RACHAEL SAGE – Pseudomyopia (MPress Records MP9009-2)

PseudomyopiaLast year, Sage a legally blind New York singer-songwriter without corrective lenses, released Myopia, her 14th album, packed with ringing guitars, piano and, for the most part, upbeat indie power pop built around the concept of short-sightedness and metaphorical blindness. This year, with the help of musicians that include bassist Richard Hammond, cellist Ward Williams and Patti Smith guitarist James Mastro, she’s revisited it (minus two tracks) as Pseudomyopia with all new acoustic arrangements and a title that extends the term to bigoted social attitudes towards diversity and difference.

As with the original, it opens with the air-punching celebratory feel of ‘Alive’, cello and mandolin augmenting the guitar and a line about being in the Olympics where nobody ever cheats and “losing my virginity in purple satin sheets”. ‘Daylight turns to piano, a song of domestic violence, the narrator unsure of how she should respond to her traumatised combat veteran husband, feminist themes also to be found on the cello and plinketty piano notes of ‘Sistersong’ as it addresses the pressures on women that won’t allow them to be themselves.

Self-identity and being comfortable with who you are also inform the cello-backed Tori Amos-like ‘Maybe She’ll Have Cats’, sung from the perspective of a father pondering on his sexually wayward teenage daughter’s future, and the piano-accompanied ‘Spark’ with its anthemic chorus surges. There are specifically political moments too. The bluesy ‘This Darkness’ treats on the controversy of the Dakota Pipeline and environmental neglect, the punningly titled ‘Snowed In’ with its brooding cello and dissonant guitar takes its inspiration from Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance by America’s intelligence agencies reflected in its theme of paranoia, while ‘Tomorrow’, with its la la la chorus, employs the notions of patriotism and nationhood to address the concept of truth and the perspectives from which it is viewed as she sings “Vision is a euphemism for blindness, Brave is a euphemism for bleak, but tomorrow is blue skies”.

The folksily reworked almost cinematic title track, which features fingersnaps and Mastro (curiously echoing Sting’s ‘Fields Of Gold’) counterpointing her piano, returns to the theme of self-discovery and self-confidence and overcoming emotional nearsightedness.

Of the two remaining cuts, one is a cover, an almost baroque chamber-like arrangement of Howard Jones’ ‘No One Is To Blame’ that she makes her totally her own while the other, ‘Olivia’, which sports hints of Regina Spektor, is a tribute to strong women that was specifically inspired by an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the character of Olivia Benson played by Mariska Hargitay.

Regardless of whether you’re familiar with the original album, this is a terrific collection in its own right. If you have Myopia, you’ll want this too. If you get this, you’ll want the other.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.rachaelsage.com

‘Alive’ – official video:

Skipinnish announce seventh album

Skipinnish

In the world of lore and legend, the seventh wave was bigger and more powerful than all gone before.  This, the seventh album, from Skipinnish, epitomizes that theme perfectly.  With Norrie MacIver’s distinct vocal taking on the lead and with a few other transfers and additions, this is the band’s biggest and boldest production yet.  The changes in line-up mean three renewed Skipinnish classics joining five new self-penned songs, a tribute to Runrig, three rocketing tune sets and a haunting slow air.

The Seventh Wave comes as the band’s own wave of popularity continues its powerful rise. With four consecutive chart topping single releases and sell-out shows across the country, Skipinnish have rocketed to the top of the trad music scene and their ascent is accelerating.  Their latest single, ‘Alive’,  which is the first track on the album, hit Number 26 in the mainstream UK download charts, which for a traditional band is a mighty achievement. Only Runrig and Capercaillie having been higher.

It was said that water taken from the seventh wave had properties of healing and invigoration.  It is predicted that this music will have a similar effect on those who ride the waves of life listening to Skipinnish.

Fans are also scrabbling for tickets to their live shows, with most of their album launch tour, in May, sold out already.  The official release will be at the band’s 1000 seat Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, concert on Friday May 19th – tickets all disappeared for this gig, in December, just days after going on went on sale!!!!

Albums are available for pre-release order from the Skipinnish website and will be on sale at all other concerts throughout May.

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Artists’ website: http://www.skipinnish.com/

‘Alive’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 16

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 16We’re a bit late with this one but we can’t let the year turn without a mention of ANGE HARDY’s Christmas single. There are two tracks, both original compositions and both sung acapella. ‘The Quantock Carol’ should immediately go into every seasonal repertoire – it’s a plea for peace now and in the future, a simple and beautiful song. ‘Mary’s Robin’ is based on the Gaelic legend about how the robin got its red breast and should be snapped up by unaccompanied groups and community choirs everywhere.
http://www.angehardy.com/

CRAIG FINN has a new album, We All Want the Same Things, out in March preceded by a single ‘Preludes’. Finn grew up in Edina, Minneapolis and describes ‘Preludes’ as “this was what I remember 1994 being like, coming back to the Twin Cities after being away for college.” ‘Preludes’ gives us snapshot of this time in life: “I came back to St Paul’s and things had progressed and got strange”; images of his friends who have moved away to Seattle while he is back in the hometown hitting the bars; of a guy who jumped out at him with a pistol (“I considered my options and decided to do what he said”); and, above all, “I got stuck in a snowbank, I was too drunk to drive to a diner/ Right there was proof of my faith that God watches us”, leading to the refrain which permeates and ends the song “God watches us”. It sounds heavy, but it’s not. The musical feel is reminiscent of the driving energy of the Counting Crows and it’s a fun song capturing that time of life in your early twenties when you return home after time away and re-evaluate your relationship with your home town and family.
http://www.craigfinn.net/

Don’t look for JAKE ISLAND on a map – you won’t find it. Jake is a he: a singer/songwriter/ producer from County Meath. He’s rather modest about what he does on his EP Kindest Of Our Days, listing musicians including featured vocalists Rowan and Driver 66. The four songs here are a sort of Irish-Americana with banjo, fiddle, flute and whistles as well as the standard guitar-bass-drums trinity. There’s an odd melancholy about the music. ‘Last Drunk In Town’ and ‘Lose The Love’ should be sung in a late-night bar and ‘Horizon Blues’ is the story of an old musician reminiscing and perhaps thinking about a comeback tour. The title track, which opens the set, is the most upbeat of the collection but even here there is nostalgia in the strictest sense: a pain and regret for what is past. There are four great songs here.
www.jakeisland.co.uk

‘Alive’ is a download only single from Scottish band SKIPINNISH. It opens as a gentle piano-based meditation on the blessing of being alive complete with angelic backing vocals, something of a reaction to 2016 you might think. At the minute mark it takes off with drums, fiddle and electric guitar before almost settling into a meditative mood – fooled you, they were just gearing up for a big finish. “You’re alive, you’re alive and the stars are on your side” is a good thought to begin the year with.
http://www.skipinnish.com/