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

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 ‘Sparrowfeather’, 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/