SINGLES BAR 47 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 47We’ll leave Christmas until later if you don’t mind. Belle Of The Ball is the debut solo recording by AINSLEY HAMILL of Fourth Moon and Barluath. She has an amazing cast of supporters including Graham Coe, Lucy, Evan Carson and Toby Shaer but what jumps out at you is that voice. She begins with the traditional ‘Latha Dhomh ‘s Buain a’ Choirce’ – a powerful but still authentic rendering over an insistent beat.. Butter wouldn’t melt.  Then comes the title track. The instruments are mostly traditional and acoustic but Ainsley sings in a dark, smoky, bluesy voice. Where did that come from? ‘Runaways’, a delightfully hedonistic song, is performed in the same style and then it’s back to the traditional ‘Ailein Duinn’ with Ainsley keeping to the lower end of her register.. Finally we have the country-tinged ‘The Green Woods Back Home’, different again and a cracking song to wrap things up with.
www.ainsleyhamill.com

Singles Bar 47THE PEOPLE VERSUS are a five-piece from Oxford who describe themselves as chamber pop but that could be a cover for posh folk-rock. The band spun off from Full Fathom Five and Ground Opening is their debut record – although they do a nice line in T-shirts as well. The EP opens with the double-header of ‘Like I’m Lonely/Driftwood’, built on a very basic drum-beat, possibly a loop, but ‘Driftwood’ gives the drummer more to do. ‘Ground Opening’ is also based on idiosyncratic percussion. Finally we have ‘Sea Monster (Charybdis)’ – you expect a touch of the classics from Oxford. The People don’t tell us much about themselves but we do know that the singer’s name is Alice and that she is blessed with a brilliantly flexible voice.
https://www.thepeopleversusmusic.com/

JAKE AARON certainly isn’t in a festive mood (good on you, Aaron) with ‘Here’s The Thing’. The thing is that he thinks we’re sinking and he could well be right. Jake has a nicely laconic delivery over a ringing acoustic guitar and a nice line in irony as he sings “here’s a song of hope and glory”.
https://jakeaaron.com/

In the spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men DUSTY WRIGHT released ‘The Book Of Tears’ in the wake of the epidemic of mass murders in the USA this year. Americana with a soul-tinged chorus, this is a fine song that deserves a wide hearing. “Who has read the book of tears?” That’s just one of the questions he poses.
www.dustywright.com

Northern Irish singer-songwriter AARON SHANLEY released ‘A Decent Apology’ just too late for last month’s post. As a post break-up song it’s one of the best. “I still don’t love you, I’m never going to. But I owe you a decent apology.” An EP is in the works.
http://www.facebook.com/aaronshanley

Grungy as you could wish for, SMOKE FAIRIES release ‘Elevator’ in advance of their new album, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, to be released early next year. You won’t be surprised to learn that the album and this track were recorded in Seattle.
https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies

Also grungy are THE ROQUES. Their single, ‘Valdivian’ begins with growling bass under strange drones and doesn’t really fit our remit but it exerts a certain compulsion. They look far too young to be having such dark thoughts.
https://www.facebook.com/theroquesmusic/

VARO are a traditional duo from Dublin who will release their debut album in the new year.  In the meantime they tempt us with their first single, ‘Sovay’ built on fiddle and drones supporting their close harmonies. Actually, Lucie Azconaga is French and Consuelo Nerea Breschi is Italian and their sound is more earthy than ethereal.
https://www.facebook.com/Varo.Dublin/

Christmas is still a way away for SERIOUS CHILD on ‘Brambles’. “Brambles will grow where bad people go to do unspeakable things” is the key phrase for the song is inspired by the work of forensic botanist, Mark Spencer. Can’t you just feel a TV series coming on? Alan Young, to give him his real name, occupies the same sort of musical and lyrical territory as Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Spooky but fascinating.
https://www.facebook.com/SeriousChildMusic/

A final festive flurry of singles heads up with SIOBHAN MILLER and her self-released ‘At This Time Of Year’, a piano ballad bedecked with lush woodwind and strings that offers a simple message about missing those you can’t be with at this time of the year and sending them your best wishes.
https://www.siobhanmiller.com/

The same sentiment can be found on the equally strings enrobed ‘Golden Christmas Time’ (Self-released), from TOBIAH, a song poignantly inspired by thoughts of absent friends and specifically the loss of her husband early into their marriage as she sings “See the dress I’ll wear tonight/Like the one you left for me/Placed beneath the Christmas tree”.
https://www.tobiah.co.uk/

Taking a somewhat different tack, strumming an acoustic guitar, one of Nashville’s few Asian country artists, GABE LEE offers up ‘Christmas Day’ (Self-released), described as a “sad and sarcastic” juxtaposition of the Hallmark seasonal schmaltz with the cold, harsh nature of winter in a song about a man on the run, hiding from the law as he sings “It’s been a long, long lonely winter / It’s been a cold, hard-livin’ couple years / And it kills me to say they’re gonna lock me away / And it don’t look like I’ll be home by Christmas day”.
https://www.facebook.com/gabeleetn/

Taking an equally less cheery approach, alt-folk trio THICKETS offer the slow waltzing, icy auto harp tinkling ‘A Winter’s Warning’ (Self-released), a song that began life as an attempt a carol and ended up a murder ballad with Rebecca Lavery offering the ethereal vocal and Emma Hamilton providing the wintery harmonies.
http://www.thickets.co.uk/

Keeping it downcast, from Sweden comes SOFIA TALVIK riding on the ominous rhythms of ‘Christmas Train’ (Makaki Music), a free download from her Bandcamp site that, in keeping with her previous holiday releases, harks to the darker side with a modern take on the legend of Krampus, Santa’s evil counterpart, who most decidedly is not bringing joy and presents, here embodied in a train rolling down the track to steal dreams and lives.
https://sofiatalvik.com/

Also from Sweden is BUFORD POPE telling is ‘What Christmas Ain’t’ (Unchained), a bluesy alt-country strum in which he recounts a kid preparing for Christmas with his sister and parents and then turning to a theme about those left homeless on the streets in the holiday season.
http://bufordpope.com/

A social conscience is also at the heart of the acoustic chime of ‘Stars’ (Fretsore), a reflective new single by Scotland’s JACK HENDERSON which, opening borrowing from The Tempest’s line about we are such stuff that dreams are made on, responds to the divisiveness in today’s world with a song that, contemplating the origins of life, talks of how, in matters of substance, we are essentially the same. And that, as he puts it, there is “a real sense in which our personal stories have contributed to our collective human story”. Which, I guess, is really what Christmas is about.
http://jackhenderson.co.uk/

What Christmas is about is at the heart of ‘Heart Of Mine’ by LADY NADE. The song is for her grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. You have to imagine what this time of year can be like for sufferers – routine is destroyed, strangers are all around and there is noise and bustle everywhere. Lady Nade simply says, “I won’t let you down”.
www.ladynade.co.uk

‘It’s Not That Cold Anymore’ also contemplates the problem of loneliness at a time when we’re supposed to be happy. YVONNE McDONNELL’s single is a lavishly arranged ode to nostalgia and lost loves. Add it to your Christmas mix-tape.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/yvonne-mcdonnell

FRANK BIRTWISTLE – Volumes 1-4 (own label)

Frank Birtwistle Volume 1Frank Birtwistle is a guitarist and composer based in Sheffield who has released a set of four EPs of solo pieces – twenty-eight tracks in all. Volume 1 is played on nylon strings although the opening track ‘Flight’ sounds rather robust. You can forget Pre-Raphaelite young ladies playing delicate little pastoral pieces. Closer listening reveals the softness of tone that you don’t get with a steel-strung instrument but the recording process gives his playing a real presence. I particularly like the lightness of ‘Dreamlands’ in this set while ‘Grasmere’ evokes for me not the summer sunshine but the mist on the hills surrounding the water.

Volume 2Volume 2 is recorded on steel strings with all the brightness and sustain they bring. The second track, ‘Gossamer’, explores the richness of the bass strings with a relatively simple melody over the top – rather hypnotic. ‘Komorebi’ is a slower and slow-building track, again with emphasis on the bass notes. In contrast, ‘Seasons’ opens with a distinctly spring-like motif – almost the sound of a bubbling stream – while ‘Regret’ has a lightness overlaying its implied melancholy. I particularly like ‘Midsummer Haze’ in this set.

Volume 3The third volume continues on steel strings with Frank making more use of his instrument’s natural sustain – and maybe a touch of reverb – to leave notes hanging in the air on the opening ‘Daybreak’. The final track is ‘Sunset’ and uses the same technique so I‘m sure you get the picture. ‘Songbird’ feels a bit too heavy for the image he’s trying to convey – it’s probably right in his mind if not mine – but ‘Standing Still’ has a suitable solidity about it while ‘Nowhere’ runs hither and yon.

Volume 4The last volume is also restricted to the steel-strung guitar and I sort of wish that Frank had mixed things up a bit. Not that there is anything wrong with it – the opening ‘Riversong’ is a lovely fast-flowing piece (sorry) – but I was hoping for a touch of bottle-neck resonator or maybe something on a baritone guitar. No, Frank Birtwistle sticks to what he does best and that is very good.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: https://frankbirtwistle.bandcamp.com/

‘Dreamlands’:

WILLIE CAMPBELL & BAND – Dileab: A Legacy (Comhhairle Nan Eilean Siar CNES2019CD)

DileabRecorded live, Dileab sees the Western Isles singer-songwriter join forces with seven equally local musicians Jane Hepburn MacMillan, Andy Yearley, Paul Martin, DC MacMillan, Neil Johnstone, Rhona Johnstone and Graham MacLennan), variously on strings, percussion, guitars and accordion, and members of six school choirs from the islands of Barra, Uist, Harris and Lewis for an intergenerational project designed to bring local history live for the islands’ young people.

The schools set out to explore the legacy of four of the major social influences on the Outer Hebrides over the last 100 years, emigration, wartime experiences, protest and politics, and the Iolaire disaster of New Year’s Day 1919 when the ship carrying naval reservists and demobbed sailors hit the rocks outside Stornaway harbour with the loss of some 205 lives. To complement this, Campbell was commissioned to write the five songs on the EP, first up being ‘Innise Gall’, an anthemic celebration of growing up as a child amid the wild beauty of the islands. It’s followed by the lively fiddle and drums-led ‘In Honour of the Past’ which talks of the clearances of the 18th century when the people were forcibly removed from their homes to give the land over to sheep farming.

Emigration is the backdrop for the military slow march beat swayalong ‘On A Wave To The West’, recalling those who sailed from Castlebay pier to Quebec “starving and sick depending on strangers’ charity” but strengthened by their heritage and community.

The remaining two songs concern the war and the disaster, the near seven-minute ‘My Time Wasn’t At Hand’ a funereal paced, mournful account of the sinking sung in the voice of one of the few survivors and celebrating the courage of John Finlay Macleod from 14 Port Of Ness, one of the sailors, who tied a rope to his waist and swam to shore, climbing the cliffs and saving seventy lives. The second is ‘We Sleep At Peace’, a jauntily paced, fiddle-led singalong memorial to those from Uist who gave their lives in the name of freedom. Inevitably, Dileab is going to have its strongest appeal close to home, but in terms of the songs and the themes it addresses, it deserves to find a much wider audience.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.facebook.com/dileab2019/

‘On A Wave To The West’ – live:

SINGLES BAR 45- A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 45SARAH YEO is British but she is more deeply steeped in the sounds of America than some Americans. Safe is a five track EP of original songs featuring Sarah Jory on pedal steel and Dobro with drums by Matt Butlin.

The opener, ‘I’m On My Way’, was actually written in San Diego and tells of a yearning for the big country. Next up is ‘War Of Worlds’ is described as the story of a falling out with someone close but if you want to take it as a metaphor for Brexit I certainly won’t stop you. Sarah isn’t taking sides but pleading for a cease-fire. If you’re familiar with the stage of a relationship when you’re not sure if it’s actually over or not then the title track will resonate with you.

‘Roadie 2019’ finds the singer looking for a roadie to help her with a gig in a “nice little bar in a Somerset town” but the story develops into a potential romance as Sarah observes that the hills begin to look more like California. Finally, ‘Lines’ tells of an enduring love although Sarah would seem to be singing from a viewpoint somewhere in the future. Safe is a lovely mix of themes.
www.sarahyeomusic.co.uk

Singles Bar 45A Glasgow-based country singer-songwriter, DAVID LATTO reverts to his solo soubriquet after a couple of outings as the David Latto Band for his new EP, Show Me How To Feel, although, featuring five backing musicians, it’s still very much a band work. It opens with the title track, a mid-tempo number written after a period when he felt out of touch with himself and his music, leading into the acoustic strum of ‘Blood & Whisky’, tracing similar idea of rediscovering yourself, here through reconnecting with childhood friends. Another ballad, but with a more leisurely approach, ‘Better Ways’ again draws on that feeling of running to stand still and needing to find a sense of direction and the right path to take. Stripped down to the basics with a minimal pulsing arrangement featuring John Mather on pedal steel, ‘Haunt Me’ was one of the first things he wrote after the band broke up, an impressionist nostalgic remembrance of past relationships recorded in one take while it ends with the walking beat ‘Losing You’, a song about feeling a relationship slipping away and wondering how to hold on to it before, as it builds to a crescendo, realising maybe letting go is the best thing.

Latto confesses that for a long time he felt he’d lost his creative spirit, listening here it’s clear he’s not only found it again, but it’s come with a full recharge.
http://davidlattomusic.com/

Singles Bar 45No Songs comes on newly-fashionable 7” vinyl and consists of six instrumental tracks – ten tunes in all – recorded in 1967 by MARTIN CARTHY AND DAVE SWARBRICK. Martin plays guitar, of course, and Swarb plays fiddle and mandolin and as Martin says “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. Some of the tunes, ‘The Irish Washerwoman’ and ‘The Ash Plant’ for example, are familiar pieces from the duo’s later repertoire but many are less well-known. The opener, ‘Gillens’ Apples/Snug In The Blanket’, shows off Swarbrick’s finger-breaking mandolin to great effect while ‘Grey Daylight’ is a fiddle tour de force. The recording is very straightforward, as you would expect from the time – no messing about: they let the music speak for itself. A newly re-discovered gem that Martin is selling at gigs.
www.fledglingrecords.co.uk

Dove TalesBased around Scandinavian Stef Rose and Happy Mondays guitarist Johnny Evans alongside Durutti Column drummer Chris Joyce and bassist Victor Freeman, DOVE TALES are a Manchester-based quartet mixing up 60s folk rock jangle, 70s country-soul and Brit rock, stirred together on the Lamplight Sessions EP (Awal), lead track ‘Come Over Here’ taking care of the latter. Of more interest to Folking ears will be the steady slow walking bass strut of ‘Bully’ with its country coloured chorus and the bluegrassy romp of ‘M6’ while Evans sings lead on the West Coast swayalong ‘You And I’ with its instrumental workout bridge.
https://dovetalesband.com/

My Darling ClementineMY DARLING CLEMENTINE, aka Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, release Country Darkness Vol 1, interpretations of Elvis Costello’s country songs. It’s preceded by a single, ‘Heart Shaped Bruise’, and will be followed in due course by volume 2. ‘Heart Shaped Bruise’ isn’t terribly country but the second track, ‘Stranger In The House’, makes up for that. ‘That Day Is Done’, a slow piano-driven number maintains the vibe while heading into blues territory. ‘I Felt The Chill Before The Winter Came’ is more mainstream country but supplies a big finish. Supporting the duo is Attraction/Imposter Steve Nieve linking these new versions back to Costello.
https://mydarlingclementinemusic.co.uk/

OutsideBorn in Shropshire and based in Glasgow, MOLLY LINEN releases her debut Outside EP, (Lost Map). Lead track ‘When They Didn’t Care’ with its layered guitars nodding to psychedelic folkpop while the sparse fingerpicked, echoey whispered vocals of ‘Waited Long and the slow-paced, doomily pastoral ‘Soft As Love’ throw up Nick Drake and Cat Power shadows, although its ‘Outside’ with its double-tracked vocals, muted drum beat and watery guitars that proves the most effective.
https://www.facebook.com/molly.linen/

Picture‘Picture’ is the taster single for the debut album that is due from ELIZABETH & JAMESON early next year. The album is centred around Whitby and the song was inspired by a visit to the Sutcliffe Gallery. The second track, a live recording of ‘To Mend A Broken Heart’, is the first song that Hannah Elizabeth (of Said The Maiden) and Griff Jameson worked on as a duo. Their simple style – guitar, violin and voices – suits the directness of their songwriting.
www.elizabethandjameson.co.uk

Keith JamesThe Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher wrote in 1703 “I knew a very wise man … believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.” If that’s so, the world needs powerful songs as much as ever. The KEITH JAMES song ‘I Can See’, for online release on October 15th 2019, was written “in support of and on behalf of organizations and individuals currently campaigning to bring a wider and urgent awareness of global climate change“, and it certainly hits its target. Keith James clearly sees the danger of living in a post-truth, self-serving society, but he sees hope too, and that’s important.
http://www.keith-james.com/

Unwed FathersOriginally released on his 1984 album Aimless Love, JOHN PRINE revisits his classic ‘Unwed Fathers’ (Thirty Tigers) in the company of Margo Price who joins in on the second verse. The song a condemnation of the way unwed mothers are “kept under cover/like some bad dream” while the fathers “run like water through a mountain stream”, he re-recorded it as part of a fundraising effort for the American Civil Liberties Union in the wake of Alabama’s near-complete ban on abortion, stating “that song has always been about how women are the ones who carry, birth and sometimes are left with taking care of and raising children too. Now they want to take away their right to decide if or when they do that. Women should be the ones to make decisions about what affects their lives in such a big way”.
https://www.johnprine.com/

John MorelandMentioning Prine, JOHN MORELAND supported him on his last UK tour and now releases ‘East October’ as a taster for his upcoming Thirty Tigers album debut, a scuffed drum beat, percussive hiss and piano anchoring an achingly soulful song about trying to make it without a crutch to lean on as he sings “how am I ever gonna get by all by myself?
http://johnmoreland.net/

Alessi's ArkSacred is a lovely soft-rock download-only single by ALESSI’S ARK. Relatively simple keyboards, drums and bass support Alessi Laurent-Marke’s sweet voice with the whole thing topped off with electric guitar and some delicate touches that take time to register.
https://www.facebook.com/Alessisarkmusic/

DisconnectIt’s been four years since the last SMOKE FAIRIES album, but Darkness Brings The Wonders Home is set for release in January, preceded by new single Disconnect’, a welcome reminder of their dark fecund and slightly spooked brand of folk with its jittery, guitar riff mantra and the gathering fuzzed rush as it hits the chorus hook that duly ramps up anticipation.
https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies

SINGLES BAR 44 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 44As a taster for his somewhat delayed album, From Coalfield To Battlefield, GARY MILLER releases his DLI EP. The DLI is The Durham Light Infantry and the final track, featuring Ferryhill Town Band, has previously been released as a single. The long opening track, ‘The Final Letter Of Jimmy Durham’, is the story of the first African to join the British army. He became a bandsman and a popular man in the regiment but sadly died of pneumonia in Ireland in 1908. In contrast is ‘Ballad Of Lance-Sergeant William Stones’ who was executed for cowardice in 1916. Like so many others, Stones was posthumously pardoned when it was far too late to make amends.‘Euphonium And Cornet’ is about the bandsmen who, like the Scottish pipers, put themselves in harm’s way to rally their comrades. Gary’s powerful voice and equally powerful songs are complemented by big brass arrangements. We’re looking forward to the album.
www.garymillersongs.com

Featuring Orkney fiddler Louise Bichan alongside American colleagues guitarist Ethan Hawkins, mandolin player Ethan Setiawan and recent addition Casey Murray on cello and clawhammer banjo, Boston-based CORNER HOUSE release their second EP, Smart Folks, a collection of four originals and two contemporary Irish numbers that ranges cross Irish, Scottish, Appalachian stringband and bluegrass influences. It’s Ireland that provide the opening instrumental ‘Slip Jigs’ (‘Farewell To Whaley Range’ and ‘Soggy’s’) before they follow on with ‘Happy Now, a number about depression and family life penned, as is ‘You’re Great’, as low, minimalist spooked-mandolin ballad which briefly perks up rhythmically midway before a fiddle solo, by Hawkins. Setiawan, contributes the musically shape-shifting instrumental title track before, starting slow and gathering pace, a third instrumental, ‘Through The Snow-Covered Pines’, Murray’s clawhammer evoking the quartet’s Appalachian aspects, brings things to a close. They’re due to return to the UK in 2020 for a Spring tour, I suggest you keep a close eye out.
http://www.cornerhouseband.com/

THE PORTLAND BROTHERS are Steven Adams and Tim Victor and their first EP is the download set First EP. Fortunately, their music is rather more imaginative than their titling. The key to their sound is their tight harmony singing over acoustic guitars sometimes bolstered by organ but the lead track, ‘Shake Off The Dust’, begins with a decidedly country vibe and it’s a while before you realise that they are from neither Oregon nor Maine but actually got together in Cambridge. They aren’t exactly informative on their web page but this is clever songwriting – deceptively simple but also complex and raising questions. Is ‘Invisible Love’ about hiding one’s sexuality or is that reading too much into it? Steve and Tim could really go somewhere.
https://www.portlandbrothers.com/

An echo of Simon Garfunkel comes with the self-released The Kivalina EP from New England/Nashville duo JESSE TERRY & ALEX WONG, the title referring to the Alaskan village where the indigenous population have hunted whales for generations.  However, climate change and thinning ice has made both this, and indeed their very existence difficult with experts predicting Kivalina will be uninhabitable by 2025, making them the first climate change refugees.

As such the six tracks revolve around the villagers’ predicament, extending it to more personal and universal considerations, opening with the shimmering, percussion cascading, gradually swelling ‘Landfall’ and proceeding through the similarly styled ‘Nowhere’, the more musically muscular ‘Dangerous’ and the introspective, softly sung fragility of ‘Thieves’. It ends with the tumbling drums and keening harmonies of the lyrical desperation of ‘Ten More Years’ and, finally, the simple strum of the strings-coloured ‘Fight Or Flight’. A simple but beautifully crafted and performed record that delivers a timely and important narrative.
https://www.jesseterrymusic.com/

ERIN RAE adds her contribution to the current spate of covers with the download only Lagniappe Session EP (Aquarium Drunkard), opening up a dreamy 60s psychfolk reading of Gene Clark’s ‘Some Misunderstanding’. Formerly recorded by The Monkees, Carole King’s ‘As You Go Along’ here, Rae on 12-string, more recalls a slow burn Byrds, leading on to a loose late 60s West Coast vibe take of Jonathan Richman’s ‘You Must Ask The Heart’. The final cut is an ambitious interpretation of Scott Walker’s ‘Duchess’, featuring Jerry Bernhardt on fuzz guitars, 12 string acoustic and Casiotone, a fine conclusion to an excellent indulgence.
https://www.erinraemusic.com/

Mandolin, Violin And Saw is one of the best titles we’ve come across all year. It belongs to an EP by DAVID SQUIRE AND THE LONG LAST LOOKS and being recorded in Tennessee it’s pure(ish) country – David says the song is inspired by his maternal grandfather. To confuse things, David is actually from Bristol and despite many years living in the USA he doesn’t really have the accent – whether by chance or design is impossible to say. He is back in England now but his lyrics betray his love of all things American – ‘Savannah Days And Nights’ being a perfect example. As well as mandolin and violin there are guitar, piano, organ and drums but the band’s sound is light and gently rolling and the songwriting is excellent.
https://www.davidsquireandthelonglastlooks.com/

A UK Americana four-piece comprising siblings Callum on vocals and rhythm guitar, drummer Theo and lead guitarist Jack Lury with Peter Dixon on brass, THE BLUE HIGHWAYS make the running with their self-titled, self-released debut EP. An energetic four-track collection it kicks off with the Southside Johnny saloon soul swagger of ‘He Worked’, a horns-embellished song about an old man reflecting on his life now he’s retired and to the future of his kids, continuing in a similar but Stonesy blues style with piano-accompanied lying-themed ‘Blood Off Your Hands’. Co-penned with David Burn from Orphan Colours, ‘Matter Of Love’ is an upbeat swaggering Southern country pop track about not having the courage to end a relationship and they end with the reined in reflective acoustic balladry chug of ‘Have You Seen My Baby’, coloured by Henry Senior on mournful pedal steel. It doesn’t push the envelope, but it handles the staple ingredients in solid style
https://thebluehighwaysband.com/

After a run of singles, SJ DENNEY releases a six-track EP, Forgotten Friends. The most recent of the singles is ‘A Fond Farewell’, the final track in the set while ‘Here I Am’ opens it..’(Feels Like I’m) Hearing Things’ is something of a departure in musical style, spikier than his usual material and a powerful song and the drive carries over into ‘All The Signs Were There’, the predecessor to ‘A Fond Farewell’. SJ is big on brass solos in his arrangements which give him a distinctive sound and the pounding drums on ‘The Good Times’ are equally powerful.
sjsongs.co.uk

BANDITS ON THE RUN are a NYC-based trio consisting guitarist Adrian Enscoe, cellist Sydney Shepherd and Regina Strayhorn on percussion and xylophone, all three handling the vocals. Bandits Live At The Power Station (The MTA) is the latest EP, a four track collection of three originals and one cover kicking off a splash of Hispanic musical colours on ‘Potted Plant’ before the intertwined harmonies of the folksier, blues shaded ‘Sweet Thing’. The swayalong feckless lover-themed ‘Cowboy On The Run’ takes you to the New Mexico desert, complete with cod coyote howl, closing up with their inspired, sultgrily-sung, cello-led lurching take on Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’. It certainly makes you want to check out their studio recordings too.
http://www.banditsontherun.nyc/

Folking award winner REG MEUROSS releases a new solo album, Raw, very soon but before that we have a single, ‘We Looked Away’, which has to be one of his best ever songs. There’s a delightful hint of Dylan in the melody that serves to root the track in the protest movement of the 60s and if ‘We Looked Away’ doesn’t make you question yourself and everything that is going on in the world you have no soul.
www.regmeuross.com

JOSHUA RADIN serves up a taster for his forthcoming new, eighth, album with ‘Here, Right Now’ (Netwerk Music Group), a fingerpicked acoustic-based, whisperingly sung number about embracing the moment that, featuring Maria Taylor, on harmonies, calls to mind early Simon & Garfunkel.
https://www.joshuaradin.com/

‘Mud’ is the new single from Londoner YVONNE McDONNELL. It has a beautiful, ethereal sound and according to her PR it’s an important song. Sadly, the production and stylised vocals are such that it’s impossible to make out a single word of the lyric.
http://www.yvonne-music.net/

SINGLES BAR 43 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 43Formed in response to an RSC songwriting competition, Coventry-based THE MECHANICALS BAND are fronted by Wes Finch and feature Nizlopi double bassist John Parker, drummer Ban Haines and Jools Street and Katrin Gilbert on violin and viola, respectively. Following on from their Shakespare-themed debut, Exit, Pursued by Bear they broaden their literary horizons with Miscellany #1 (Silvery) which features settings of poems by W. B. Yeats (‘Meditation of the Old Fisherman’), Edna St Vincent Millay (‘Recuerdo’), Ralph Hodgson (the rousingly jaunty ‘Time You Old Gypsy Man’), and Robert Browning (the traditional flavoured spare guitar and strings ‘Along The Road’). Dating back to 1873, it ends with Arthur O’Shaugnessy’s celebration of the world’s creative artists ‘Ode’ (from which the phrase movers and shakers originated) on which, set to a military beat and anthemic melody, they declare “We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams”. Seems appropriate.
https://www.facebook.com/WeAreTheMechanicals/

Lonny ZiblatThe new EP by Argentina-born LONNY ZIBLAT consists of five songs from his new album, Dream Hunting, and, as such, has a description rather than a title on its cover. The songs are all acoustic but that doesn’t mean pared back to nothing. The arrangements are satisfyingly full with Lonny playing all the instruments – the only guest is Magdalena Golebiowska, who sings lead on ‘Days Of Peace’ – and he constructs a particularly nice instrumental break on the opening track, ‘Healing’. ‘A Little Secret’ was written for his late father and ‘Stuck’ is a simple ukulele strum. The only weak point is ‘Phony Baits’ on which he seems to be straining for some notes.
www.lionelziblat.com

Singles Bar 43A bluegrass family five piece from West Texas, comprising siblings Arlen, Jessica, Jenna and Galen Ivey alongside Jessica’s husband Sammy Carr THE IVEYS self-release Colors Of Honey, which, at six tracks is either an extended EP or mini-album, but whatever tag you give it comprises some fine Americana that variously draws on influences that range from The Beatles to The Lumineers. It’s a generally musically upbeat set, setting the mood from the start with the choppy country pop bounce of ‘You Got Something’ and the pedal steel keening ‘Whatever Comes’ with Arlen and Jessica duetting before slowing things down with the sisters harmonising on piano ballad ‘Running Wild’. The title track’s another hushed offering, cello and acoustic guitar building to a fuller sound midway before ebbing away again at the end. Again backed by piano, ‘King And Marie’ has Arlen on lead recounting the story of their grandparents’ romance, the set closing with the multiple unaccompanied close harmonies of ‘The Dream’ before a final piano outro. The collection’s title nicely sums up their sound, give them a listen, they’ve got something.
https://theiveysmusic.com/

Singles Bar 43Choose My Company is the second EP by singer-songwriter BETH MALCOLM. The opening track, ‘People Make Glasgow’, tells you where she lives and I reckon that anyone who knows the city will find it raising a smile. It starts gently with just voice and acoustic guitar but then the line “a bloody freezing basement flat on Kelvingrove Street” grabs your attention. It crosses Sauchiehall Street, if you’re interested, and it’s where she found love so she likes it really. Kelvin Grove turns up again in ‘Ghost Tour’ and the title track is a tale of separation, heartbreak and reunion set across the span of a Glasgow winter. Beth plays keys and is accompanied by guitarist Dorian Cloudsley, and jazz-man by preference but, oddly, I keep hearing hints of old pop lyrics.
www.bethmalcolm.com

Siingles Bar 43For her new EP, Inspired (Folkstock), ZOE WREN has covered six female artists who have influenced and inspired her music over the years. First up, perhaps inevitably, is Joni Mitchell, the choice being a beautifully simple voice and piano reading of ‘Both Sides Now’ that stands as one of the finest cover versions of the song. Though it’s been recorded by any number of folk artists, it’s Pentangle and in particular Jacqui McShee who are celebrated with ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’, steering away from echoing their jazz colours in favour of of melancholic, reflective traditional folk reading that changes the chords, adds pedal effects and even introduces a new lively guitar and percussion instrumental bridge section.

Her third selection comes as something of a surprise since it moves away from the film field to cover ‘Joanne’, a song by Lady Gaga. The original was uptempo with acoustic guitars and percussion, but Wren’s is folksier, slower and accompanied by piano to bring an end of evening melancholia. Tracy Chapman’s ‘Talking ‘Bout A Revolution’ hews closely to the original as does a reverential strummed vocally double-tracked take on Sandy Denny classic ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ though it takes Denny’s 1973 Peel session rather than the Fairport recording as its template. It ends with another non-folk artist, Wren digging out her synth cello to add an extra tone to her magnificent piano-led interpretation of the iconic Kate Bush’s ‘The Man With A Child In His Eyes’.
http://www.zoewren.com/zxa8tg7kh95vb4iqoi62jdoo2laias

Singles Bar 43JON WILKS has been mentioned in these pages before in the context of his album, Midlife. Now he follows that up with an EP, The Trial Of Bill Burn Under Martin’s Act. The title track comes from an old broadside which satirised The Cruel Treatment Of Cattle Act 1822 – “a man can’t chastise his own ass” is an unsubtle double entendre. The second track, ‘Holly Ho’, sounds old and mentions chainmakers but was collected as recently as 1958 from a pub where the regulars apparently added new verses every week. Jon recruited Nick Hart and Mikey Kenney to play on this one.

The third track, ‘Who Hung The Monkey?’ comes from Hartlepool and is based on the famous story of the monkey who was washed up on shore and hanged as a French spy although the song would appear to be music-hall piece. Finally we have a gentle, weary reading of ‘Leave Her, Johnny’. Jon is an accomplished finger-picker but doesn’t show off and allows the songs to tell their own stories which is how things should be.
https://jonwilks.online/

Singles Bar 43A painter, poet, songwriter and storyteller, Lancashire’s TORIA WOOFF releases Badlands (Sloe Flower Records), her second EP of “gothic literature and pained Americana telling tales of love and malevolence”. Comprising four tracks, she describes them in terms of synaesthesia, sounds evoking colours which, in turn, represent feelings. Hence the EP being described as ‘browner and orange’ with ‘oaky guitar tones’. In more prosaic terms, that translates to an autumnal 70s folk rock feel of open skies and falling leaves, etched with acoustic guitar and strings on the likes of  the gradually gathering ‘Cases’, the echoingly sung, widescreen ‘Collision Course’ with its Spanish guitar and rocky canyons ambience or the rhythmically curling, martial beat ‘Smoke’. Clocking at just over five minutes, accompanied by cello, ‘For Liam (Souhja)’ is the longest track and also the one most redolent of dreamy Americana shades, the ‘smoky topaz’ of the press release. She can sing a rainbow.
https://www.facebook.com/toriawooff/

Siingles Bar 43In Arden is an EP of four instrumental pieces by STEVE GARRETT AND PETER LOWIT WITH JAMES EDGE. Guitarist Garrett wrote all the music, Lowit plays double-bass and Edge arranged and directed the string quartet on the title track. If you’re wondering about the title, you’re right, it does refer to Tamworth-in-Arden, family home of Nick Drake. Garrett has been honoured to play at the annual Nick Drake Gathering there and this tune reflects Danny Thompson’s bass playing, Robert Kirby’s arrangements and, of course, Nick’s guitar playing. ‘You Called Me’ is a pure jazz tune which gives Lowit the opportunity to stretch out a bit and ‘Mr CC’ is essentially a renaissance jig with a jazz flourish in the middle. Finally, ‘Braw Day’ is a pastoral piece to send you drifting away.
www.stevegarrettguitar.com

TraitorsAvailable from Bandcamp and featuring Cathryn Craig on backing vocals, Brian Willoughby on lead guitar and e-bow and Mark Jolley providing bass and violin, MARINA FLORANCE is in protest mode for ‘Traitors’, a number co-penned with author Richard Pierce Saunderson, a song he describes as about the personal cost of the political situation in the UK with the media-fuelled xenophobia and discrimination against legal immigrants and their descendants as the song asks “Is this still our haven, a place for those in need or are we a country broken, driven by hate and greed?”.
https://www.marinaflorance.com/

If I tell you that brother and sister duo GALLILEO’S FAN are Fi and Martin Vass you might begin to speculate and, of course, you’d be right. Their single, ‘I Won’t Be Found’, is the title track of their new album on which brother Mike appears along such luminaries as Louis Abbott, whose distinctive drumming underpins this track, Graeme Smillie and Euan Burton.  Their sound is indie but capable of great delicacy.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/galileos-fan

Singles Bar 43SJ DENNEY releases the third single in his current bi-monthly series. ‘A Fond Farewell’ is an up-tempo song of hope for the future: “every day we’ve got to chase the demons all away”. The arrangement is big and punchy with nice piano and brass and solid drumming. Are you working up to an album SJ?
http://www.sjsongs.co.uk/

Jm ChorleyJIM CHORLEY has been around for a while but his new single, ‘There’s Nothing Like Your Love’, ups the production values and features a host of guest musicians. This is an old-fashioned love song and although there is some fine playing in evidence the arrangement goes a bit over the top at times but it’s the style he seems to favour.
https://www.jimchorley.com/

The Slow KnifeManchester singer-songwriter LIAM FROST is set to release his first album for ten years in September. ‘The Slow Knife’ is the second single to be taken from The Latchkey Kid – a song about growing apart within a relationship. Liam is still young but pessimistic and although it’s a fine song it may mean more in the album context.
https://www.liamfrost.co.uk/

Eye On YouA nice chunky guitar introduces ‘Eye On You’, the first single by Australian singer/songwriter FENN WILSON to be taken from his debut full-length album Ghost Heroin.  His slightly husky voice complements the bluesy, vaguely country feel of the song although the backing vocals at the end are rather distracting.
https://www.facebook.com/fennwilsonmusic