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

SINGLES BAR 38 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 38Founder member of criminally overlooked cult mid-80s outfit Penelope’s Web with their weaving together of classic English pastoral folk, blues, jazz and progressive folk-rock, these days DOMINIC SILVANI trades under his own name, his speak-sing vocals (a sort of warm, huskier early Al Stewart with a hint of Noel Harrison and a softer Nick Cave) still among the most distinctive I’ve ever heard, He has a new self-released EP, The Impatience Of A Sinner, comprising four tracks, opening with the Eastern European kletzmer-shades of the love in need ‘Roman Road’ with Henni Saarela’s yearning fiddle, Adam Beattie’s upright bass and fingerpicked drone. Introducing John Hess on piano to complement the strings, ‘Secrets’ is woven round a suitably furtive and shadowy melody, a similar mood informing the regret and reflection-stained ‘Always You’ with its circling guitar pattern, double bass and string caresses, Maya McCourt on cello. Maintaining the melancholic ambience, swathed in Barbara Bartz’s fiddle and “situated way past hopeless”, the 90 second end of relationship Focus brings things to a close as he sings “out in the open I still can’t breathe”. Too often the flickering lights of genius are lost in the glare of lesser but brighter burning torches fanned by the oxygen of media exposure and carried aloft on bandwagons. It would be nice to think that somewhere in today’s folk constellations, Silvani would find the place he deserves to shine.
https://www.facebook.com/dominic.silvani

Singles Bar 38LOUISE DISTRAS has an EP, Street Revolution, in advance of a new album later in the year. Louise doesn’t fit easily into the music business which is no bad thing. Essentially she is an acoustic singer/songwriter/guitarist and if you see her live that’s probably how she’ll be. The third track is Alfred Reed’s ‘Poor Man’ (‘How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live’) folky in a way but Springsteen covered it. Her punk style and politics have endeared her to the metal fraternity – she is supported by Kerrang – and several genres try to claim her.

The title track is a really big song with a full band and brass behind her, a bit of a rabble-rouser, but she tones it down a bit with ‘New World In Our Heart’, celebrating the International Brigades. It begins a capella but doesn’t stay that way for long. Finally we have ‘Solidarity’, trumpet led, pleading for, well, solidarity because we all want the same things and find the same things annoying. Don’t we?
https://www.louisedistras.co.uk/

Singles Bar 38Formerly part of the acclaimed folk-jazz outfit Grand Union, these days SIMON O’GRADY keeps things simpler with open tunings and fingerpicked guitar, four fine examples of which can be found on his self-released debut solo EP, Sleep Tight. Playing guitar and flute and accompanied by Hannah Cope on double bass, Ed Gallagher on dobro, mandolinist Julian Marshall and drummer Gerry Wood (the latter two also former GU alumni) with Ed Hopwood supplying harmonica, it opens with ‘New Year Shoes’, a song about dealing with the loss of a loved one and how the well-meaning consolations of others can more often exacerbate the hurt than help heal.

Continuing the theme of transitions, ‘The Sun Wakes The New Horizon’ is a suitably sleepy-eyed stay with me ‘til dawn love song that invites tranquillity and calm and has, perhaps, just a melodic hint of ‘Lord of All Hopefulness’ squirrelled away in the background. It closes with ‘Your Eyes Turn Up’, a dobro-flecked waltzer about a shared journey that was originally titled ‘Over The River’, an unrecorded Grand Union song, but my personal favourite is ‘The Coming Of The Snow’, a Celtic-shaded number about joining together and raising our voices high to brave the hardships ahead on which, while again it may be my imagination, I get a scent of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ here as well as Dylan’s ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’. Very pleasant dreams, indeed.
https://www.simonogrady.co.uk/

The Saturn ChapterTHE SATURN CHAPTER are from Yorkshire and call themselves alt-folk but, in truth, very little is known. Their eponymous debut EP was intended to be a side project but has grown rather. It’s a bit strange but if you’re into Tunng or Trembling Bells you’re on the way. The opening track, ‘Butterflies On Fire’ has several kitchen sinks thrown into it but ‘If I Be Your Shadow’ is a lot tighter. The short ‘A Funny Kind Of Rain’ returns to oddness and ‘My New Sundial’ is an eerie, atmospheric piece decorated with birdsong and other field recordings.
https://www.facebook.com/thesaturnchapter/

Borrowed SeedComprising singer Iona Zajaz, Sam Grassie on acoustic guitar and Herbie Loening playing double bass, AVOCET are a folk-blues trio from Glasgow who take their musical cues from the UK psychedelic folk scene of the 60s and 70s. Following their debut mini-album, Borrowed Seed, they return with a two-track single on Mink Records, ‘Cheating Monday’ a smokily sung, jazz-infused languid love song over simple piano notes reverie and ‘Sirens’ a drivingly rhythmic fingerpicked based number that harks to traditional folk and blues influences as well as conjuring echoes of Pentangle.
https://avocettrio.bandcamp.com/

Jane‘Jane’ is the lead single from a forthcoming EP by DEAN MAYWOOD. Jangly, echoey acoustic guitar makes for a languid start before the song breaks in. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes providing a feeling of wide open spaces and a rather British style of Americana. We’re looking forward to the EP.
https://www.facebook.com/deanmaywood/

From the new album, Carousel, by CARSON McHONE comes a single, ‘Drugs’. Carson says that it isn’t really about drugs but about anything we feel a desperate need for. She’s essentially a country singer but here she breaks the rules performing over drums and a deliciously languid lead guitar.
http://www.carsonmchonemusic.com/

Hattie WhiteheadHATTIE WHITEHEAD leads off her new EP, Old Soul, with a single ‘More Than That’. It’s a deeply emotional song coming from a dark time in Hattie’s life but her voice and an excellent production lift it from a song of regret to one of defiance in the face of whatever the world may throw at her.
http://www.hattiewhitehead.com/

SINGLES BAR 37 – The year’s final round-up of EPs and singles

Singles Bar 37Together We’re Lost is the latest EP from Brighton’s JACKO HOOPER. Its themes are frustration and loneliness, appropriate to the time of year some might say. The lead track, ‘Sidelines’, starts out starkly with Jacko’s voice sounding oddly sinister but it is built up by producer Josh Trinnaman’s electronica band Luo. ‘Trust In Me Always’ finds Josh being swallowed up by the band at the end and ‘The Long Road’ is bleak and echoey but with a sumptuous arrangement over acoustic guitar closing with synthesised brass. Finally, ‘I’m Yours’ begins with Jacko talking on his phone over keyboards which take him into the song. This is a fascinating, haunting collection of songs.
https://jackohooper.bandcamp.com/

NICHOLAH comes originally from Cumbria but, like all young, aspiring artists, she is settled in London. ‘Waiting On You’ is her new single – a song that has been compared to Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ – a song of love that seems just out of reach. Nicholah plays mighty steel-strung guitar that reflects Mitchell’s dulcimer just a little and she has a voice that is powerful enough to carry any song.
www.nicolahmusic.com

DAVID GUNAWARDANA hails from Hertfordshire and derives his songs from the acoustic traditions on both sides of the Atlantic. His debut EP, Figures & Faces, to be released in a couple of weeks, showcases his varied styles from the short orchestral opener, ‘Calling’ to the stripped back simplicity of ‘The Sages’. ‘Where She Walks’ is particularly pretty and the acoustic guitar behind ‘Evening Song’ nods its head to early Bob Dylan. David seems able to create his own mythology and draw the listener into his own travels.
www.davidgunawardana.com

‘Love Is Hard Enough Without The Winter’ is a new single from LUKE SITAL-SINGH who has just completed a short European tour. Gently reverbed guitar and minimal percussion support a clear, fresh voice and a contrasting solo on the bass strings. Its melancholy lyrics open with a startling couplet that sounds almost sinister at first.
www.lukesitalsingh.com

Quebecois funsters LE VENT DU NORD release a new single, ‘Adieu Du Village’, a traditional song about a man who kills his lover but is spared when the hangman’s rope breaks. It’s packed with foot percussion, fiddle, bouzouki and a pulsing Jew’s harp. Nicolas Boulerice provided a new tune and the band have a new album and UK tour next year.
https://leventdunord.com/en/

CAFÉ SPICE are a young female harmony trio from Manchester and ‘Lauren’ is their debut single. Their original composition begins in a capella style before acoustic guitar leads in other instruments and before you know it they’re going for a big finish. A name to watch, we think.
https://www.facebook.com/cafespiceband/

‘The Story Is…’ is the title track of SKINNY LISTER’s forthcoming album and is a complete contrast to its predecessor, ’38 Minutes’. Pretty, magnificent and sweeping aren’t the sort of adjectives one would normally associate with the band but they sum up this fine song perfectly.
https://skinnylister.com/

SINGLES BAR 36 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 36Following her debut album, Away From My Window, Aberdeenshire singer IONA FYFE looks across the Atlantic for her EP, Dark Turn Of Mind. Aside from Gillian Welch’s title track and Gregory Alan Isakov’s ‘If I Go, I’m Goin’, all the songs are traditional and have roots in the Ozarks and the Appalachians. ‘Swing And Turn’ comes from Jean Ritchie and uses the tune often associated with ‘Gypsy Davy’ and is a typical southern mountain song.

‘The Golden Vanity’ is found in variations all across the English-speaking world including Scotland of course. Iona’s version combines Child’s version with Cecil Sharp’s and she notes that it was recorded by Jean Ritchie more than fifty years ago. ‘Little Musgrave’ comes from Sharp and Jeannie Robertson in this version although it was known in print in the 17th century. Between these is ‘Let Him Sink’, an Ozark variant of ‘Farewell He.”

The EP is built on Rory Matheson’s piano which gives Iona scope for some powerful singing. Aidan Moodie plays guitar and adds perfectly judged harmony vocals while Graham Rorie adds more decoration on mandolin.
https://ionafyfe.com/

Singles Bar 36THE MARRIAGE is a new Americana union formed by singer Kirsten Adamson, the daughter of Skids and Big Country founder Stuart Adamson, and former ahab member Dave Burn on guitar and harmonies, making their debut with the self-released folksy strum of ‘Live, Love, Cry’, a rather fine taster for an EP and full album in 2019.
https://www.wethemarriage.com/home

Singles Bar 36She Wynds On was commissioned to promote a new tourist route through the Cairngorms – a project called SnowRoads. The music was composed by CALUM WOOD and he is supported by Robert Black, Ross Ainslie, Stuart Spence, Charlie McKerron, Tom Oakes, Brigid Mhairi and Julia Dignan. It opens with the title song, a sort of overview of the four sections of the route from Blairgowrie to Grantown-On-Spey via Braemar, Ballater and Tomintoul. I suppose there was a contractual obligation to include the line “the heart of the Cairngorms” but that’s the only jarring moment. The four instrumental tracks are dramatic without being overblown and Scottish at their very heart.
www.callumwood.com

Singles Bar 36Black country Americana singer-songwriter Joseph Hicklin, aka DEATH BY STAMPEDE, has released Contemporary Depressive, a 5-track download/stream EP from his Soundcloud site that, exploring the contemporary nature of depression (“this great big, looming Monster/ That holds you near and calls itself your home”), serves as an acoustic introduction to his music. With a dusty, slightly gravelly vocal reminiscent of the Handsome Family, Rod Picott or Willard Grant Conspiracy, it opens with ‘Daydream 27’, a mid-tempo fingerpicked chug musing on how “we all die on our own”. It’s followed by the choppier, early Dylan-like strum of ‘Neon (Reflecting)’ with its urban paranoia, the notion that reflecting on the past can be pointless and a chorus about “going to where the neon glows. where angels dance without halos.” ‘Songs of Love & Truth’ takes the pacing down again before building to an urgent climax, lines like “the moon is a thumbprint on a dirty widow” and the future being “just a fat man with a bird upon his shoulder singing songs of death, but also love and truth” underscoring his way with words and imagery.

‘Fool’ is another aching, world weary, introspective fingerpicked ballad (about being stuck in a rut and a sense of impotency how, since “life isn’t real and death is a joke” you may as well make the most even if “it seems so brave and it seems so cruel to live like a god and die like a fool.”

It ends with the slow melancholic gradually building sway of ‘My Morning Pill’, a feeling of helplessness and ennui where “nothing but smoke came out of my mouth” and “my whole life is like a train past my window sill” mingled with a desire to crawl out of the black hole “and get through the year and get through the day.” Closing with the line “I was an addict, just after one taste, it’s not too bad, I know now darling”, this is a breathtaking debut and unquestionably among the finest Americana releases of the year, you really should seek him out, he has the potential to be one of the greats.
https://www.facebook.com/deathbystampede/

Singles Bar 36‘Shooter On The Mound’ is the second single from country-folk duo HENGISTBURY and is also the opening track on their debut album, Add Another Minute. Jessica Mary and Pete Briley produce a big sound and this song reverberates with earthy guitar, banjo and lap steel. Both single and album are available in digital format and physical copies of the album are available from the band’s website:
www.hengistburymusic.com

Singles Bar 36An early taster for their forthcoming self-released album, Rivers That Flow in Circles, Birmingham’s BOAT TO ROW release ‘Spanish Moss’, a musically variegated, tempo-shifting affair that layers African percussion and electric guitars over a persistent bass line, before the instrumental playout with a wash of guitars, synths and violins. The album promises to be a more expansive and explorative musical palette than their debut.
https://www.boattorow.com/

Singles Bar 36Familiar Strangers is a fine debut by NEW TOWN JACK, a singer-songwriter out of Southampton. The theme of the EP is, reasonably enough, strangers but it isn’t that simple. Friends can become strangers in ‘Change The Rules’ – something we’ve all experienced – and people can deliberately isolate themselves as explained in ‘Let Me Be’, although the story is rather fanciful. Deeper down, it’s also about people looking for people in both the physical and metaphorical meanings.
www.newtownjack.co.uk

Singles Bar 36Also from Birmingham, RED SHOES contribute to the festive singles list with their download only ‘Time Stands Still’, Mark Evans providing the cascading strummed acoustic chords while Carolyn sings a moving lyric that draws attention to the homeless at this time of year, 50% of all profits being donated to Crisis UK. Available from their website:
www.redshoes-music.com/charity

Singles Bar 36CARA DILLON has also been into the tinsel cupboard and, in response to the reaction performing it on her last couple of Christmas tours, emerged with her cover of Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed ‘River’ from her classic Blue album. Featuring John Smith on acoustic guitar and John Garrison on keys, it’s a beautiful version that conjures the feeling of snow falling on a silent night. To complement it, she’s also covered The Pretenders’ festive hit ‘2000 Miles’, giving it a folksy serenade with cascading guitar notes and fiddle. Both are downloadable from the usual platforms.
http://www.caradillon.co.uk/

Singles BarRICK FOOT’s Christmas song isn’t terribly Christmassy, nor is it very long. In fact ‘A Message To The Future’ weighs in at just 39 seconds! It can be argued that this is quite long enough to tell the future to get its shit together and Rick sums up the current situation in seven words and double-tracked double bass.
http://www.rickfoot.com/

Singles Bar 36Back on a Christmas note, YVONNE LYON offers up the twinkling ‘I Believe In Christmas ‘(Self-released) with its silvery rippling keys and bells backdropping the strummed acoustic guitar as it builds to a choral finale. It’s backed with the ringing guitars of the more folk rock ‘Dear December’ with its hints of Amy Macdonald.
www.yvonnelyonmusic.com

Canadian singer-songwriter ALLISON LUPTON joins forces with BBC Radio 2 Folk Music award winning trio The Young’uns and guitarist Craig Werth for the self-released ‘The Eve Of Christmas Day’, a more carol-like affair that also features a warm silver brass quintet arrangement by Tom Leighton.
http://allisonlupton.com/

 

SINGLES BAR 35 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Released to commemorate the 100th anniversary on the end of WWI, ‘Letters From Walter’ is a poignantly movie number from Cambridge folk crew RED VELVET released on Clunk and Rattle in aid of the Riders Branch, Royal British Legion. Written and sung by Les Ray, who plays guitar and banjo, and featuring harmonica by George Harper, it’s based on letters sent home by his grandfather, Private Walter Mabbutt, to his younger sister Edie in Titchmarsh, who, shortly after being despatched to France after training at Felixstowe, died in combat in Picardy, aged 19, just a few weeks before the end of the war. The song also included a spoken passage by Deirdre Muphy who reads from a letter, dated 24th November 1918, sent to Walter’s parent by Lance Corporal W. L Mandeville offering his condolences at Walter’s death, and describing some of the circumstances surrounding it.
www.clunkandrattle.com

Singles Bar 35With war on our minds, punk-folk rockers SKINNY LISTER release ’38 Minutes’ in advance of a new album next year. The song was prompted by a ballistic missile alert in Hawaii earlier this year and is typically high energy as it portrays the sense of impending doom felt by the island’s population. “This is not a drill.
https://skinnylister.com/

Singles Bar 35Here’s a Christmas song with a difference. ‘Xmas Back Home (War Has Begun), in part inspired by John Lennon’s similarly titled song, is the recording debut by MUDDIBROOKE, a mysterious being whose true identity is a secret. It is the story of a young female soldier away from her children but who wants them to have the best Christmas possible in spite of her absence and serves to remind us that it’s not just men who are on the front line. Proceeds from downloads will go to The Royal British Legion.
www.muddibrooke.com

MARINA FLORANCE offers up another self-released EP commissioned by the Warm & Toasty Club, a Colchester-based intergenerational community organisation working in music, arts and social history. Named for the latest project, Colchester Memory Afternoons features three numbers co-written with Jules Fox Allen drawn from the stories and reminscences of some of the town’s senior residents, opening with the gently jogging, ‘Photograph Album’ (part Emmylou, part Don Williams) featuring harmonica, cajon, melodeon and violin with Fox Allen on backing vocals. Perfectly living up to its title, ‘Warm & Toasty’ is a folksier and more specific English nostalgia track closing with spoken samples from residents at Enoch House retirement home with the third number being the violin and trombone-coloured slow waltzer ‘Take Me Back In Time’. A lovely musical comfort blanket all round.
www.marinaflorance.com

Notes To Self is the new EP by MARIA KELLY. It opens with the delicate and fragile ‘Prelude’ which builds up until the repeated last line is lost in the mix, justifying her alt-folk tag. The other tracks are ‘June’, ‘July’ and ‘August’, the first two having already been released as singles. They tend to follow the same template as ‘Prelude’ – a simple acoustic opening building up with sound effects and more instrumentation until the production threatens to overwhelm the song. Maria’s voice is mixed too low or is perhaps not big enough to stand up to this treatment all the time.
www.mariakellymusic.com

JONAS AND JANE are a Surrey-based Americana duo, he on guitar and banjo and the pair sharing vocals. Sedona Rain is their third self-released EP, a five track set that highlights both their harmonies and bluegrass inclinations, although the opening ‘Hold Me’, with Jonas on lead, is a spare and harmonica haunted rootsy ballad. He’s also to the fore on the banjo speckled and equally moody ‘Jumping Ship’, while the three other numbers see them sharing the vocal spotlight. ‘Too Little Time’ is an equally world-wearily paced but more Appalachian flavoured number, while pedal steel bolsters the aching title track. The pace eases up a notch for the remaining track, fingerpicked and dobro styled break-up number ‘Don’t Cry For Me’ being cast in the type of bittersweet break-up song that recalls such classic pairings as Gram and Emmylou, The Civil Wars and Welch and Rawlings
http://www.jonasandjane.com/

Named for the Highland settlement, BIRICHEN is a new project by Catriona Sutherland, a regular performer in the Highlands, mostly with the 10-piece Dancing With Sharks. Working with fiddler Iain-Gordon Macfarlane and Robert McDonald on dobro slide, Hush (Birnam) is the debut EP, a five-track collection that opens with the latter’s ‘Holding On To Each Moment’, the sound of birds and running water backdropping a fingerpicked and fiddle accompanied number about appreciating the time and the things we have.

While steeped in folk, she also brings Americana influences to the table with two covers, first up bring the Welch and Rawlings number Scarlet Town, here given a stark British traditional folk setting with the fiddle serving as a drone-like backing. The other harks back to the music of her raising with a terrific unadorned version of Guy Clark’s ‘L.A.Freeway’ where her pure Scottish tones take on a touch of earthier dirt track roughness .

‘Gonnae Get Good’ is a slightly jazz and blues shaded self-penned number that pulls together a spectrum of influences, the final track being another cover, Jim McLean’s ‘Smile In Your Sleep, sometimes known as ‘Hush, Hush, Time To Be Sleeping’, hence the EP title. Chiming with her own family history and the history of the area, it’s Scottish lullaby set to the tune of the Gaelic air ‘The Mist Covered Mountains’ which charts the eviction and emigration  of  the crofters during the Highland Clearances, her given a nakedly sung reading that gradually gathers in suitably moody instrumentation and features evocative sampled distressed voices and rain and storm effects.  This is, apparently, her first commercial release. Hopefully, there’ll be many more to follow.
http://birichen.com/

An acclaimed bluegrass musician and one half of 10-String Symphony, RACHEL BAIMAN gets into the (American) holiday spirit with Thanksgiving (Free Dirt), a four track EP of introspective songs centred around themes of indigenous rights, home and homelessness, and love in hard times. Opening number ‘Tent City’, a lively bluegrass number with echoes of ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and featuring, among others, Tristan Scroggins and Molly Tuttle, was inspired by a Nashville homeless community and is sung from the perspective of a man fallen into homelessness and addiction, making him a person rather than a statistic.

Taking the tempo down, the title track emerged from a writing residency and concerns indigenous rights and relationships as embodied in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the song fuelled by “the irony of Thanksgiving being celebrated right as people were being arrested and sprayed with water guns for protecting their right to clean water.”

Again joined by Tuttle with whom she worked up the number during their UK tour, ‘Madison Tennessee’ is a cover of the John Hartford love letter to his home town (to where she herself has recently moved), the EP ending with ‘Times Like These’, a pedal-steel lined and fiddle slow waltz testament to what gets us through the bad, co-written with Thom Shuyler and duetted in harmony with Josh Oliver.
http://www.rachelbaiman.com/

‘I Think I Saw You On The Street’ is the first single from a new EP by MARBL, an Israeli duo possibly based in Germany – the information available is a bit vague in places. It’s a reflective song inspired by a chance encounter with an ex and the thoughts that it provokes – a scenario that everyone can relate to.
www.marblmusic.com

BEANS ON TOAST (aka Jay McAllister) brilliantly tackles the shock of the new with ‘Alexa’ – “Alexa, have you considered your military capabilities?” – the second single from his forthcoming album, A Bird In The Hand. It’s a punkish sort of song with words tumbling over one another as Jay races to beat the three minute mark. It’s all true – we may be suspicious of Amazon but it’s just too damn convenient.
https://beansontoastmusic.com/

Following last year’s debut album, Alight & Adrift, Suffolk-born, York-based mandolinist singer-songwriter TILLY MOSES returns with a new single ‘Cradled And Cared For’ (GingerDog Records), a lovely softly sung fiddle-hued number, about how friendship and a warm kitchen can give you the strength to get through hard times and fight to improve the world.
www.tillymoses.com

‘Haunted Man’ is the debut digital single from THE KILPECKS, a band formed in the Welsh Marches by members of Lonesome Stampede. It’s big and funky with a knockout bass line and a powerful lead vocalist and although it was released for Halloween it has a link to #MeToo. It would be nice to think that an album might be in the wind.
https://thekilpecks.bandcamp.com/releases

Scottish outfit ATTIC LIGHTS have a new album, Love In The Time of Shark Attacks, set for release next year, trailing it with the jangly folk-pop ‘Never By Myself’ (Elefant), a number written on a bus by singer Colin McCardle after somehow being left behind by the band following a show in Inverness. It’s paired with a sparkling cover of ‘Bright Eyes’ given a Teenage Fanclub treatment.
https://www.facebook.com/atticlightsband/

‘Bless The Ground You Grow On’ is the first single from ODETTE MICHELL’s forthcoming debut album. It was produced by Stu Hanna and has the pastoral autumnal feel of Robin Williamson’s ‘October Song’. It’s coupled with ‘The Eastern Seas’, a song about Irish emigration built on shruti drone and acoustic guitar with violin and bouzouki. Odette has a strong voice and songwriting talent that we should be hearing a lot more of in the future.
www.odettemichell.com

SINGLES BAR 34 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 34Tablelands is the third of the trilogy of EPs by INDIA ELECTRIC CO. that began in the city with EC1M and ends somewhere hot, red and swampy. The format is much the same as before: Cole Stacey on vocals and percussion and Joseph O’Keefe on everything else. The difference is in the sophistication and confidence shown by the duo. The songs are rich and mysterious with lines that lodge in your brain. “There’s something in the water, we all know” comes from ‘Mareeba’, which is a town in Australia, although that knowledge doesn’t really help. ‘In Absence’ is particularly good with more intriguing lines that don’t quite make sense unless you have the context. The closing ‘Gold In The North’ sums up, in a wave of nostalgia, the city/country dichotomy that has threaded its way through the trilogy. “There’s gold in the North”, they admit, “but it’s hard to leave here”.
http://indiaelectricco.com/

MerrymakerRisen from the ashes of Merrymouth, the folk project by Ocean Colour Scene’s Simon Fowler, MERRYMAKER comprises Dan Sealey, who was a member of both (and now, alongside his dad, also part of the revived Cosmotheka which featured his last uncle) alongside Adam Barry (also ex-Merrymouth and the third Cosmotheka member), Paul McCormack and Hannah Lawson. Sealey has a similar Bee Gees-like warble to Fowler, providing a vocal continuity between the bands, and also happens to be an equally excellent songwriter.

Following on from three singles, including 2016’s ‘We Don’t Want A War’ protest against the bombing of Syria, ‘Unnatural Progression’ (self-released) is their debut EP, a five-track collection of four originals and a version of the traditional ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’. Orchestrally arranged opener ‘Evergreen’ is a majestic, soaring anthem that sets the nature theme that runs through the Harvest Moon-like Neil Young trot of ‘Rainclouds’, fiddle-driven midtempo catchy chorus stomp ‘Midst of Summertime’ and the brass-tinged and jazzy woodwind eco-warning ‘The Future Looks Back’. Can we have a whole album’s worth soon, please?
https://www.merrymakermusic.co.uk/

The Girl With The Cloak is a beautiful little bundle of songs by Ayrshire based musician, EMMA DURKAN. At just 25, she already has an impressive array of accolades and honours to her name, not to mention an undeniable talent. Performing on the fiddle and clarsach, the EP is made up of six tracks which are written, arranged and sung by Durkan, creating a tangible fusion between traditional and contemporary.

A majestic, fiddle-led number, titled, ‘The Truth’ kicks off the record, and flows into the equally pretty, if comparatively more stripped back ‘Green Light’. For me, it is ‘Trying’ which steals the show, dealing with the monotonies, expectations, struggles and challenges of daily life in its relatable lyrics, which sit nicely alongside Durkan’s musical arrangement. The title track is perhaps the most mournful of the EP, with its “Girl With The Cloak” protagonist being revisited and referenced in final number, ‘Stepping Stones’ creating a sense of closure, as the record bows out on a truly beautiful note.
www.emmadurkanmusic.co.uk

Available from her website, DARIA KULESH offers up Autumn Delights, the final of her four seasonal EPs (available in a limited handmade sleeve edition) and a prelude to next year’s Earthly Delights album. A four track selection, it again affords an eclectic and geographically wide-ranging mix, opening with a cover of Kara’s ‘Union Street’, a waltztime song celebrating the harvest, here given a gorgeous Quartet arrangement featuring Tristan Seume on guitar, Marina Osman’s descending piano chords and, bookending the number, Kate Rouse providing shimmering hammered dulcimer.

Osman’s also on hand for ‘Boston Waltz’ which, despite the title, is actually of Russian origin, where it’s known as ‘Vals-Boston’. An autumnal vision of a young dancer whirling through the neighbourhood leaves written by Leningrad-born songwriter Alexander Rosenbaum (or, to be accurate, Aleksandr Jakovlevič Rozyenbaum), a highly significant and influential figure on the Soviet cultural scene, it’s his biggest hit though little known outside of Russia. Kulesh (who, at 16, apparently performed it at an Italian beauty pageant, winning the Miss Mystery title), naturally, sings it in her native tongue. There’s a touch of Piaf about the song, so it’s surely no accident that, backed by Jonny Dyer on guitar, she ends singing (in full smoking torch mode) in French, her choice being ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’, a song of longing, loss and decay written in 1945 by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert and, more commonly known in its translated version as‘Autumn Leaves’, first popularised by Yves Montand from whose 1951 recording Kulesh learned it, complete with the original spoken intro.

Again featuring Dyer, the remaining track, by popular request, is her achingly tender and highly emotional reading of the sad and angry ‘No Man’s Land’ (aka ‘Green Fields of France’), Eric Bogle’s classic anti-war song and as fine a recording as you could wish to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary Remembrance Day.
http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

PILGRIM ST release The EP in advance of their debut album. Although Irish in origin their influences come from the other side of the Atlantic – bluegrass and mountain music are to the fore. ‘My Little Blackbird’ is a banjo driven foot-stomper to open the set and you might be suckered into thinking that you’re in for four tracks of rousing “yee-hah”. But…’Givin’ It Up This Time’ is entirely different. It’s slow and sad, talking about “the insomnia train” and “polluting your system”. It’s a bit grim, actually. ‘Emerald’ possibly comes from ancient Irish history but it also speaks to every invasion of one country by another that has ever happened and finally ‘Hurt People Hurt People’ goes back to Americana but without the swagger of the first track. It leaves us wondering.
www.pilgrimst.com

Based in London, CATTY PEARSON trades in folk, country and blues on her October released debut streaming/download EP Time Tells Me (AWAL), recorded with the legendary Chris Kimsey, on which she’s joined by Ollie Clarke on the guitar, drummer Evan Jenkins, Flora Curzon on violin, and folk luminary Lukas Drinkwater on bass with Nichol Thompson and Jansen Santana providing trombone and percussion, respectively playing percussion. Likened to a folksier Norah Jones, she describes five tracks as an enquiry into materialism and the insidious creeping of technology into all areas our lives, opening with the fiddle adorned, steady rhythmic pulse of lead single ‘Electricity’, while ‘Time Tells Me This’ has a smoky late night soul feel reminiscent of Wendy Waldman and ‘Smothered Love’ steeped in prowling jazzy blues flavours. Another breathily sung ballad, this time more acoustic in nature, ‘Northern Sky’ has a suitably clear night air tone, the EP rounded off with the softly sung, circular fingerpicked patterns of ‘Moment Too’. Definitely a name to watch.
https://www.cattypearson.com/

Sunlight is the debut EP from Leicester sing-songwriter TIMOTHY HOAD and it’s a delight. The title track, which opens proceedings, is an up-tempo and, indeed, uplifting song built on a drum and handclap rhythm. Timothy has a gift for both melody and lyrics and the second track, ‘The Ghost I Loved’, has a nicely twisty story and is perversely optimistic given that the singer is about to be executed – or was that his plan all along? The third track is ‘Shapeshifter’ and it just leaves us wanting a whole album.
https://www.facebook.com/timothyhoadmusic/

O&O are a London-based American-Israeli duo consisting of Obadiah Jones and Orian Peled, both graduates of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Truth Comes Out being their self-released debut EP. Described as Fleetwood Mac meets the Civil Wars, they bolster the claim with the steady rolling rhythm of the blues tinged title track and the country-rock chug ‘Saturday Morning’, showing a softer side duetting on the rippling missing-you ballad ‘Tears In The Rain’ (a former single) and the slow burn, pedal-steel stained waltz ‘Rolling On’. A very fine addition to the burgeoning UK Americana scene.
https://www.oandoduo.com/

Some musicians make an EP on a shoestring to get their name out there while they save up to make an album. Not so DAVID LEASK, whose Six In ›6/8 was recorded with nineteen musicians in Toronto, Montreal, Nashville and Muscle Shoals. Scottish-born David lets his native country peep through with some lovely whistle on ‘Red Balloon’ but ‘Caught In The Tide’ quickly crosses the Atlantic to Canada where he now lives and grows in the crossing. Six wants to be an album when it grows up but at six regular-length tracks it doesn’t really make the cut while, at the same time, it’s too heavy duty for an EP. ‘Can’t Make It Back Home’ is probably the best song in the set but it’s swamped by the arrangement.
www.davidleask.com

Another duo with Mac-influences, this time from Birmingham, GASOLINE & MATCHES are Sally Rea Morris and Steve Marks who, aside from regularly hosting local Nashville Sounds in the Round sessions for upcoming UK country names, are establishing their own solid momentum having been nominated alongside The Shires and Ward Thomas for Duo of the Year at the 2018 British CMA Awards. Produced by Gavin Monaghan, their third single is the mid-tempo but full-blooded ‘Not Into Country’, a musical differences break-up number with Morris on lead and Marks providing the muscular guitar breaks.
https://www.gasolineandmatchesmusic.com/

Everything’s Fine is the latest three-track by YVONNE LYON and, like many musicians it seems, she has chosen to be upbeat and optimistic in face of the chaos that is taking over the world. It’s a fine song but ‘Where The Poor Find Gold’ may be even better although not such an obvious lead track while ‘Hope’ rounds out the set with soulful vocals over an electronica backing.
www.yvonnelyonmusic.com

RUSTY SHACKLE provide a taster for their upcoming new Passion, Death & Joy album with ‘Sam Hall’ (own label), a typically driving slice of folk-rock, emphasis on drums and fiddle, telling the story of the 18th century highwayman, here reflecting on his life as chimney sweep to thief to the gallows.
http://www.rustyshackle.com/

LICKING THE MOOSE are a Norwegian Americana band and their single ‘Murder Ballad’ is the audio equivalent of Scandi-noir television. Pained, whisky-soaked vocals sit on a rather ponderous piano-led accompaniment. It’s a strange song, probably something to do with the voice that the singer is hearing. Not a lot of laughs.
https://www.facebook.com/Licking-The-Moose-46368089157/

JOEY COSTELLO has previously featured in these pages and is back with a new single, ‘So High We Lose Our Minds’. Nicely simple with ringing guitar chords and backing vocals and Joey’s all-but-impossible falsetto.
https://joeycostello.com/

 

 

Singles Bar 34 Singles Bar 34