SINGLES BAR 57 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 57Nashville’s JARROD DICKENSON pays tribute to five of his Texas heroes on Under A Texas Sky (Continental Records), kicking off with a slightly slower paced interpretation of Roy Orbison’s minor 1959 doo wop hit ‘Uptown’ featuring bluesy organ and Claire Dickenson and Stephanie Jean’s backups, following with a slow and soulful, organ shaped take on Esther Phillips’ torch blues ‘Try Me’ before hitting the country trail with a fabulous handclaps, organ and pedal steel coloured reading of Willie Nelson and Ray Charles’ duet ‘Seven Spanish Angels’. Tex Mex country soul comes with a swayalong doo wop cover of Doug Sahm’s ‘I’m Glad For Your Sake (But I’m Sorry For Mine)’ and it winds up with a more recent classic in the shape of a reverent version of Guy Clark’s ‘Dublin Blues’. Can we put in a bid for George Jones, Buddy Holly and Townes Van Zandt if he considers a sequel.

In the wake of their startling debut album, This Is Broken Folk, LUNATRAKORS release an EP, Bonefires. The familiar elements are all present: Clair Le Couteur’s impressive vocal range, Carli Jefferson’s drums, body percussion and vocal harmonies and the duo’s very individual take on traditional songs.

The set opens with ‘Black Raven II’, a reworking of the Cossack song that opened the album and they follow that with a trip from Ireland to Australia in the shape of ’16,000 Miles’ with Clair adopting a very convincing accent. ‘The Unquiet Grave’ isn’t traditional but a no-holds-barred attack on the Government’s policy towards benefit claimants and with Christmas coming (sorry) they close with ‘Holly & Ivy’. You won’t be singing this version in church, however. The lyrics are mediæval and more pagan than Christian. There is a second album due early next year and we can’t wait.

THE MAGPIE ARC are a new folk-Americana supergroup comprising Nancy Kerr, Martin Simpson (a rare sighting of him on electric guitar), Scottish Album of the Year nominee Adam Holmes, former Albion Band member Tom A Wright and Alex Hunter. With 2 and 3 to follow over the next two months, the baldly titled EP1 (Collective/Perspective) gathers together four original numbers variously penned by Kerr, Holmes, Wright and Simpson.

Drawing on classic folk/rock of the late 1960s and early 1970’s and influences ranging from Fairport and Steeleye Span to Little Feat and The Band, in soaring, quivering voice it opens with Kerr’s ethereal Celtic-coloured ‘Canon’, the pace and genre dramatically shifting for Holmes and Wright co-write ‘Whenever I’m Alone’, a shuffling, scuffling jaunty folksky pop toetapper with Holmes on lead and Kerr singing backups. Simpson takes the vocal and writing credit for a slightly longer revisiting of the lilting ‘Love Never Dies’ originally featured on his 2003 album Righteousness and Humidity, while Holmes wraps it up with his jangly ‘Autumn Leaves’, another infectious foray into tumbling chords Scottish folk pop. Terrific stuff.

Following on from the recent single, Northampton father and son duo DON’T DRINK THE WATER now release the full EP, Saturday Night Paint (Fretsore), which in addition to Sally’s Got A Secret adds three further numbers. The organ backed ‘Gulf Of Mexico’ is pleasant enough and, visiting the monkey farm, asks who’s in the cage , us or them, but the others are stronger, ‘Heading For Paradise’ a storysong about a girl looking to find herself a new life in the big city, finding romance, getting married to an old flame and having a baby, the song defying convention by actually having a happy ending. A The title track,written by producer Jack Henderson, with its twangy guitar and fluttering keys, is moodier, desert-noir affair with guitarist David O’Leary giving a touch of Knopfler drama.

SHIRA is a New York-based (though currently in Israel), ukulele-playing American-Israeli self-described fairy folk singer-songwriter and stage actress, and Birds Of A Feather her 4-track EP which, recorded live in one day at The Diamond Mine Studios, is all about finding yourself and listening to your inner voice over outside noise. As such, it opens with the piano and violin backed ‘Usually’ which has a Broadway musical feel about it although there’s also an early Joni quality to her voice,. Again featuring violin, the slow swaying ‘Go Uncharted ‘plays a like a love letter to NY, while ‘Wait For Me’ is a shimmering fingerpicked love song about being reunited after a separation (her fiance’s stuck in Barcelona) and the title track speaks of opportunities missed because either don’t notice or don’t act, about finding a kindred soul with whom to brave the storm together. A full album’s due next year, it’ll be worth the wait

From Ireland but living in Spain, MATTHEW McDAID releases his three-track EP Look Away Sun Child (Great Canyon Records), the catchy strummed chorus friendly mid-tempo swayalong title track paired with ‘’, not the Manfred Mann hit but a cascading melody line Celtic folk-pop ballad burnished with warm brass, and a simple fingerpicked cover of the Robin Gibb classic ‘I Started A Joke’.

ROBERT LANE released ‘Listen In’ last month and we missed it but you can still download it for free. It’s a song about the need for reassurance that we all need at times to combat our insecurities. “Listen In, hear me, I may not pass this way again”, he sings and you can read so much into it. It begins quietly but builds up to become a magnificent pop song that speaks for all the musicians who have suffered because of Covid-19.

‘Where Are We Going Patti Smith’ is a new track from ANDY WHITE in which he sings the title over and over with breaks for beat-inspired poetry referencing lockdown and his admiration for the titular Ms. Smith. But, who was selecting soy in the organic foods section?

Taking their name from Wim Wenders film, WINGS OF DESIRE is a new London boy/girl duo who declare their intent to be “a mirror to the planetary shift we are all experiencing, to permeate the zeitgeist and remind us all that there is more to living than what we consider tangible”, to which end they draw on such inspirations as Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent and philosopher Alan Watts. If that sounds heavy, their self-released debut single ‘001’, the first in a trilogy “exploring a broken modern world” (I assume ‘002’ and ‘003’ are to follow) is euphoric pop as much influenced by New Order as it is Americana, reminding that you can dance to apocalypse after all.

Canadian singer-songwriter MICHAEL BERNARD FITZGERALD releases a new album, Love Valley, next month and, to whet our appetites, releases a double A-side single, ‘Good Plates’ and ‘I Love You’. The first is a gentle celebration of al fresco dining, cleverly expressed and topped off with a trumpet break and the latter is self-explanatory.

DARLINGSIDE preview their new album, Fish Pond Fish, with a powerful new single, ‘Green & Evergreen’. It begins with treated piano and drums that settle into the introduction before those trademark harmonies kick in. Their voices have been described as gossamer but on this song they display the steel at their heart.

Nalle Ahlstedt and Christopher Anderson used be in hard rock band who had a deal with Warner Music in Scandinavia, these days they’re America-Finnish duo GULF STREAM RIDERS and play country rock, impressive evidence of they serve up on new single ‘Old Hannibal’ (DistroKid), a chugging, dusty voiced tale of the celebrated Carthaginian General and, through it, a musing on the fleeting nature of fame.

It may be confusing but ‘Don’t Drink The Water’ is the new single from Glasgow singer-songwriter, JACK HENDERSON, a sophisticated soft rock song with hard-edged lyrics inspired by the legend of Robert Johnson. It comes from his upcoming album, Where’s The Revolution.

Recorded ten years ago but never released for legal reasons, Perfect Moment was the debut album by INDIGO ROAD. It’s now finally seeing the light of day via Big Bed Records run by band founder and guitarist Mark Herbert, and as a taster they’re re-releasing the single ‘Simple’, a rather lovely acoustic shimmeringly picked, strings-coloured song of love and hope sung by Heidi Jo Hines, the daughter of ex-Moody Blues/Wings member Denny Laine, though Belle Erskine sings lead on the rest of the album.

‘Wanderlust’ began life in California as a piano piece by Rachel Haden who sent it to BOO HEWERDINE who wrote the words and recorded the song before sending it to Gustaf Ljunggren in Copenhagen to add his production magic; then Gustaf sent it back to Glasgow for mixing. It’s paired with the very short ‘Listen’ as a digital single. Both songs seem to embody feelings about our situation: everybody wants to be somewhere else and everybody wants their story to be heard.

From her forthcoming album, Consider The Speed, Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist TERRA LIGHTFOOT releases a single, ‘It’s Over Now’ and the answer to your question is “no, she isn’t”. It’s a chunky, rootsy rocker addressed to her ex-lover but perhaps more in sorrow than in anger.

MADRAYKIN is the musical identity of Gloucestershire’s folk-noir singer-songwriter Madeleine Harwood (who previously released an a cappella album, Darkest Part), making her debut as such with Boo Hewardine co-write (he also plays acoustic) ‘The Heart Has A Thousand Tongues’ (Haven Records). Chris Pepper’s deep reverb guitar and driving drums underpin a Western flavoured number, paradoxically inspired by 13th Century Persian poet Rumi, that explores the façades masks couples wear in public to mask their darker private feelings. Given the title it will come as no surprise to learn there’s a musical nod to Bobby Vee hit ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes’. An album’s worth of songs inspired by the Sufi bard is set to follow.

North Carolina quartet THE MOUNTAIN GOATS release ‘Get Famous’, the second single from their upcoming album, Getting Into Knives. It’s a funky track leavened with some dark cynicism: “Cold, grey world, all these obedient sheep / They act like they know, but they’re all sound asleep” sings frontman John Darnielle in the second verse.