.41) Slower and gentler musically but with a strongly reflective and insightful lyric that make the song powerful in a different way.  Newly recorded by the band and exclusive to The Ghost CD EP.

4: Rosanna’s Song (3.56): A live version of a crowd favourite, recorded at The Grand Venue in Clitheroe.  Living proof that, while Andrew’s voice has been likened to a strimmer in a bucket of gravel, he does have a softer, more velvety underbelly.  A beautiful ballad of friendship.

The title track (more or less) of the EP:

MERRY HELL PREMIERE NEW ‘LOVING THE SKIN YOU’RE IN’ VIDEO

Merry Hell feb14Merry Hell have released a new video and download single to tie in with their forthcoming spring tour.

‘Loving The Skin You’re In’ is taken from the folk-rock outfit’s critically-acclaimed second album ‘Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain’ (Mrs Casey Records) which saw them land a series of high-profile festival dates in 2013.

Filmed in part at Flecky’s Tattoos in Wigan and Standish Unity Club, the video takes a light-hearted approach to emphasising the powerful message of the song’s lyrics: ‘be yourself, no matter what’.

Singer/songwriter Virginia Kettle, who oversaw the concept, explains: “So much has happened to the band since we made the last video. Our musical journey has taken us into a second album, live festival appearances down the length and across the breadth of the country; little gigs, big gigs, radio interviews, friendships forged with legends such as Dave Swarbrick, Gordon Giltrap and Mike Harding.

“Everywhere we’ve been, however grand or humble the venue, we have met such inspiring people, from amazingly talented musicians to those who make incredibly weird and wonderful things: real ale, jewellery, wines, breads, cheeses, ice cream! People of all ages, sizes, class and creed, all with their stories written on their faces, in their eyes, in their deep love of music.”

The video features friends the band have made during their current career and in their previous incarnation as The Tansads.

Virginia adds: “We all agreed that we wanted it to try and create a ‘festival of diversity’ so we invited some of our most colourful and unique friends to help us. From the moment they all turned up, we knew they were going to be just brilliant.

“It’s a mixed group of people with a shared intention: to let the commercial world know that the air-brushed puppet with the perfect mannequin smile doesn’t really do it for us anymore.”

Finally, Merry Hell have also announced the recruitment of two new members, multi-instrumentalist Neil McCartney and bass player Nick Davies.

Neil, best known as a fiddle player, is a long term associate of several Merry Hell members and has lived and made music in London, Galway, Dublin, New York and Thailand. He formed Big Geraniums, who enjoyed success on the global festival circuit, playing alongside the likes of The Wailers, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.

Nick, formerly of Sound Marshals and Jesus In India, replaces outgoing bassist Andrew Dawson, who has left with the band’s love and best wishes due to external factors.

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).

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 Website: www.merryhell.co.uk.

MERRY HELL to release Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain

Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of RainWe’re very excited at folking as we have just got our hands on the new Merry Hell “Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain” album which is due for general release on the 20 May 2013 through Mrs Casey Records.

The album sees the seven-piece build on the songwriting and musicianship which hallmarked their acclaimed 2011 debut, BLINK…and you miss it.

If you did blink and miss it, then you can head back in time with Dai Jeffries and read his excellent album review here

(which he did for us in September 2011).

We also have a live clip of “Drunken Serenade” (from BLINK…and you miss it) for your listening and viewing pleasure below.

Recorded at Jaraf House Studios, Wigan, Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain is the sound of a band at a new creative peak, inspired by a summer spent immersing themselves in the atmosphere, music and communities at folk and roots festivals up and down the UK.

Tracks like ‘Bury Me Naked’, ‘Let The Music Speak’ and ‘Let’s Not Have A Morning After (‘Til We’ve Had A Night Before)’ have already become firm favourites among the band’s devoted live following, delighting audiences at Towersey and Wickham Festivals, Big Session, The Great British Folk Festival and many more.

Driven by the distinctive counterpoint vocals of Virginia and Andrew Kettle, the songs are folk music in the broadest sense – story-telling, rootsy and organic – yet underpinned by an unashamed pop sensibility and given wings by the musical accompaniment, including a guest appearance from folk violin legend Dave Swarbrick.

Built around the Kettle family axis (in addition to Virginia and Andrew, the band includes John Kettle on guitars and brother Bob on mandolin and Irish bouzouki), Merry Hell are a band blessed with ability and imagination.

Equally at home in reflective, acoustic-based moments, or declaring their credentials with powerful rock rhythms, the breadth of talent carries firmly into live shows where, time and again, audiences have been swept off their feet and those new to Merry Hell have joined the believers.

If “BLINK…and you miss it” was the sound of Merry Hell becoming comfortable in their new found skin then “Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain” is loving the skin they’re in.

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).

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 web link: http://www.merryhell.co.uk/