SINGLES BAR 103 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 103Now just a solo project for Bristol’s Hannah Pawson, FRITILLARIES follow up their(her) 2022 eponymous debut album with the self-released EP Thank God I Have The Songs, addressing grief, uncertainty and dealing with chronic illness, opening with the simply strummed, strings-caressed pastoral vocally double-tracked five-minute ‘Harvest Moon’. Night and the natural world continue to exercise their influence on the watery fingerpicked and more of a folk-blues persuasion ‘As The Rain Falls’ that guessingly alludes to her illness in the line “Oh the night folds in and it is sitting heavy on my chest/Oh the night folds in and I could easily bend under this bed”.

As it suggests, the title track is about the comforting balm and healing powers of music in times of grief (“Oh when sadness comes/Thank god you had the songs”) as well as that of nature as she sings “I saw swallows dance across the beach/They darted past my feet/Dipping between the air and the sea/I got out my phone to capture the view/And brought it then straight to you/Oh from Southern Africa/To hospital room”).

It’s the first part of a triptych concerning grief and loss and informed by her grandmother’s passing, the second being the repeated circling fingerpicked pattern and strings of ‘Hyacinths’ (“You’re always the same/In my mind…How can everything remind me of you/Ice in the jug in your living room”) concluding in similar musical frame of mind, and also with Beth Roberts on double bass, with ‘For Jan’ and its memories and hurt (“In the park/Outside my parents’ house/Grandmother’s gone/And I forgot to put washing out/And my mind is caught up in itself/Can’t tell week from week/Haven’t worked in a real job for so long now/All I can write is grief”). It ends with the plinkety banjo-accompanied front porch mountain music folksiness of ‘Little Sparrow’, a song written for her best friend’s father who passed around the same time, a musing on the temporary nature of everything, and the grace to be found in embracing that truth (“My mind is aching with helpless wondering/What’s in a name and when will mine be fading/Whose tongue will shape it who and when”) as she returns to images of night, the moon and light. She most definitely has the songs, and she sings them beautifully.

Fresh from his critically acclaimed Poetry In Exile album, ANDY SMYTHE is released a new single on June 14th 2024 entitled ‘Love Ain’t Free’, which had generous airplay already before launch day.

‘Love Ain’t Free’ takes a look at Brexit and the implications of what it has left us with, in the midst of a soon to be General Election for the British people.  Falling in love with someone across the English Channel is going to cost you dearly if they want to come here, marry and settle down. We have a Covid generation and a Brexit generation, who are struggling to get on the property ladder or pay extortionately high rent, penalised with falling in love with a non-British national and all the difficulties and protocol we have in this country these days.

A first hearing of ‘Love Ain’t Free’ before reading the lyrics was of the swashbuckling full band making you sit up and listen. Protest Folk/Rock at its best! Beatrice Limonti plays amazing fiddle, Andy himself plays, guitars, bass and saxophone and he sings his own harmonies too having a 4-octave voice.  The five piece band includes bass/fiddle/mandolin and drums.

Check out Andy’s music, his shop and his live gigs on his website.

Irish singer/songwriter JD KELLEHER has a new single, ‘The Devil Is In The Details’, dedicated to their LGBT+ community. It’s an upbeat folk/pop song – more pop than folk probably – but the really clever thing is that, apart from the references to rainbows, you could apply it to a member of any minority group. Given that you’re reading this that probably includes you. The biblical meaning of the rainbow is a symbol of hope and that shines through. This is a hopeful, happy song and great summer listening.

Comprising Sid Goldsmith, Alex Garden and Danny Pedler variously on cittern, concertina, fiddle and accordion, TARREN have cross-fertilised three traditional songs for their new self-released single ‘Neither Maid Nor Man’ taken from their upcoming album Outside Time. Taken at a sprightly pace, ‘The Handsome Cabin Boy’, ‘Bold William Taylor’ and ‘Pretty Drummer Boy’ all share the familiar folk theme of a woman dressing up as a man, the trio bringing it up to date for these gender fluid times with their own original final verse sporting the lines “I threw away my clothes and all, of gender I did speak/Neither maid nor man am I and some call me a freak/Yet others call me free”.

‘Long Way’ was written by JOHN REED in March 2023. An amazing piece of protest/awareness writing about our global ocean environment, and what we humans are doing to it, and more importantly what we are not doing for it.

Late 2023, LAURA KELSEY – a singer/songwriter from Nanaimo, east of Vancouver Island made a kind comment about one of John’s You Tube releases entitled ‘Eyes’ and that is how they virtually met! John asked Laura to sing his lyrics as he felt he needed someone else other than himself. Laura’s voice fitted perfectly.

‘Long Way’ leads in with John’s distinctive guitar picking which is then joined by Laura’s powerful and evocative vocals. The prophetic lyrics tell of birds who cannot fly, fish who cannot swim, forest fires and poison in the rain. It has a lovely catchy chorus too. “It’s a long way to a better world” says John in his lyrics “and this should resonate with all of us, delivering the message that its in our hands to create a better place to live our lives”. I can add to that – “for future generations”.

John and Laura have a formidable song with a formidable message. Listen to it now!

If you think the Black Americans who served in WWII are little recognised, spare a thought for those Japanese Americans who enlisted to fight against the Nazis. Having grown up on the same block with three of these veterans, it wasn’t until he was in his 20s that singer HAROLD PAYNE learnt about their exploits, about how, as part of the famed 100th/442nd, the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in U.S. military history, they liberated several towns in France and Italy. He now celebrates how, just young men, they volunteered to show their loyalty to a country that had disgracefully sent many of their families to internment camps, with the quietly strummed ‘Quiet Heroes’, the accompanying video poignantly featuring photos of many of these soldiers who, “small in stature but big on bravery… made the sacrifice so the future generations could have a better life”.

Producer and songwriter Paul McGeechan, aka STARLESS, has a new single, ‘High Tide’, featuring the stunning voice of Emily Smith. Purists may find it a bit too orchestral for their tastes and it does seem that Paul has thrown everything into the complex arrangement. You have to admire the artistry and the performance, though.

Born in Norway but now based in Lafayette, RAINY EYES  is Irena Eide and another of the many Scandinavian country artists who sound like they were suckled on Nashville teats, ‘A Little Dream’ (Royal Potato Family) is taken from her upcoming album Lonesome Highway and, a song about realising that your latest flame isn’t meant to burn forever, is pretty standard fayre for the genre but gets lifted somewhat by the pedal steel of Chris Stafford, one of the last things he recorded before his death in a car accident in May.

‘River And Fish’ is described by its composer, AMY HOPWOOD, as a love song to a river from a fish’s perspective. Amy’s voice is multi-layered over field recordings of a river and the birds that live with it – I suspect that some were recorded in Bournemouth where she now lives. The atmosphere it creates is unique and haunting with the feral sound of the birds adding a slightly sinister undertone. Very clever and beautifully realised.

Led by Cincinnati songwriter Yoni Wolf, WHY? straddle the psychedelic pop, hip-hop, and electronic music fence, though, taken from the upcoming The Well I Fell Into album, new single ‘G-dzillah G’dolah’ (Waterlines) has a definite folksy undercurrent to its tinkling prepared piano, upright bass and strings, the lushly sung track takes place as our narrator is in a plane flying to be reunited with his lover, only to be beset by doubt at the prospect, the title referring to the monster version he’s mentally reconstructed of her. Think of it as an electro Bon Iver laced with Brian Wilson in a dreamy tropical beach cocktail bar.

ROBIN MUKHERJEE from Manchester is right on time with his new single, ‘Polling Day’, echoing the zeitgeist on the left-leaning end of the political spectrum. “Why do we sneer at those who say ‘Let’s share what’s on our tray’” is a repeated line and Robin can’t wait for polling day to do his bit. No ranting, just a thoughtful song with a nice guitar backing and an album to follow.

The first taster of his upcoming album, Dublin’s EOIN GLACKIN releases ‘Shine Your Light’ (Beautiful Word Music Ltd), a yearningly sung, fragile yet uplifting slow walking blend of strummed acoustic and pedal steel folk, country and gospel that speaks of a person reaching out for help after coming to the realisation that they can’t go it alone any more, building to a cathartic release of hope with soaring folk-choir-harmonies.

Having played the UK West Coast Festival, THRIFTY MALONE continue their incursion into the British music scene with a single, ‘Fiddler’s Elbow’. It’s an autobiographical song with a stomping accompaniment and a lyric which vocalist Rob Fitzpatrick does well to twist his tongue around. “It’s the Irish way”, he sings although they are from Gibraltar.

Not featured on her recent album, Irish experimental folkie LAURA MULCAHY self-releases ‘Janet’ which, featuring Sarah Ferrigan on accordion, Martin Leahy on percussion, programming and bouzouki,  and Fiachna Ó Braonáin on vocal, electric guitar and low whistle, rides a puttering percussive rhythm  as, with a lilt part lullaby, part faerie mischief,  she sings how “Janet’s shenanigans/Leave her nowhere/Head filled” with bees… Janet is mad again/Barking at the wall/Taller than a tower/Maledict mouth”. It’s a mesmerisingly nonsensical folktronica trip down the stream of consciousness with “Beasties far and wide” as the “Mayor of Jupiter/Rumbles/ Thunders” and there’s a “freebasing spaceship a plummeting”. Featuring a glorious midway “Whoop!” before playing out on the repeated “Hellfire hugs a cool cat on the ground”, it’s like a lysergic Lewis Carrol ditty and will apparently feature on an upcoming album tilted Necessary Nihilistic Noodles. Which, of course, makes perfect sense.

From her forthcoming album, Absence Of Doubt, HANNAH SCOTT releases a single, ‘Bigger Than My Body’, which she describes as a love song, pure and simple. The piano and drone introduction seems a bit out of place but with that behind her this is a lovely song with a compelling hook.

BEN REEL blends rock, blues and gospel and sprinkles it with an unmistakable touch of Irishness on his new single, ‘Let The Road Rise’, which should become a festival crowd pleaser wherever he goes. Tight, snarling guitars and a choir of female voices add to a chorus that you just want to sing along with.

‘The Meadows’ is a new single by ALLEN TEMPLE, originally from Ghent but now living in Galway. It begins with what sounds like a baritone guitar but what turns out to be double bass played down towards the dusty end coupled with Allen’s acoustic. It’s a song about the tranquillity of a place and bodes well for his debut album.

Couple the name of SILAS J DIRGE with the title of his single, ‘The Saddest Girl’, and you might wonder what his marketing department is up to. After a long acoustic guitar intro the song gets weird. Alt-country with echoey slide, it’s a story, more a myth, about a girl who turns up, cries a lake, gets run out of town and is finally thrown into her own lake of tears. It comes from Silas’ new album, Swan Songs, which has got to be good for a listen.

From his recent album, Beauty & Truth, ( MICHAEL WAUGH releases the title track as a single. With a sound as big as his native Australia, Michael describes the song as being honest with yourself and letting someone go with love. There are some superb lines like “You can’t live a lie/Believe me, I’ve tried” and “Like a suit that didn’t fit me, I swam around in someone else’s clothes”.

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