LA-based British musician LUKE SITAL-SINGH joins forces with a clutch of fellow singer-songwriters for his new EP, New Haze (Raygun), the opening track being the simple reflective strum of ‘Almost Home’ a road song co-write with Steve Aeillo paradoxically from Sital-Singh’s first ever session after moving out to LA. A better-known collaborator is John Smith, the pair responsible for the gentle pulse, rumbling drums and organ backing of the poignantly sung post-break-up /reunion ‘Skin Of A Fool’, originally intended for his last album but ultimately not quite fitting.
Set to a simple ruminative guitar, the heart of the lyrics for the lullabying dreamy sway of ‘My Sweet Side’ come courtesy of Northern Ireland Music Prize winner Ciaran Lavery, the collection ending with Aqualung’s Matt Hales co-write for the subtly optimistic fingerpicked and strings swathed ‘Undefeated’ with its non-standard time signature.
If you’ve never come across ASTRID before you might look at the cover of Storm Sessions EP and expect it to feature a gentle-voiced young lady with an acoustic guitar. Of course not. astrid is (now) veteran singers and songwriters Willie Campbell and Charlie Clark who started together in the late 90s before joining Gary Lightbody in The Reindeer Section. They did a lot in a relatively short career before going their separate ways in 2004. Four years ago they reunited and began working again at the same pace.
The lead track of Storm Sessions EP is fan favourite ‘Distance’, an acoustic version of which has already been released as a single. You’d call their style folk-pop – catchy songs, rich harmonies and arrangements which are distinctive but somehow understated. The second song, ‘Falling And Flying’ is a cover from the film Crazy Heart and the set wraps up with two more originals, ‘Modes Of Transport’ and ‘Poison Reaction’. astrid have played Belladrun, Celtic Connections and Heb Celt and listening to this set you can understand why. Listen with care – you’ll be hooked.
Looking to the Americana and country audience, LA-based singer-songwriter KYLE LALONE favours old time country twang on his self-released Somewhere In Between EP, his second EP, a follow up to his 2016 instrumental debut. A five-track collection, it’s focused on his struggles with alcohol and discovering himself. Drawing on such influences as Hank, Buck and Patsy, it opens with rippling pedal steel setting the scene for the upbeat country shuffle ‘Think Myself To Death before heading down to a vintage honky tonk for the George Jonesy swingalong ‘Our Love’ and, on a slower, organ-backed lost love note with ‘Warning Signs’ (“you and I rode that train until it came off the track”) featuring deep twang guitar solo.
The last two numbers particularly relate to his battle with the booze and drugs, first up being the strummed acoustic and resonator guitar slow waltz ‘Always Trying To Quit’, the line about “Most days I say I’m not going to drink cause I know how it goes once I start but the next thing I know I’m always busy trying to fill up that hole in my heart” undoubtedly resonating with anyone who’s been through the same. It ends in classic country train rhythm shuffle style with his drawled break-up number ‘I’m Not Gonna Drink Over You’. A solid first foot in the water, we look forward to hearing him work his way around a full album.
BARNEY KENNY is half of West Country duo, Tamar, and is making his solo debut with a digital EP, The Minstrel Boy, on which he returns to his Irish roots. The first track ‘Castlewellan Road’ is set against the background of the Protestant-Catholic divide and ‘Marie’, a song of lost love, is led by banjo featuring a nice “stuttering” trick. ‘The Shoemaker’ is perhaps set during the period of mass Irish emigration or just a few years ago – the former is the more likely. It’s a nice song if a bit sentimental for some tastes. ‘Matthew Flinders’ tells the story of the navigator who first decided that Australia is a continent.
Barney wrote the first four songs here but the title track, ‘The Minstrel Boy’, which closes the show is a reworking of the traditional tune and a tribute to Barney’s great uncle who was awarded the Victoria Cross in the Great War. It begins with a stately acoustic guitar and fills out with pipes courtesy of Catherine Ashcroft who also plays whistle. Barney’s Dobro and Weissenborn give the whole set a country feel from time to time.
A New Orleans-based roots rocker from Brooklyn, JACK SLEDGE can be usefully pigeonholed in the same loose Americana category that holds the likes of Springsteen, Shovels & Rope and Jamestown Revival. His new self-released EP, Notes Of A Drifter, serves to shine a useful light on both his jangling, driving guitar and storytelling of those searching for the American Dream, described as being about “an ex-con, a transient, and urban millennials as they navigate the cost, method, and consequences of abandoning the rat race, their pasts, and, ultimately, themselves”. It kicks off with the uptempo rocking defiance of ‘I Ain’t Dead Yet’ where early Earle and Bruce kick up a barroom storm, slowing it down for a touch of Ben E King on the intro to the walking beat escape-themed ‘Drifter’, desert noir guitar licks and muted howl wordless chorus reminding me somewhat of The Swinging Blue Jeans hit ‘You’re No Good’, though perhaps Linda Ronstadt would be a more familiar reference, the final verse ending “I was running from something coming after me/Smell of salt water and the sound of the waves/I was finally at the ocean that was far away”.
A number he describes as about escape from city life, but also “the survival of love despite physical distance, the drive for human connection in the face of obstacles, and the unconquerable will of existence”, Sam Shahin’s racing drums barrel their way into ‘King With Wings’, swiftly joined by ringing guitar chords on a propulsive rocker with its hints of both Bob Seger and Chuck Berry, before swaggering guitar riff, and Travers Geoffray on organ and saloon piano close out on ‘Right Hand Man’, a goodtime, beer-swilling number about a former Alabama hitman ex-con and his brand new life in the same musical vein of The Faces’ ‘Cindy, Incidentally’. A new album’s due this autumn, we’ve a slot reserved on the headphones already.
A folk/Americana teaming between London-based musicians Zoe Wren and Jasmine Watkins, ROSWELL have a new six-track EP, Come Home, out via Bandcamp produced by Dan Wilde. It kicks off with a burst of unaccompanied harmonies on ‘Restless’ before shuffling drums and banjo take up a Hispanic-flavoured rhythm behind a pointed lyrics about how “government’s destroying things for young and for the old/The poor are getting poorer and are left out in the cold//A full-time job is not enough for survival anymore/Millennials are desperate, still at home at 34”.
The bustling uptempo ‘Comfortable Lies’ treads a familiar path about a relationship that’s not working out (“We’re worlds apart and we have been from the start//Just to wish with all your heart is not enough to stay”), while, Watkiss on violin, the title track has more of an Appallachian folk blues Gillian Welch feel as they sing about the disillusionment of finding that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side, but rather “the trees are bare and the river’s dry”.
Built around a lightly fingerpicked circling guitar pattern, ‘Romeo, Juliet’ has an airy waltztime pace followed on by, again with a fingerpicked intro, the traintime bluesy chug of ‘End of the Line’, Wilde on mandolin, conjuring a female duo take on CS&N. Ending with the breezy pizzicato guitar work and piano notes (and what would have said was brass except it’s not mentioned on the credits) of ‘Long Distance Love Song’, this further whets the anticipation of the full-length album a little later own the line.
TOMO is a singer/songwriter based in Bristol who is making his recording debut with a single, ‘Enough To Drink’. Musically it is simple enough, just voice and acoustic guitar with a little multi-tracked background vocal. The words are a different matter as Tomo talks of the liquor taking hold as it “swallows up your broken soul” – we’ve all felt like that from time to time – but the song is also an invitation to serious self-examination. We hope this is just a precursor to a long career.
Recorded a while back round a single mic as a contribution to Women’s History Month, Scottish duo KAT HEALY & KARINA SMILLIE are releasing their superb close harmony interpretation of the classic folk protest song ‘Bread And Roses’ (Little Bird) as a download single (via Soundcloud). It comes in three versions, the plug side accompanied by drone backing and handclaps percussion, the same recording but totally a capella and a live take.
‘Flower’ is the second single from the forthcoming debut album by Welsh singer/songwriter DANIELLE LEWIS. It starts gently enough over electric piano, then the bass and drums come in and then…Danielle has a big voice and ‘Flower’ turns into a big arrangement that suits her perfectly.