AMY GODDARD – Always A Dreamer (own label AGAAD2019)

Always A DreamerAlways A Dreamer is something of a departure for Amy Goddard being a tribute to her favourite songwriter, John Stewart, who she has name-checked more than once in the past. Sadly, she hasn’t included my favourite Stewart song, ‘Armstrong’, but as she has squeezed seventeen gems onto the album I won’t hold it against her. If I may digress for a moment, Stewart was a singer and songwriter who was a member of The Kingston Trio before he went solo. In a long career he recorded around fifty albums but he was never as big in Britain as he should have been. If you’re not a Stewart fan the only song you’ll recognise is ‘Daydream Believe’ but you’ll also notice that Amy has restored the original lyrics.

The album is topped and tailed by Amy’s ‘Tribute Song’ – just a short excerpt at the beginning leading into ‘Some Lonesome Picker’, the song that gave Stewart his nickname. Amy needed a country-ish band to support her nicely jangling guitar and she found it in Jon Lewis on electric guitar and bass, Todd Kuzma on drums and Brian Kutscher on bass and backing vocals alongside former Stewart sidesman Chuck McDermott. They hit exactly the right vibe without making Amy sound too American so she can sing a line like “she could have gone to Colorado” with guitar and Leo MacKenzie’s cello – not country at all. Really.

There’s a warmth to the performances which suggests that everybody really enjoyed making Always A Dreamer. Amy even hands over the lead vocal on ‘Dreamers On The Rise’ to her father, Alan Whitby, simply because it’s his favourite Stewart song. She also shares the role with him on ‘Hung On The Heart’ and ‘Sing My Heart Away’. There are two more songs I must single out for special mention. ‘If You Don’t Look Around’ was written for The Kingston Trio and two later members of the group, George Grove and Rick Dougherty join Amy on the track. The long centrepiece of the record is ‘Botswana’, an unusually political song from Stewart’s repertoire and still relevant more than thirty years on. Like ‘Armstrong’ it contrasts American affluence with third world poverty.

Always A Dreamer is Amy’s third full-length album – not forgetting her wonderful EP, Down In The Mine – and she has set the bar very high for whatever she may do in the future. Whether you want to curl up by a winter fire or drive the highway with the top down this is the only soundtrack you really need.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Last Hurrah’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 28 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 28Leviathan! by BLACKBEARD’S TEA PARTY is an energetic and accomplished recording by these York-based folk-rockers that did strike some nostalgic (power) chords, with electric guitar, bass and two drummers driving the folkier fiddle and melodeon. There are versions of two traditional songs – ‘The Bonny Ship The Diamond’ and ‘The Weary Whaling Grounds’ – that you may remember from Bert Lloyd’s similarly entitled whaling song collection from 1967, but the tone here is very different. Also featured are two home-brewed instrumentals – ‘DFLN’ and ‘The Lost Triangle/The Lone Pancake’, both highly reminiscent of 60s-70s folk rock – and the very effective song ‘Leviathan’, based on the story of albino sperm whale Mocha Dick that partly inspired Moby Dick. Not for purists, but well worth a listen.

Brother WindGNOSS, once a duo, is now a four-piece hailing from Glasgow’s fertile hotbed of fine musicians, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Their four-track EP, Brother Wind, provides a pleasingly versatile balance of two songs and two tunes. The title track hits with an immediate Disney-soundtrack catchiness before opening up its folky heart with some terrific harmonies. From the snaking groove of ‘The Closet Bodhrán’ to the vigorous reels of ‘Moul Head’ via the sensitive rendering of ‘My Ship’, it’s very easy to understand why this band is being so hotly tipped as one to watch.

Amy GoddardA self-released EP of songs connected to mining, at the heart of Welsh singer-songwriter AMY GODDARD’s Green Is The Colour lies her six-minute Remembering Aberfan, a charity single released in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster when a slag heap in the Merythr valley slid killing 116 children and 28 adults in the nearby school and neighbouring buildings. A stark, acoustic number with a mournful backing choir, it’s a haunting listen.

However, the tracks that surround it are no less strong. Initially sung unaccompanied, the title track was inspired by the arsenic mines of Devon and Cornwall, the biggest of which was owned by the family of William Morris, its poisonous green pigment used in his iconic wallpapers. There’s a brace of well-known covers, the first being ‘North Country Blues’, an early Dylan number about the closure of the iron ore mines and the effect on the mining community, a history repeated in Wales in the 1980s, the other a chiming acoustic guitar waltz through Merle Travis’ ‘Dark As A Dungeon’.

The perils of working underground inform the sprightly self-penned folksy strum ‘Underground Road’ which, featuring Hannah Fisher on fiddle, charts the life of a mining community. Sharing a poisoning theme with the opening number, sung with just hand percussion accompaniment, the final track has Goddard has duetting with Andy Adams on ‘Blue Murder’, an Alistair Hulett song about asbestos mining.

Al ShieldsNow backed with The Delahayes, Edinburgh-based troubadour, AL SHIELDS returns with a new collection of freshly squeezed Americana, in the form of the Fire On Holy Ground EP, due for release on Shields’ own label, Al Shields Music (ASM004), on April 30th.

The band-backed electric sound is a slight deviation from Shields previous all-acoustic efforts, but with the same old glimmers and shades of Ryan Adams and co. it is a most enjoyable listen. From the disc’s half-dozen numbers, ‘Counting the Hours’, ‘Kick Your Feet Up’ and ‘The Boys in the Band’ are among the stand outs, but then, there is very little to dislike about this record.

Rag’N’Bone (And The Coal Rippers Daughter) is an upcoming EP from singer-songwriter NEIL BROPHY. So far only a single comprising two versions of the title track has been released. The song is set in 19th century London: Rag’N’Bone is obvious and apparently a coal ripper is or was a man who dug out the rock above a coal seam and shored up the walls and roof. Who knew? The story is of a love story set among the squalor – “my dog died, too, and you can have his bones” – as two young people set out for a life among the mudlarks at Blackfriars. The acoustic version features Neil on guitar, harmonica and kick-drum while the radio edit is a full band version with a Levellers feel about it.

KIM LOWINGS & THE GREENWOOD have a new single in the form of the five-minute plus ‘New Moon’, a track that doesn’t feature on the recent Wild & Wicked Youth album,. Driven by a persistent repeated drum pattern from Tim Rogers and Dave Sutherland’s throbbing upright bass with a hypnotic circling guitar line by Andrew Lowings and Kim on dulcimer, it’s a nod towards late 60s/early 70s progressive folk rock of outfits like The Trees, Bread Love and Dreams and the pre-epic Renaissance rather than the more traditional inclinations of her other material.

Jake AaronThat’s a great cover picture. ‘Give Me Your Horse’ is the new single from genre-bending guitarist JAKE AARON. The guitar is somewhat submerged here with Steve Lodder’s Hammond and Steve Waterman’s trumpet taking the lead over the bass and drums of Guy Pratt and Marc Parnell. You’re forever expecting a vocal line to appear but for all that it remains resolutely instrumental.


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

To Be FreeBefore taking off for Nashville to start work on her sophomore album, Glasgow Americana singer-songwriter MARTHA L HEALY has put together a four track EP, To Be Free (Frog Eye) comprising two originals and two covers. The latter are well trod ground, a version of ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ with banjo and double bass that has Healy in growly mode and Hank Williams chestnut ‘I Saw The Light’ given a gutsy riverside gospel twang and handclaps delivery. They’re good, but the original numbers are of more interest. ‘Too Much Time’, co-pennned with Paul Healy, is a mid-tempo banjo dappled ballad about having wasted time going nowhere trying to be a rebel instead of actually living life and following your heart that has her sounding not unlike Lorretta Lynn. However, featuring Rebecca Brown on fiddle, the best cut is the title track, a waltzing twangsome song that recalls classic Emmylou and Gram. If the next album is even a patch on this, it’ll be a stunner.

Winter Wheat‘Postdoc Blues’ is the first single from JOHN K SAMSON’s forthcoming album, Winter Wheat. John is from Winnepeg and the song has the sound of the wide Canadian range with neat guitar: twangy underneath and sweet little breaks on top. The lyrics are clever and modern but resonant: “I believe in you and your Powerpoint” is reminiscent of a song from 1968 by an emerging outfit called The Band. The rest of the album sounds pretty good, too.

Remembering AberfanFor those of us old enough to remember the Aberfan disaster it’s rather like a splinter or a broken fingernail. Every once in while something brings back the image of that heap of black slurry in grainy film on the news. ‘Remembering Aberfan’ is a charity release by AMY GODDARD to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the event. Amy grew up in the valley and understands its people. The story of the disaster is told from the point of view of a mother who wishes that she hadn’t sent her son to school on that last day of the half term and from that decision flows the rest of the story. The two versions are sung over acoustic guitars with a choral backing and solemn drums as the song draws to its close. Highly recommended, both musically and as a contribution to the Aberfan Memorial Charity.

Strangers Bring Me No Light for Singles Bar 10‘Woman’ is the single from the debut album Strangers Bring Me No Light by JINNWOO, an artist from Brighton with an indefinable style. He usually bases his music on acoustic guitar with lots of strange things going on in the background and ‘Woman’ starts out that way but is rather more poppy in its development. Jinnwoo’s voice sounds treated and in contrast he’s joined by the sweet tones of Georgia Ruth (maybe also playing harp) amongst the big backing sound. In the past he’s worked with Alasdair Roberts and expressed a fondness for Stick In The Wheel. Good enough for us.

AMY GODDARD – Secret Garden (own label AGSG42016)

Secret GardenAmy Goddard has been feeding me singles from Secret Garden for a couple of months now so I’m familiar with three of these songs, although it is true that they sound different in the context of a complete album.

The record begins in Amy’s typical style: optimistic songs accompanied by the bright tone of her steel strung acoustic guitar. The opener, ‘Words Of Sweet Music’ even features her bass playing while Jonathan Lewis provides lead guitar – Amy could almost certainly play that part herself but it’s nice to have someone to lean on sometimes. ‘Alright Again’ is the first of those single tracks – a song about depression, or rather reaching out beyond it – and that is followed by the title track, a piece of pastoral wimsy.

‘Gladdie’ was the first single. It is the story of Amy’s great-grandmother whose intended was lost in France and is the sort of song that Amy should concentrate on – a simple, poignant story beautifully told but with a real edge. She essays the same feeling on ‘Miner’s Lullaby’ but it isn’t her song, it’s Utah Phillips’, and the difference is clear. I have no problem with her performance of a great song but I bet she could find an equally harrowing story to write about from closer to home. She found a good story in Perthshire to turn into ‘The Maiden’s Leap’, an interesting twist on the usual night visiting story.

I particularly like ‘Rhythm Of The Road’ which really shows off Amy’s guitar work. It’s a song that she says has been a work in progress for several years and it has a different vibe from the songs she’s currently writing. Her setting of Alfred Noyes’ ‘The Highwayman’ is nicely creepy – it really is a nasty tale – and the second cover, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark, is transferred from the streets of Jersey and given a very English style.

Amy has made another fine album with Secret Garden but for me it lacks something of the intensity that made Burn & Glow such an excellent debut.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

A selection from the album preview concert:


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Grateful‘Grateful’ is the first single from the album …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing from Scottish singer-songwriter BLUE ROSE CODE also known as Ross Wilson. The lead track is a languid jazz-inflected piece and that’s followed by the more up-tempo ‘Midnight’s Mass In Suffolk’s Breast’, a song which immediately puts one in mind of a kinder relative of ‘Fairytale Of New York’. The James Yuill remix of ‘My Heart, The Sun’ is the set’s production number and finally we have ‘In The Morning Parts 1, 2 & 3’ live for BBC Radio Scotland. Ross has been around a while and it’s a great shame that he hasn’t come to our attention before now.

VIP ExtrasFollowing on from his critically-acclaimed album VIP, FINDLAY NAPIER brings us Very Interesting Extras, five new songs three of which are written or co-written by producer Boo Hewerdine. Gustaf Ljunggren adds a huge variety of sounds to the guitars, harmonium and ukulele played by Napier and Hewerdine. Findlay has a similar deadpan delivery to the late Michael Marra, but without the latter’s penchant for delivering comedy in the same vein. Top tracks are ‘After The Last Bell Rings’ and ‘Princess Rosanna Drowned In The Clyde’, a delightfully odd song. Who was Princess Rosanna? Did she even really exist?

Near The Sea‘Near The Sea’ coupled with ‘Alright Again’ is the second single to be taken from Secret Garden, the second album from AMY GODDARD which is due for release in April. It is a beautiful song about finding safety and contentment in a familiar, comforting environment and this theme is echoed in ‘Alright Again’. The two songs are very different in style – the first is full of sweeping strings whilst the second is backed by jangling guitar and hand percussion. On this evidence the album is keenly anticipated.

Desert SongsDesert Songs is a five track EP from songwriters DAWN LANDES AND PIERS FACCINI. The Anglo-American duo first worked together in 2013 but this is their first release as a duo. This is very much a meeting of equals: both have solo careers and the songs are joint efforts both in writing and performance. Piers brought a number of exotic acoustic instruments to the sessions and later Dawn took the tapes home to New York to add the drum parts. All the tracks boast tight harmonies and the lead song, ‘Heaven’s Gate’, is very catchy as is ‘Book Of Dreams’. Their strong melodies are what really sell the record.


A round-up of EPs and singles that have come our way

SINGLES BAR 10 Oct 2015‘Gladdie’ is the new single from AMY GODDARD and a taster for her forthcoming second album. It is inspired by letters sent to her great-grandmother during the Great War by a young soldier, one of four brothers none of whom came home from the trenches. The song features Amy’s bell-like acoustic guitar and a chorus drenched with strings, some courtesy of Naomi Hitchings. The melody is a waltz with a slight period feel but avoids being a pastiche and her lyrics convey the matter-of-factness of some of the correspondence as well as Gladdie’s anticipation as she waits for the next letter to arrive – until the last one is in a different handwriting. The song is a semi-finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest and more than worth its place.

SINGLES BAR 10 Oct 2015The title track of May Day 1916, the new EP from THE CELIA BRYCE BAND, also involves letters, this time from a wife to her husband serving at the front and full of the minutiae of everyday life – something for a man away from home to cling on to. The second track is an instrumental, ‘Corporal Morris’, a lament with a decidedly Scottish feel – there’s more than a little ‘Farewell To Tarwathie’ in there. Both tracks have a suitably military feel with brass from 3 G. Dean Owens’ ‘Shine Like The Road’ is an anthemic ballad and ‘Small Print’ is a bluesy boogie that changes the mood completely. All proceeds from ‘May Day 1916’ will go to the Royal British Legion.

SINGLES BAR 10 Oct 2015BOREAS is the bringer of winter, an appropriate name for a band that links Scotland and Norway. In advance of their debut album, Ahoy Hoy, the quartet releases a single ‘North Sea Holes’ – a suitably chilly subject – originally written by Ewan MacColl for Singing The Fishing. I’m not sure if Lori Watson or Rachel Newton takes the lead vocal line but Rachel’s harp is the dominant instrument over a fiddle drone from Britt Pernille Frøholm and Irene Tillung’s accordion ebbing and flowing like the sea itself until both elbow their way to the front for an instrumental break. The second track is ‘Bjornen/Facing The Bear (Radio Edit)’, a pair of tunes which begin with some wonderfully doomy bass notes.

SINGLES BAR 10 Oct 2015Trouble is the third EP from Hampshire singer-songwriter JOE BOOLEY. The title track benefits from a glossy production job and lots of atmospheric echo but Joe throttles back for the other tracks. ‘What Did You Expect’ is beautifully expressed teenage melancholia with a single repeated guitar note emphasising the sometimes sinister lyrics. In ‘The One Thing’ Joe talks about how he “will leave this God-forsaken place”. I know his home town and he’s not wrong. Joe is a clever song-writer and if you like your misery unadulterated this is for you.

SINGLES BAR 10 Oct 2015OCTOBER GOLD follow their second album, Bridge Of The Sun, with an eponymous EP. The Montreal duo of Kit Soden (acoustic guitar and voice) and Aliza Thibodeau (violin, piano and voice) have simplified things somewhat, adding only bass, cello, French horn and percussion but their sound is still big thanks to Aliza’s multi-layered violin. Although they write their own material their lyrics are derived from the nineteenth century poetry of Archibald Lampman and Thomas Moore, both of whom can be seen in stained glass in Ottowa’s public library. The songs are literary and complex and often melodically surprising – the last lines of ‘Altitude’ for example build from nowhere into an attention-grabbing climax..