SINGLES BAR 42 – The meaning of life, the universe and everything

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 42Echoes is the first solo work from Sheffield’s NICOLA BEAZLEY. Nicola plays five-string fiddle which she blends with her brass band background into an intriguing EP of tunes. The opening track, ‘Cutting The Rushes’, is jig but with a slow mournful start. It was written by Nicola for Oakenhoof’s rushbearing and is paired with ‘Cross Of Honour’. Nicola’s brass section, Tom Hurst, Georgia Woodhead and Matthew Beazley, allow her fiddle, supported by Katie Williamson, to take the dominant role – for now.

The title set begins with ‘Blue Eyed Stranger’, led off by Andy Watson’s guitar but ‘Echoes’ is northern variant of ‘The Floral Dance’, and the brass really takes hold before ‘Dennis Crowther’s No 3’, which includes excerpts from the Britannia Coconut Dancers’ tune.  The EP continues its interplay between string and brass and several more of Nicola’s own tunes over four more tracks – ‘Damflask’ is particularly good.
http://nicolabeazley.weebly.com/

Singles Bar 42Putting aside her chamber folk style, Things I Didn’t Need (Rough Trade) is a new stripped back EP from JOSIENNE CLARKE, the title track of which, on which she accompanies herself with moody, resonant guitar, she describes as “A love song to myself from the perspective of the fragile male ego; something I’ve come to know better than I’d care to.” It comes with two further numbers, the Nick Drake referencing ‘Season And Time’ with its watery pastoral acoustic guitar about the frustration and futility in communicating through song, and the gossamer-delicate ‘Never Lie’, which serves as a response to the self-delusion of the title track.
https://josienneclarke.com/

Singles Bar 42‘Rocks’ is the first single taken from sparrowfeather, the debut EP by JAY SUNAWAY. Now it gets complicated because Jay Sunaway is a they, not a he, a five piece collective led by Joe Woods. ‘Rocks’ is about subterranean London, its lost rivers and its denizens and if you’re a fan of China Miéville you’ll immediately feel at home here. The band combine folk instruments, accordion and fiddle, with bass and drums but without going all folk-rock.  In fact, their music displays great subtlety. The other two tracks, ‘Kittiwake Cry’, about a couple arguing on a beach amid the seabirds’ calls, and ‘10,000 Days’, both have a mystery about them: “sparrowfeather or neutron star, I can’t say how good you are”. ‘Rocks’ is available digitally now with ‘Kittiwake Cry’ being released next month and other tracks later. Jay Sunaway is a band we want to hear more from.
https://jaysunaway.com/

Singles Bar 42Following on from last year’s Radio Hymns album, Nashville duo GRANVILLE AUTOMATIC, Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins, return with the all new ‘You Can Go To Hell, I’m Going To Texas’ (own label), a twangily sung, big guitars number that sounds like it’s about a woman giving her lover the heave but is in fact about Davy Crockett’s kiss-off to Tennessee as he headed out west after failing to get elected to the U.S. Congress. In the interest of historical accuracy, however, it should be noted that what he apparently actually said was “Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”
http://www.granvilleautomatic.com/

Singles Bar 42Monsters is the new EP by COCO AND THE BUTTERFIELDS. The opening track, ‘Five Bells’, begins with a fast strummed acoustic guitar before the band kicks with a rocking track that’s pretty restrained by their standards. ‘Warriors’ isn’t so laid-back but clever production keeps the vocals high in the mix even when the rest of the Butterfields go into full-on headbanger mode. There are two versions of the title track, the full take and the radio edit, a surprisingly folky sound, at least in the long version, which has a melody that inexplicably brings images of Scottish islands to mind. ‘Battlegrounds’ completes the martial theme.
https://cocoandthebutterfields.com/

Singles Bar 42‘LONESOME’ CHRIS TODD is an Irish blues performer, front man of The Hardchargers who released their debut album last year. Now Chris has gone out on a vintage acoustic limb with a debut EP, Dark Horses. Not that there’s anything quiet or wimpy about it. ‘Red Lion Yard’ benefits from an insistent guitar pattern suitable for a song written in the pub car-park where Chris was living in his van. It’s the second of his own songs, the title track being the first, and these are paired with two covers. First is Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ‘Lonesome Dog Blues’ and if that’s still an acoustic guitar, it’s undergone some hefty post-production. That’s followed by Bukka White’s ‘Shake ‘Em On Down’.
www.marketsquaremusic.com

Singles Bar 42There isn’t a lot we can tell you about DEAN MAYWOOD other than the fact that he’s Irish and has just released an eponymous EP. The five tracks are acoustic Americana with guitar and harmonica and some clever work going on in the background. The heart-breaking ‘Louisiana’ is probably the best track although ‘Knowing & Lying’ is pretty good, too. Sometimes that clever work gets too clever and there is far too much going on to give the songs a chance.
https://www.facebook.com/deanmaywood/

Singles Bar 42Hailing from the largest of the Aran islands, Irish singer-songwriter PADRAIG JACK gears up for his debut album with new single ‘Minnie’ (Good Deeds Music), a strummed folksy pop tale of a woman in an unhappy marriage who falls for a younger man (who serves as the song’s narrator) and realises there might be love and happiness waiting for her elsewhere. Being a folk song, her new love gets cold feet and does a runner, but she’s now liberated and ultimately ends up finding happiness with someone else.
https://www.padraigjack.com/

Singles Bar 42We’re a bit late in reviewing ‘All The Signs Were There’, the latest single by S J DENNEY, his follow-up to ‘Here I Am’ – sorry S J. This time he’s rather more urgent with the drums well up in the mix, a nice rumbling bass and trumpet interventions culminating in a solo break at the end. Someone really should fund S J to make a full album – one song every two months doesn’t give the full picture.
sjsongs.co.uk

Singles Bar 42JOSHUA BURNELL follows his very fine album, The Road To Horn Fair, with a single, ‘Skylark & The Oak’ featuring his wife, Frances Sladen. Acoustic guitar and harmonies backed by strings recreate the sound of the 60s, at least as we remember it, without imitating anyone. The lyrics have a mystic quality but Joshua insists that it isn’t a love song. Really?
www.joshuaburnell.co.uk

Singles Bar 42‘Spencer Street’ is in Newcastle and is where REN once lived with a girl called Sophie. It begins with just acoustic guitar and slightly bluesy vibe, then a second guitar and a rather tasty lead come in. It’s a lovely nostalgic song and we should hear more of him.
www.renofficialmusic.com

Singles Bar 42MO KENNEY released ‘Ahead Of Myself’ a while ago but he’s touring the UK in July and August so we thought we should mention it. Mo is from Nova Scotia but doesn’t really sound Canadian and the song starts out as folk-rock (more or less) with clever lyrics but gives up pretending and becomes pop.
http://mokenney.com/

 

SINGLES BAR 41 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 41It slipped out late last year with virtually no publicity, so perhaps it’s time to shine a light on Voices Of Equilibrium (Silvertone), a four-track EP of covers from three part harmony Devon trio WILDWOOD KIN, sisters Beth and Emillie Key and cousin Meghann Loney. There’s some surprising choices, though Tracy Chapman’s ‘Talkin’ Bout A Revolution’ is the least so since it at least occupies the folk genre field. That said, the arrangement with its glistening keys and subsequent heavy drums immediately rings the changes on the original.

That’s certainly true of their take on ‘The Pretender’, not the Jackson Browne one but the Foo Fighters track, which they’ve slowed down into a moody dank folk affair while still bring urgency, albeit of a different shade to the refrain. Meanwhile, shifting the goalposts once again, ‘Dream On’ was a 2006 electro pop dance floor hit for Christian Falk and Robyn, though, even with its undulating electronic beat, even they might be hard-pressed to recognise this dreamy chamber folk reimagining with its cascading harmonies and twinkling sonic snowflakes.

Stevie Wonder provides the final cut, his boogie funk ‘Higher Ground’ transformed with a single vocal and hummed backing, handclaps and a muted drum thump gospel-like intro before the instrumentation fills out for a fixed and narrow-eyed tribal rhythm groove mid-section with what sounds like distorted scuzzy bass. A superb reminder that if you’re going to do a cover, especially crossing genres, then you need to make it your own. The trio have full possession.
https://www.wildwoodkin.com/

PoetsANNE LEITH & LES OMAN hail from Campbeltown and their EP, Poets, celebrates the work of two local writers, George Campbell Hay and Angus Martin. Anne and Les play guitars, bouzouki and keyboards but don’t overdo the accompaniments – the words are most important here. They stick to Hay’s English poetry but Martin’s ‘The Hird’s Hoose’ is in lowland Scots as far as we can judge. Anyone who thinks that they can write a “traditional” Scottish song (except Archie Fisher, who can do it) should listen to these songs – the opener, ‘The Fisherman Speaks’ is a gem.
www.anneandles.scot

Singles Bar 41A second taster for the upcoming self-released debut album, singer Lara Snowdon and violinist Kathryn Tremlett joined by Kev Jackson on electric guitar, Josiah Manning on keys and the rhythm section of Paddy Blight and Garry Kroll, VELVET & STONE follow-up ‘Oh Boy’ with, after a simply strummed intro, the equally fulsome sounding folk-rock ‘By The Water’, quite literally a love is blind story about confessing your feelings.
https://www.velvetstonemusic.com/

Singles Bar 41Is “Lena Kalinka, have you got space in your heart for a narcissist thinker” any way to begin a song? Absolutely. ‘Lena Kalinka’ is the first track on Poetical Resistance, the new EP by GABRIEL MORENO & THE QUIVERING POETS. Gabriel and the band combine English and Spanish musical strands and the influences of such songwriters as Leonard Cohen. He would be a perfect musical partner for Keith James. ‘Overstay Your Welcome’ is a string-drenched track with a very Cohenish structure overlaid with a Mediterranean gypsy violin and the closing ‘We Are What We Are’ is built on acoustic guitar. The chorus of ‘Silly Old Dreams’ strikes something of a false note but that is the record’s only fault.
www.gabrielmoreno.co.uk

Singles Bar 41There are eight of THE JAMESTOWN BROTHERS from Somerset although one or two of them would appear to be Jamestown Sisters and Singing For Our Supper is their debut EP. Their mixture of good-time country, folk and blues is reminiscent of the early days of The Men They Couldn’t Hang with fiddle and brass fleshing out the sound. A song like ‘Take Your Medicine’ over keyboards and horns is harder and almost mainstream while ‘Everybody Take A Drink’ has an Irish flavour. The Jamestown Brothers must be a great festival band.
http://www.thejamestownbrothers.co.uk/

AtomsBreathily-voiced Guildford-based country pop singer-songwriter EMMA STEVENS self-releases her Atoms EP, featuring two collaborations with Kevin Jeremiah from The Feeling, the jaunty strumalong ‘Because It’s You’ and the uplifting ‘Soldier On’. The title track, presumably written in response to her mother’s passing, is a gentle fingerpicked acoustic celebration of being a part of everything and how death is just another beginning, the remaining cuts being the upbeat romantic euphoria of ‘Bells And Whistles’ and the more staccato rhythms of the self-explanatory feelings of ‘Home’.
https://emmastevensmusic.com/

True StraysTRUE STRAYS are a blues-rock trio from Bristol although they have lots of friends helping out. Once you get past the silly introduction track, Homeward Bound is pretty good and as you listen you begin to realise that they are rather cleverer than the down-and-dirty image they like to promote. Their sound is built around a big bass played by Joe James and buzz-saw guitar by lead vocalist James Cameron, all laid over solid drums by Matt Cooke. We reckon that they must be great live.
www.truestrays.com

Ghost TrainStourbridge-based acoustic bluesman SUNJAY returns to form after the well-played but soulless Black & Blues and the pointless covers set Sunjay Sings Buddy with ‘Ghost Train’ (self-released), a taster for the upcoming Devil Came Calling. Co-written with producer Eddy Morton, it’s a chugging piano and violin-coloured blues tribute to yesteryear heroes that namechecks a cast list that namechecks, among others, Holly, President Kennedy, Muddy Waters, Judy Garland, Babe Ruth, the Big Bopper Martin Luther King, and Monroe. By contrast, the flip side, ‘Too Close To The Sun’, another driving blues co-penned with Henry Priestman and Les Glover, deals with an increasingly unstable addictive relationship.
https://www.sunjay.tv/

Since YesterdayKARINE POLWART releases another single from her forthcoming album, Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook. ‘Since Yesterday’ is the 1984 synth-pop Strawberry Switchblade song but it begins with a crackly old recording of her grandfather singing ‘The Rose Of Tralee’. Originally about youthful angst,  Karine’s piano-led reinterpretation of the song gives it to us old-timers. We’re looking forward to the album already.
https://www.karinepolwart.com/

Blue Hounds‘Blue Hounds’ is the new single from REN. Superficially, it’s a gentle acoustic guitar driven song with some nice single string picking but there’s an underlying message about living in politically difficult times. No need to explain who the blue hounds are but Ren does have red roses growing in his garden.
https://www.renofficialmusic.com/

Pete GardinerPETE GARDINER tackles the world’s problems with his new single, ‘Dangerous People’. Originally from Northern Ireland, he adopts a laconic drawl over acoustic guitar for the verses and allows the song to build up over the choruses. His words are clever, inviting comparisons with Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and his delivery seems instantly familiar without being a copy of anyone. We could use an album like this.
https://www.petegardiner.co.uk/

Siren's CallSinger and harpist KRISTIN REBECCA releases a single, ‘Siren’s Call’ which may be from a new album. Despite her being based in Maryland, you might take her for British at first – her voice is strong and clear and although her fellow New Englanders may be able to identify her accent it’s beyond us.
https://www.kristinrebecca.com/

LOVERS LEAP – Lovers Leap (own label)

Lovers leapA coming together of Grammy-nominated bassist Shelby Means, singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist Mary Lucey-Cardine, guitarist Joel Timmons and slide guitar player Billy Cardine, this six-track EP marks their first recorded work. An acoustic-based collection it opens with ‘Walnut Tree’, a Lucey-Cardine number about connecting with nature inspired by a tree in her back garden and featuring her clawhammer banjo work and Billy’s dobro.

Means takes over lead vocal duties with ‘Red Dawn Awakening’, another nature-themed song she wrote as prayer for as friend struggling with cancer, a tempo shifting atmospheric dobro-coloured old school mountain folk number serving reminder that the light will follow the darkness.

Penned by Timmons and Means in their early courtship days and originally recorded by them under their own duo name as Sally & George, ‘Love Is Gonna Live’ has them duetting on a straightforward celebration of renewal and how “Love is gonna live in this house again.”

The similarly bluegrass infused but slightly more uptempo ‘Love Brewed Cold’, written and sung by Mary, continues the theme with a different spin of how, after things seem to have been done and dusted and the heart’s had time to heal, your lover comes back and it all sparks up again.

The last of the original material, the chugging groove ‘Great Expectations’ has writer Joel back on vocals and whistling, and the girls doing the oooh oohing on a song that came about after, while on tour with Sol Driven Train, the van broke down and they missed the chance of opening for Sheryl Crow in South Carolina, but ended up chilling at a small Ohio festival, the message being that things are what they’re meant to be and “it is what it is”.

Joel taking lead, they end showcasing their three-part harmonies, Timmons’ brushed snares and Cardine’s dobro on a fine cover of ‘California Stars’, the unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyric set to music by Jeff Tweedy, a relaxed and warmly snug end to a very promising debut. Take the plunge.

Mike Davies

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‘Walnut Tree’ – live:

SINGLES BAR 40 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 40EDDI READER releases a new EP, Starlight (Reveal) which lifts the title track and ‘My Favourite Dress’ from her recent Cavalier album and adds three hitherto unavailable covers from the same sessions.

First up, featuring assorted friends and relative son backing vocals, is James Grant’s ‘Scarecrow Song’, a slow waltz lament of an old soldier, home from the wars with no sense of purpose and no welcome. Grant plays guitar on both that and John Douglas’s jauntier waltztime honky tonker ‘No Reply Dot Com’ with John McCusker on fiddle and John Douglas on ukulele. The third stays in waltz mode, but slows it down again for ‘Build High, Build Wide (In Contempt)’, a new musical setting of a folk song by the poet Aaron Kramer and Betty Sander written in protest to the jailings by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee.
http://eddireader.co.uk/

Singles Bar 40JOHN MOSEDALE says he spent “half a lifetime chasing the dream” in other areas of the business before an encounter with Richard Digance set him on the route to acoustic music.  Twenty Seven is his debut EP. Nothing is overworked and the songs are gentle or gently humorous like ‘My Dog Has 3 Balls’. ‘The Old Man In The Mirror’ is a reflection on aging and the fact that John has begun a new life in his mid-fifties, a theme continued in ‘The River Of Life’. ‘Four Left Feet’ is a charming, if perhaps slightly dated, portrayal of youthful romance and the title track is the first song John that wrote and is one he always finishes his set with. This version was recorded live at Bromsgrove Folk Club.
www.johnmosedale.com

Singles Bar 40Out at the start of May, BEN MORGAN-BROWN self-releases his fourth EP, Nameless Gold, recorded live in the studio on a January morning, all first takes with no edits or overdubs, and featuring three songs and two instrumentals.

One of these is the opener, ‘Windowsills’, a reflective fingerpicked open-tuned number that sets the mood for what follows. The title track continues the mood weaves memories inspired by Ben’s wedding ring, recast using gold from his late father’s, and traces an emotional legacy and heritage from father to son.

Looking back on the past, and how quickly a decade can fly, is also at the heart of ‘Ten Years Passing’, is a lively upbeat circling melody fingerstyle blues that recalls a summer spent living in a caravan, listening to folk music, teaching himself guitar selling fudge and ice-cream and working in the country’s largest bookstore in Piccadilly Circus, the song musing on how the experiences we have shape who we become.

The tempo shifting between slow and frisky, the second instrumental, the fingerpicked ‘Let A Sleeping Dog Lie Pts 1 & 2’, was the only piece of music that Ben’s young rescue Border Collie Jake would settle down to, clearly showing how canines can have great musical taste. It ends with another fingerpicked circling melody number about the passing of time, ‘Only So Young’, inspired by two photographs of his father, one of him holding Ben the day he was born, the other of the two side-by-side shortly before he died, as, punctuated by whoo-hoos, he softly sings of not letting life can pass you by while you wait for it to happen.
https://benmorganbrown.co.uk/

Live At St GilesLive At St Giles is the new EP from the remarkable BRICKWORK LIZARDS who blend middle-eastern sounds with a love of pre-war jazz. ‘Nikriz Longa’ is definitely in the former category with Tarik Beshir’s oud to the fore before Stephen Preston’s trumpet muscles its way in. ‘I Want To Spend The Night With You’ takes us back to the thirties with four close-harmony voices, that distinctive percussion sound and Preston’s trumpet again. ‘Roses’ requires a singer in a white dinner suit while ‘Sama’i Waltz’ takes us eastwards again – an swirling eight-minute epic featuring improvised lyrics by Beshir.
www.brickworklizards.com

Boat To RowBirmingham’s BOAT TO ROW offer a second taster of forthcoming album Rivers That Flow In Circles with ‘On Your Own’, further indication of their journeying into new, unexplored territories. A gorgeous, summery sound with breezy guitars and brass flourishes, as well as backing vocals from Katherine Priddy, it conjures the heady days of 70s Laurel Canyon and the SoCal sounds of Joni, James, CS&N and Seals & Croft.
https://www.boattorow.com/

SiveWe enjoyed ‘Holding’, he last single by Irish singer-songwriter SIVE. It reappears on her eponymous EP but gives ‘Quietly’ the honour of opening the show. Sive has an MA in community music with a special interest in healthcare which emerges in ‘Do It All The Time’, possibly the best song in the set. Sive keeps her public and private lives separate but we do know that she already has two albums to her credit.
http://www.sivemusic.com/

SkylarkAs a prelude to his new album, Songs From Aurora, DAVE FIDLER releases a single of the radio edit and the full album version of ‘Skylark’. It’s an upbeat song featuring finger-picked guitar and just a hint of slide. “The skylark only calls when it’s climbing” is the take-home message and it seems very appropriate for these troubled times.
http://www.davefidler.com/

One More DayCo-written with Jules Fox Allen and arranged for acoustic guitar and violin, MARINA FLORANCE releases ‘One More Day’ (Folkstock), a yearningly simple, heartfelt song of regret at not saying what you feel or doing what you want and then finding it too late.
https://www.marinaflorance.com/

Ultan ConlonWritten over Christmas, which probably explains the festive sway feel to the melody, Ulsterman ULTAN CONLON offers up ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’ (DarkSideOut), which, conjuring familiar mainstream Irish country singalongs, offers encouragement that, whatever trials and tribulations beset us, we will all ultimately recover.
www.ultanconlon.com

Learn To GrowYou’d think that butter wouldn’t melt in IZZY DERRY’s mouth then you hear her sing! ‘Learn To Grow’ is her new single – a taster for her new EP. It’s a pounding slab of folk(ish)-rock with thumping drums, singing electric guitar, bass and piano and a huge voice. This woman will be a star.
http://izziederry.com/

Dance The Hempen JigThe upbeat melody that TIMOTHY HOAD has written seems inappropriate for a title like ‘Dance The Hempen Jig’ but this is a song of survival not a man’s sorry end. “I was never one to dance the hempen jig” emerges as the defiant message after the instrumental break – just keep on going.
https://www.facebook.com/timothyhoadmusic/?ref=page_internal

Field medicFIELD MEDIC (aka Kevin Patrick from Los Angeles) releases ‘The Bottle’s My Lover, She’s Just My Friend’ from his new album Fade Into The Dawn. He backs a suitably cracked vocal performance with a lazy strummed guitar and some rather intriguing sounds in the background. We’ll be reviewing the album very soon.
https://fieldmedic.bandcamp.com/

Chloe FoyOh you are not well, you cannot string your thoughts together” are the opening lines of CHLOE FOY’s new single ‘Oh, You Are Not Well’. Here in the editorial catacombs we know the feeling. Chloe is building quite a name for herself and this richly orchestrated song can do her nothing but good.
https://chloefoy.com/

RatsoAuthor, actor and musician Larry “RATSO” Sloman steps into the limelight at the age of 70 with an album, Stubborn Heart, and a single, ‘Our Lady Of Light’ which features Nick Cave. There’s a lot of Leonard Cohen and a hint of Dr. John about this song, which is more than enough to make you investigate the long player.
http://www.ratso.org/

A Choir Of Ghosts‘Southwest Of The Moon’ is the new single by A CHOIR OF GHOSTS from his debut album, An Ounce Of Gold. He is probably Swedish and there is only one of him but there is very little else we can tell you that makes much sense. It’s a good song, though, and you can watch the video at…
http://www.achoirofghosts.com/

FAUSTUS – Cotton Lords (Westpark 87381)

Cotton LordsOver the past months, the trio have been gradually releasing online a collection of new songs from the Lancashire Cotton Famine Poetry project in partnership with the University of Exeter. Addressing events that occurred between 1861 and 1865 as a result of the American Civil War and a blockade on exporting cotton, five of these have now finally been gathered together for this EP, which comes with a booklet containing the lyrics and background to each of the songs.

Published in the Blackburn Times on July 2nd 1864 as part of an editorial comment on the sort of poems the paper wouldn’t publish, the title track was originally titled ‘Food or Work’, but has been renamed after its opening line, the song, which opens a capella and set to music by Paul Sartin, expresses the anger felt towards the industrialists who, when the work dried up, turned their backs on those who had made them rich, sounding a vocally stentorian cautionary note that, if not at the looms, women might turn to immoral work.

‘Lancashire Operatives (Starvation)’, a poem by William Eaton published in The Blackburn Standard in November 1862, when the famine was at its height, under the title ‘The Lancashire Operatives Appeal’, which pretty much sums up the thrust of the content (“God only knows the anguish/That in our hearts doth dwell”), set to a hymnal melody by Benji Kirkpatrick and featuring Saul Rose’s melodeon. Taken from the Preston Chronicle of November 29, 1862, the near six-minute, wheezing and slow waltzing ‘Lancashire Factory Girl’, again with music by Sartin, also has a hymnal, specifically chapel, feel, the titular girl detailing the death of her siblings and parents as a result of the poverty, having to sell her clothes and the relics of the dead to buy bread.

With a lively melodeon-led waltz stomp tune from Rose, ‘Wrong and Rights’ dates from the same year and the Burnley Free Press & General Advertiser, and again bristles with political invective about the oppression of the working class that “would snatch from his mouth the bread of his toil” and a call to rise up against such tyranny. It ends as it began with the Blackburn Times and, published in October 1863, a suitably portentous musical and vocal setting of William Billington’s ‘I Would, This War Were Ended’ (or ‘Aw Wod This War Wer Ended’, in the vernacular), an obvious wish for the cessation of hostilities and a lifting of the blockade, the dialect of the original mostly revised for clarity and the verses indicating how Lancashire sympathies were divided between the North and the South, but declaring “both of ‘em’s in the wrong!”.

There’s actually a bonus track, in the form of a video for ‘Slaves’, arranged by Kirkpatrick and taken from a poem by William S. Villiers Sankey that actually dates from 1841. A Chartist work, it’s not an abolitionist tract but rather a condemnation of how British workers were slaves to the ruling class and an indication of the emergence of a socially conscious voice in the nineteenth century.

The EP only scratches the surface of the material written about the Famine, so perhaps, in the fullness of time, an album on the topic and related political concerns, might hopefully also materialise.

Mike Davies

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‘Slaves’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 39 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 39FINDLAY NAPIER & MEGAN HENWOOD don’t seem like an obvious partnership but here they are. They met at a songwriting retreat and Findlay suggested writing a song about maths. Megan, not knowing any better, agreed and so ‘End Of Numbers’ was born to be followed by the other five songs on their debut EP The Story Song Scientists.

The opener is ‘Unnamable Radio’, based on the story of DJ Bob Fass who kept a would-be suicide talking live on air while rescuers rushed to save him. The pair’s songwriting combines Findlay’s somewhat sideways view of life with Megan’s obvious humanity, ‘The Last Straw’ being a perfect example. It’s a song about plastic pollution and manages to incorporate the word “polycarbonate” quite naturally. ‘North Pond Phantom’ is about the Maine hermit Christopher Knight and like a lot of Findlay’s songs it makes perfect sense once you know the story. ‘Wild Wild Country’ is a delightful song more typical of Megan’s style of taking inspiration from her surroundings but the two blend perfectly so there isn’t really a distinction between “his” and “hers”. Findlay and Megan are currently on tour.
http://www.dharmarecords.co.uk/

Arrows StrippedDespite having three albums under her belt, Nashville’s ANGEL SNOW is still a largely unknown quantity in the UK, though many may have become more familiar with her after duetting with Ben Glover on ‘The Wound That Seeks The Arrow’ from his recent award-winning album. Ironically then, released to accompany her ten-date UK tour in March, her new acoustic EP is titled Arrows (Stripped) (Nettwerk), the title track finding her exploring the deeper end of her vocal range on a bittersweet song about two lovers who have to let each other go. Produced by Ben Kramer, it features three further tracks, the fragile, vocally double-tracked, fingerpicked ‘Window Seat’, again tracing a relationship that’s run its course, the fuller arrangement of Maze’, about trying to find your path, with its strummed guitar, piano accompanied and echoey background vocal wash arrangement, and, again featuring piano, the rippling strings adorned ‘Higher Urgency’.
http://angelsnow.net/

Darkness & AngelsRecently expanded from their Les Ray and Deirdre Murphy core to a five-piece and, in the process, a more folk-rock, bluesy sound, Cambridge’s RED VELVET launch the makeover with the self-released Darkness & The Angels EP, the title hinting at the struggles between the forces of negativity and positivity . Sung by Murphy, the anchor track, ‘Ride The Darkness’, with its carnivalesque waltzing melody, spooked piano and sparse guitar and bass backing, stems from 2011 when both she and her brother, Gerard, were diagnosed with cancer, he sadly succumbing in 2013.

It wasn’t the only tragedy to strike, Ray’s mother passing the same year as Deirdre’s brother, the sense of grief, loss and remembrance providing the lyrical bedrock for the fairground carousel-rhythm Self-Storage which, opening with church organ and sung by Les, tells of building up boxes of photos, diaries and other keepsakes that “tell of our loved ones, our lost ones, ourselves”.

Elsewhere, political notes are struck on ‘After The War’, a piano led reflection on post-WWII optimism with the election of Labour and the creation of the NHS, a period clearly held up in contrast to today’s state of the nation. Much musically heavier with its driving rhythm and snarly guitar, ‘The Fourth Freedom’, the title a reference to the EU’s Four Freedoms, is a heads-down grungy riff-driven number concerning the refugee crisis as a family sees the goods they helped manufacture able to move freely while they are denied permission to travel.

By musical contrast, opening and closing unaccompanied, ‘That’ll Never Happen’ is a jaunty, playful pub piano singalong number with Music Hall and Chas n Dave touches that, as the notes say, revisits a book, a play and a film all featuring unlikely events.
www.clunkandrattle.com

Hidden ThingsHANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE release ‘Hidden Things’, the first of a trio of singles in advance of their tour which begins next month. It’s a beautiful song inspired by the landscape of northern Sweden – how landscapes hold memories and stories. Their unplugged sound has been refined by their time spent touring and despite its apparent simplicity there is a complexity that draws the listener in.
https://www.hannahbenmusic.com/

Stay AroundA lovely liquid guitar introduces ‘Stay Around’, the second single and title track from JJ CALE’s posthumous album which will be released next month. It takes its time getting to the heart of the song, rolling along lazily until JJ’s gruff voice comes in. It’s a gentle song – “stay around, let’s make love one more time” he sings and then that singing guitar comes back, rather more insistently. Gorgeous.
www.jjcale.com

Lover‘Lover’ is the second single from A Golden State, the new album by LUKE SITAL-SINGH which is released next month. It’s lyrically very clever and would be quite Californian if it wasn’t so overloaded by a big arrangement in the choruses. The verses with electric piano and drums are perfect and the song glides along in its own special groove.
www.lukesitalsingh.com

Oh BoyFronted by Lara Snowden and featuring violinist Kathryn Tremmett, with Paddy Blight and bass and Kev Jackson guitar, Essex’s VELVET & STONE tease their upcoming debut album with the self-released ‘Oh Boy’, drums and hummed vocals intro giving way to a breathy delivery underscored by a driving, urgent folk rock beat, sawing fiddle and nervy riffage that, in places calls to mind Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’.
https://www.velvetstonemusic.com/

This Is EnglandSleeves like this can make people a bit nervous, although we can be comforted by the fact that the “wrong” sort wouldn’t get anywhere near us. ‘This Is England’, the new single by SEAN TAYLOR, has been available to download for a while but with Brexit fast approaching it’s still relevant. The song is, for want of a better term, a rap but a rap that mentions Morris dancing performed by a man who looks white and sounds black.
https://www.seantaylorsongs.com/

The introduction to ‘Holding’, the new single by Irish singer SIVE, played on what we presume to be kalimba certainly grabs the attention but before you think it’s a bit gimmicky in comes her voice which has quite a range. The chorus is brilliant and the track goes for a big finish in a big way.
https://www.facebook.com/sivemusic/

God's Little Joke‘God’s Little Joke’ is the title track from a new EP by MARTIN ANSELL & CHRIS ROWSEL. It was recorded on a mobile phone in Martin’s taxi which makes one wonder why anyone needs a recording studio. The philosophy of life’s problems an the ills of the world being just an example of divine humour is an interesting one – Roy Harper would say that God is dead, of course – and requires further discussion. Good song, though.
https://martinansell.bandcamp.com/

MIKE ROSS sounds as though he comes from the American backwoods but actually he’s British. ‘Young Man’ is a delicious slice of country blues with rumbling bass, acoustic guitar lead, fiddle and harmonica. The single comes from his forthcoming album, The Clovis Limit.
http://www.mikerossmusic.co.uk/

Here I Am‘Here I Am’ is the first genre single from  S J DENNEY, a sad love song built on acoustic guitar and drums and lots of strings with a gorgeous trumpet break. The guitar echoes behind his voice in a way that evokes a dark and desolate landscape – a wonderful mental picture.
sjsongs.co.uk