SINGLES BAR 99 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Having digitally self-released four on ‘Part One’ last year, LITTLE LORE now offers up the remainder of the Seven Stories (three digitally on ‘Part Two’ or all seven on CD), first up being ‘The Jackal’, all desert night moody with skittering percussion and haunted keyboards that, originally written for an American Crime draws on the myth of Anubis, the Egyptian God of the afterlife with head of a jackal for a number about cunning and stealth, the chorus referencing how the animal’s black saddle is supposedly it offered to carry the sun on its back, thereby burning his fur. Built around muted drumbeat, glassy piano notes and an echoey noir guitar solo, the unsettling ‘Little Pieces’ was written in response to a brief to write a song of that title with a I IV V chord structure and, taking food cut into small pieces as an impetus, is about the lack of control people in care have over all their choices. A co-write, the simply strummed acoustic ‘It Would Be Easier To Miss You If You’d Died’ is a wry kiss-off inspired by her experience of being ghosted that, accompanied by keys, comes with a great swayalong chorus.

The Windjammer EP is the fourth record from Wisconsin singer-songwriter MATTHEW DECHANT, a mix of traditional songs and original compositions that sound as though they are traditional. The opener, ‘The Brig Julia Dean’, is a case in point. Matthew wrote it based on a true story but the only reference to a Julia Dean we can find is of a woman convicted of keeping a disorderly house. There are a couple of borrowed lines but the language is largely modern. It’s a fine song with lots of instrumental decoration.

‘The Weary Way To Liverpool’ is definitely one of Matthew’s – a tale of hardship at sea described by him as “a tale as old as time” – while ‘Sailortown (One More Dance And Then)’ combines an English country dance tune with Tom Waits inspired poetry. A wonderfully evocative track. The same type of rough percussion is used on ‘The Candlelight Fisherman’, rather different from Bob Roberts’ version with its rolling gait. This is quicker and sharper. Finally, ‘Fire On The Lake’ is based on another true story and another shipwreck on the Great Lakes, some very dangerous waters. Look up the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871 if you want to know more.

This EP is the remnant of a project which never came to fruition and that is a great shame because it’s full of fine music and good ideas.

From Ipswich and the founder of the Suffolk Music Matter’s Coalition of six trades unions who share a common interest in championing music education for all in Suffolk, ANITA ABRAM has released debut EP The First Escapade (Every Bird Records), a five track collection that kicks off with the rumbling storm underpinned, piano-backed moody ‘Gravity Running’, an early single commentary on the futility, inevitability and insanity of human conflict driven by fear and greed, its line ‘we will never back down’ dedicated to the Ukrainian people. Also a previous single, piano ballad ‘Stars Above’ was dedicated to NHS to and people suffering with illness over Christmas. The most recent single, the eerie musical box cabaret pizzicato sway of ‘Shift Away’, relates to the coastal settlement Shingle Street and, seamed with field recordings, is a traditional folk imbued call to rid Suffolk’s shores of plastic while, making their first appearance, arranged for keys and rumbling drums, ‘Go Again’ describes the seasons of love across the passage time, and, keyboard trills, soft drums and synthesised strings behind the vocals, ‘The Waiting’ tells the ambiguous ending of a relationship where “waiting for something is better than nothing”.

As a side project to go with her new album, The Real Thing, MAY ERLEWINE is partnered by PACKY LUNDHOLM on a six track EP, Knox Avenue Recordings. Her smooth, soulful voice is matched by equally smooth arrangements leaning towards jazz with keyboards, slinky reverb on the electric guitar and possibly a marimba – you can decide that for yourselves.

The first song, ‘You’, is a simple love with a sweet guitar arrangement and ‘Be In Love’ is almost a slow rocker – it has all the attributes just put together differently – with a gorgeous guitar solo. ‘Slow And Steady’ matches its title and ‘Give It Away’ slides into jazz with Woody Goss’ Rhodes decorating, a mood that carries over into ‘Weather’ which is a clever song that does everything right. Finally ‘Easy/Sweetly’ expounds the view that “Nothing’s gonna come easy but it might just come sweetly” with a delightful acoustic guitar solo.

These are all lovely songs performed in a way that renders the record eminently listenable over and over without feeling the need to make points.

Released to mark the 80th anniversary of the deportation of the Ingush and Chechens by Joseph Stalin on 23 February,1944, DARIA KULESH pours her soul into ‘Homeland’ (self-released) which, featuring  instrumental contributions from Jonny Dyer, violinist Katrina Davies and Jason Emberton, is the lament of a deportee captured in her translation of iconic lyrics by Khamzat Osmiev and original refrain sung in her native tongue and set to the driving rhythm of a traditional melody.

With her new album coming in a couple of weeks, GRACE PETRIE tempts us with a powerful single, ‘The House Always Wins’. Using the metaphor of a casino she turns her ire on the usual suspects. The song starts with a fiddle-led introduction – a bit Levellers perhaps – before exploding into a pile-driving folk-rocker with the lyrics tumbling over each other to make their point.

On a related theme, HERE’S THE STEEPLE tells us that ‘This Machine Builds Fascists’ on his new single. HTS is Dan Walters from west Yorkshire and the song is his view of capitalism and how it has promulgated extreme right-wing ideology. It’s a decent song and a sound idea but it does seem that Dan is pulling his punches rather.

A new album is on the way from KATHRYN WILLIAMS & WITHERED HAND aka Dan Wilson and from it they have released a single, ‘Weekend’. It’s a bouncy, poppy song that deserves to be a radio hit. Hidden behind the happiness is the anxiety of feeling out of place in a crowd trying to enjoy someone else’s fun – “I don’t belong to the weekend” is their conclusion. Do any of us?

ALEX SEEL releases a double A-side single. ‘Wild Goose’ starts playfully with minimal percussion and acoustic guitar before expanding into a full-throated arrangement while ‘Change In Me’ is rather more solemn with cello and a bigger guitar sound. Nice.

From Sheffield come THE FARGO RAILROAD CO. who sound as though they cut their teeth on Band albums. ‘Jackie Come On’, their new single, is a slice of southern groove from their upcoming album Time & Grace. Crisp vocals, organ and some nice electric guitar complete the picture.

 HOLLY LERSKI from Norwich wrote her new single, ‘Tall Trees’, on a road trip through California. She contrasts the longevity of the pine trees she sees with the ephemeral nature of human relationships while at the same time pledging that her love will last for ever.

‘The Highway’ is a loping slice of guitar and banjo Americana by Los Angeles native NATALIE DEL CARMEN. By coincidence, this song was also inspired by a road trip, this one is a tribute to the therapeutic properties of getting away from it all but beneath that is a story of break-up.

Liverpool meets Norway in the shape of NUNNERY NORHEIM – Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norheim. Their single. ‘Moving To The Sticks’ features string players from the Liverpool Philharmonic and illustrates the two threads that drive their performances – music and theatre. This is jolly and really rather good.

BAZ EDMONDSON from Dorset has just launched himself as a solo artist with a download single, ‘The Shepherd’s Lullaby’. Piano driven and covered in strings (probably synthesised), Baz achieves a rich sound. The song is superficially about waiting for someone to come home but there seems to be a deeper significance too.

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