SINGLES BAR 30 – a round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 30Following on from 2016’s Trick Star, accompanied by Steve Mayone on mandolin and nylon string guitar, pedal steel player Chris Tarrow, Jason Mercer on upright bass and Alex Hargreaves providing fiddle, ANNIE KEATING’s latest is a five-track collection of road songs originated from last year’s European tour. It opens with the title track, ‘Ghost Of The Untraveled Road’, a Dylanish mid-tempo waltzer about listening to a song on an Italian radio station, understanding the sense if not the word, sparking ‘busy bees’ in her a thinking about how things might have turned out differently (“Should I think of you fondly, or not much at all?/Shall I cherish confessions of bury them all?”) had she taken different paths.

Reflectiveness also feeds into the gently jogging country breeze of the fiddle-accompanied ‘Forever Loved’, Hargreaves again adding colour and texture to the wearied ‘Kindness Of Strangers’, essentially a song about how the warmth and hospitality of those you meet along the way can keep you going. There’s more musing introspection about the past on ‘Sting of Hindsight’, another fiddle-led waltzer with pedal steel streaks as she ponders “Maybe I’m built for a life on the road” and concludes that all you can do is “Be here, let go of regret”. It ends all too soon with such regret riding the mournful pedal steel and fiddle tide on “Forget My Name”, the chorus shading the song’s Nanci Griffiths colours with hints of Tom Petty.

There’s a sense that the EP is about refocusing herself and reminding why she’s committed herself to making music and spending on the road, and of the grace notes that balance the times when it all seems like a weight. As such, she’s clearly emerged at the right end of the tunnel and hopefully a new full length will be on the not too distant horizon.
www.anniekeating.com

Through The FayreWe featured THE MEADOWS in these pages back in 2015. They are a young family quartet from Wales who recently sent us their debut EP, Through The Fayre, five songs about or set in fairs, although for some reason they play ‘Carrickfergus’ as an instrumental. Actually, it’s very good with Fantasia Meadows’ piano and Melody Meadows’ flute dominating a delightfully pastoral sound. They open with ‘Brigg Fair’, effectively a vocal solo by Titania Meadows, followed by ‘Scarborough Fair’. ‘She Moved Through The Fayre’ features vocal harmonies by the three sisters over Harvey Meadows’ electric guitar for a very different sound and we hear more of Harvey as he takes the lead vocal on the final ‘Star Of The Country Down’ at a cracking pace.
www.themeadowsband.co.uk

UnpluggedTHE GRAVITY DRIVE are a married couple, Elijah and Ava Wolf, from the south-west. While working on their second album, they also chose to record a back-to-basics EP, Unplugged, to showcase acoustic versions of four songs. They begin with ‘No One’s Gonna Tell You’ – a fairly basic guitar strum with minimal but perfectly judged decoration and their two voices alternating and harmonising some clever lyrics. Potential for a real ear-worm here. There is also some nice amplified acoustic lead on ‘Candle In The Dark’ and more clever lyrics (“only love can be your candle in the dark”) over a rolling country melody. ‘What Is Love’ has a very Dylanish guitar – if Elijah had gone into ‘All Along The Watchtower’ I wouldn’t have been surprised – until Ava takes over with a 1930’s feel about her share of the vocals. Finally, ‘Breakheart Hill’ has the feeling of traditional Americana – in a full arrangement it would cry out for pedal steel or mouth harp.
http://www.thegravitydrive.com/

Kete BowersLiverpool singer-songwriter KETE BOWERS has a new two self-released track single well worth seeking out. ‘Northern Town’ is a confessionally sung, spare, moody five minute strum about drinking to numb heartache, which only takes you deeper into depression, the lyrics extending to parallel this with a sketch of a town that’s sunk into the same state with “Boards on the windows and nailed shut doors/Broken benches where men sat and talked/No dreams to dream here anymore.” The same idea extends to ‘A Town With No Cheer’, which, evocative of Springsteen’s bare-bone acoustic work, spins a haunting image of broken hopes and dreams (“the ghost of banjo Harry picking out some lonesome tune/When we were young we’d shoot for the moon/Now nothing here is sacred and there’s little or no regard”) in a former ship-building town brought to its knees and the emotional numbness that has swallowed up both it and those that live there, stripped of faith and drowning in drink and despair.

The Wind Blows ByAmerican singer/songwriter JOEY COSTELLO releases what would seem to be his debut EP, The Wind Blows By, although he has a fair number of singles to his name. What is immediately apparent is the sincerity of his approach to his music but it isn’t matched by the production. There is an unacceptable amount of guitar squeal, particularly on the lead track and a shrillness that leads to reaching for the volume control. His vocal style has been likened to those of Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne so if you like them you’ll probably like Joey too. There are some decent songs here but too much getting in the way of them.
https://joeycostello.com/

Black FeathersCurrently working on their new album, BLACK FEATHERS offer a taster of things to come with ‘The Ghosts Have Eaten Well’ (own label) Sian Bradley and Ray Hughes duetting on a catchy acoustic uptempo rootsy Americana number, the evocative title a metaphor for the dangers of being consumed a constant reflection on regret and guilt that cannot be changed but which prevent you from moving on.
https://theblackfeathers.com/

Last SwallowVeteran singer-songwriter, guitarist and sound engineer ROSS PALMER has a new four-track EP, Last Swallow. The lead track is a wistful, acoustic reflection on lost love but ‘Make It Last’ picks up the pace a bit with a bigger arrangement including electric guitar and drums. There’s no indication as to who is playing what but Ross is probably doing most of it although Melanie Crew is prime suspect for the female voice. Ross doesn’t really do rock’n’roll so ‘Separated By Water’ and ‘Ghosts & Echoes’ are very much in the same style. An album is expected later this year.
https://www.rosspalmermusic.co.uk/

HengistburyUK country duo HENGISTBURY have released their debut single, ‘What Folks Don’t Know’ available as a download with a limited number of CDs. There’s sprightly banjo under Jessie Mary’s vocals while the ‘B-side’, ‘My Body Ain’t A Temple’ boasts a bigger arrangement with piano. It’s all very nice but quoting “shining like a National guitar” is a bit naughty.
https://www.facebook.com/hengistburymusic/

Annie Keating – new download single

Annie Keating

Annie Keating announces release of new digital-only single ‘Trouble’ to coincide with her first UK tour since 2013. Trick Star, Annie’s seventh and most accomplished album to date, was released to wide acclaim in 2016.

Talent spotted by BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris, Annie has recorded two sessions for his prestigious BBC Radio 2 show and has performed at numerous leading international festivals, including Take Root, the Brooklyn Americana Festival, Glasgow Americana Festival, The Brooklyn Indie Music Fest and NXNE.  Her current album, Trick Star received wide acclaim in the UK and beyond. Bob Harris called it, “A wonderful record. Heartfelt and real”, while Folk Radio UK described the album as “disarmingly engaging.” R2 magazine regards Keating as, “a budding Americana Star”, and Acoustic magazine insists that, “Keating will enchant anyone but a deaf shoe-gazer.” Her previous album Make Believing was championed by The Telegraph as a “best country music album” pick of 2015 when they wrote that “Keating is building the reputation her talent deserves.”

Keating has played on the bill with John Hiatt, Bon Iver, Chastity Brown and other greats. This is her third UK tour – trio format this time – accompanied by London own brilliant bassist Scott Warman and Brooklyn’s finest Steve Mayone on guitar and mandolin who regularly tours with the likes of Kate Taylor, Bow Thayer and Kris Delmhorst.

The summer tour includes three shows at this year’s Maverick Festival and double bills with Danni Nicholls, Ags Connolly, Gallery 47, Danielle Cawdell, Porchlight Smoker, Dan Webster and The Boy Who Kicked Pigs.

Artist’s website: http://www.anniekeating.com/

‘Trouble’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 21

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 21In the wake of his criminally underrated album Rain Machine, RICK FOOT returns with a six-track EP, Songs Of Idiocy & Expedience. It’s pared down even from the minimalism of the album and Rick says that the songs were arranged with an eye to live performance. It is amazing what you can do with just voice, double bass and a bit a technology. Rick double-tracks himself and throws in some percussive noises on ‘Your House: Full Of Twigs’.

Rick’s voice is laid back and sounds despairing at times and there is a political dimension to several songs. The opener, ‘Whoever You Vote For’ leads inexorably to the tag-line “the government still gets in” and ‘Your House’ is, I think, about a collapsing or collapsed society. Rick’s lyrics are often witty and sometimes quite surreal so ‘Potato’ and ‘House Of Cows’ require further study. The idiocy comes in ‘Lincolnshire Poachers’ but I won’t spoil it by telling you the story. Just go out and buy Rick’s records.

http://www.rickfoot.com/songs-of-idiocy.html

Singles Bar 21Anglo-Welsh trio THE TRIALS OF CATO formed in Beirut but now they are back home with an eponymous EP. They sound thoroughly traditional and it’s only when you start to listen carefully that you realise that these are original songs. ‘Matthew VanDyke’ has the rolling feel of an eighteenth century sea song but like the origins of the band it’s centred on the tragedy of the Middle East. ‘Reynard And The Goose’ is a conversation between the titular creatures – think ‘The False Knight On The Road’ – and is very clever. ‘Fighting Jack’ takes us back to the army and back to the war zones while ‘Aberdaron’ is sung in Welsh and paired with ‘The Shaskeen Jig’. There is so much potential here – we should hear more from The Trials of Cato before too long.

www.thetrialsofcato.com

At first JOE MARTIN sounds American but the subtlety of his lyrics suggest otherwise – he’s really based in Leeds. He’s supported on Small World by Andy Leggett on double bass and Henry Senior on pedal steel. ‘Denver’ is pure Americana as is ‘When The Time Is Right’. The former has a lovely wistful lyric with a clever closing line that suggests that he’s not totally subsumed into the genre but can also look in from the outside. Joe’s acoustic guitar playing is clever without being flashy and his voice, and indeed his songs, are front and centre.

http://www.joemartinmusic.com/

‘Trouble’ is the new digital-only single from the rather wonderful Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter ANNIE KEATING. A smooth country blues, ‘Trouble’ follows on from Annie’s recent album, Trick Star, and heralds her upcoming UK tour. It settles quickly into its groove with a simple bass line echoing her acoustic guitar decorated with restrained slide guitar.

http://www.anniekeating.com/

Falkirk band THE NICKAJACK MEN make their recording debut with an EP, Wasting Away. They fall somewhere in the alt-rock/country field but the best track here is probably the nearly-folky ‘Marilyn’ with some really nice echoey vocals by Lewis White and the slow bluesy ‘Erb’ is pretty good, too. Twin guitars and keyboards give The Nickajack Men a full, rich sound over the bass and drums of Jamie Burns and Matthew McAlister. An excellent debut.

https://www.facebook.com/thenickajackmen/

MARIA KELLY releases her first EP in download-only format. The Things I Should follows three singles all produced by Matt Harries. The second track ‘Far Below’ reveals a hidden strength in her voice as the arrangement cranks up the pressure. In contrast ‘Where’s The Worth’ is more delicate with lots of strings and a spare drum arrangement while ‘Pretend’ takes a more folk-pop direction.

http://www.mariakellymusic.com/

Video Wall

It’s too hot for thinking and writing so we’ll take the opportunity to post some of the many videos we’ve received recently: the first of our Video Wall series.

First, here’s Kat Healey with ‘Hearts Entwined’ from her EP, Wolf.

Next we have Billy Bragg and Joe Henry with their version of Jean Ritchie’s great song ‘The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore’.

Have we shown you this one? It’s worth seeing again: the title track from Yvonne McDonnell’s EP, Endless Soul.

Finally, here’s Annie Keating with ‘Lucky’ from a One On One live session in New York.

Annie Keating releases new album For Keeps

Annie Keating For KeepsNew-York singer/songwriter Annie Keating’s fifth album, For Keeps is indeed a keeper. Beautifully crafted songs combined with musical hooks and punches knock the listener in the chest, making this album an instant classic. With refreshing honesty, grit and timelessness, Keating and her band of musical magic makers achieve a sound that is complex and simple, new and vintage … the first song gets its hooks in you and captivates throughout.

This Brooklyn-based songwriter knows how to write and deliver beautiful songs with a magical earthly rich voice and arrangement that transfixes … She has picked up a great (and well served) reputation over the course of her four previous albums, but on For Keeps Keating truly shines. No frills or posturing – her sultry voice cuts straight to the heart. On her fifth album release, she has arrived as an international songwriting tour de force.

Talent spotted by BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris, Keating appeared live on his show in 2008 and 2011 and has gone on to perform at numerous leading national and international festivals including Take Root (Netherlands), the Glasgow Americana Festival (Scotland), the NJ Folk Festival, NXNE in Canada, NEMO and MEANY music fests and the Mountain Stage NewSong finals.

Keating has performed on the bill with the likes of John Hiatt, Dan Bern, Natalia Zuckerman, Bon Iver, Hot Club of Cowtown, Anne Heaton, Boris McCutcheon and Shannon McNally.

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