Based in the Western isles of Scotland, FELIX SAUNDERS has a throaty, world-weary vocal rasp and earthy accent (think a centuries-old Proclaimers), heard to persuasive effect on his self-released wryly titled I Guess This Is Progress debut EP, a four track affair reflecting on his own mental state soured relationships and sense of isolation while trying to remain confident about the future. Opening with the steady beat of ‘Hope And Faith’, it’s fair to say both seem in fairly short supply given lines like “l am an astronaut in my own mind/Floating around in dead space”, “Days are starting to fall apart/Like this decaying home/I made friends with my loneliness/Just to have someone by my side” (King Of Nothing’), “I feel like I am treading water/I can feel the waves crashing over me/People on boats pass me by/I can feel the riptide pull me down” (‘Sinking Fast’) and “I am Stuck with the worst of me/And I catch myself in the mirror sometimes/Looking at the devil horns only I can see” (‘Something Waltz’). Fortunately, they’re wrapped up in slow-paced, simple but warm, attractive and sometimes lovely blues-informed melodies that sweeten the pill considerably.
Melancholy Heat is the new EP from Welsh duo SAMANA (Rebecca Rose Harris and Franklin Mockett). They call it lo-fi but it’s actually rather sophisticated. The opening track, ‘Live For The Road’, yearns to reconcile freedom and destiny with Rebecca’s mighty vocals soaring above piano and some rather tasty guitar. ‘All One Breath’ looks at our relationship with nature and how we can abuse it and the title track rejoices in a big chorus with more ringing guitar from Franklin.
MOUNTAINESS is Rhode Island-based self-described confessional poet Emily Goldstein, her Soundtrack EP centring around a feeling of newfound empowerment, opening in folksy pop style with the drums and synth as she demands your ‘Attention’, the scuffling title track playfully bemoaning the dangers of sharing music with future exes, as when they leave, the songs may go with them. ‘Vacation’ has strong shades of Spector with its crashing chords, the equally big pop ‘Just Desserts’ is backdropped by throbbing bassline while ‘Distance’, another warning about making romantic plans for the future, is a gradually building keyboards ballad which has her playing omnichord.
A small town singer-songwriter from Widnes who cites Eva Cassidy as a major influence, JENNY COLQUITT made her low key debut five years ago with ‘The Quiet Kind’ (2016), an EP written from the viewpoint of someone too scared to have a voice to take her message into the world. Her second, Dear Daughter (Self-released), is able evidence that any such fears have been conquered, a four track set of beautiful piano-based soft and soaringly sung songs that, especially in the title track and ‘Tell Me Where The Light Is’, about helping those of younger years through difficult times. Add the gently fingerpicked ‘Molly’s Eyes’ and the tenderly poignant, inspirational, cello-shaded ‘Gracie’, and it’s clear she’s an outstanding talent and one of the first major discoveries of the year. www.facebook.com/
Founded around Liz Pearson and Darren Pearson, Sussex-based CHALK HORSE MUSIC make their first bow of the year with two new songs that will go to form their forthcoming album. Opening with backward tape effects before the flourish of horns, ‘Along The Hidden Beach’ is an original experimental track formed of hidden layers, including extracts from Kipling’s Sussex, featuring Saxon lyre and set among the stones, sea foam, shipwrecks and lost bells of the East Sussex coastline. Rather more accessible with tea-chest bass, vibes and flute and sax, ‘Turtle Dove’ is a traditional number from West Sussex, the English version of the melody transformed into a jazzy rhythm evocative perhaps of the more prog moments of Pentangle.
Our good friends MERRY HELL released their latest single on New Year’s Day so we’re a bit late with this (sorry, chaps). ‘When We Meet Again’ is typical of the band’s optimistic stance in the face of just about anything and is sung almost tenderly by Andrew with soaring lead guitar. The record also features The Social Isolation Choir, friends and supporters who phoned in their vocal contributions to the choruses – literally. Have a go next time the call goes out and if you fear that your voice may not be good enough, John Kettle says he can autotune you to sound like a chorister. The single comes with two tracks from Emergency Lullabies, ‘We Are Different, We Are One’ and ‘Beyond The Call’ both in the same positive vein.
Valentine’s Day in mind, KATHERINE PRIDDY offers up a rather lovely, hushedly sung digitally released cover of the late Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’, her fingerpicked acoustic guitar with a string arrangement sounding like pedal steel from Harry Fausing Smith.
Our very own JODIE “SHEBEAT” SCHOFIELD has a new single, ‘Believe’, a bouncy upbeat song about living your dream. It was written before the current crisis but it speaks a truth even in these difficult times. As she points out you can easily make a difference: “love your neighbour, don’t be a stranger” will improve somebody’s life.
Her first new material since the release of her debut album in 2018, KITTY MACFARLANE’s terrific self-released new single, ‘Half Wild’ was – commissioned as a soundtrack to a film for contemporary ballet and folk music organisation Ballet Folk. Taking inspiration from the changing moods of the sea, it’s etched out on simple piano notes, percussion emulating crashing waves as it ebbs and flows as, calling on metaphor, she compares herself to the salt sea, “Half mighty, half mild…Half steady, half wild …Half of me is a woman/And the other’s still a child”.
Put together a trio of BROOKS WILLIAMS, FINDLAY NAPIER, BOO HEWERDINE and KRIS DREVER and you really have to listen. They have a new single, a cover of Paul Metser’s ‘Farewell To The Gold’, which is simply magnificent. Brooks has been undertaking a number of virtual collaborations recently but he also has a new solo single, ‘Winter Moon’. This is a new version of an old song featuring an introduction on Brooks’ slide guitar with Aaron Catlow and Lukas Drinkwater on fiddle and double bass respectively. The song centres on the belief that a halo around the winter moon means more snow is on the way.
’14 Albion Street’ is an imaginative new digital single by JACOB & DRINKWATER. It helps if you know that it refers to The Albion Hotel which saw many famous characters pass through its doors. But which one? Broadstairs? Edinburgh? Give us a hint, chaps. It’s fairly certain that Boadicea didn’t actually stay there and neither did Robin Hood but among the names dropped are Byron, Tolkien, Nelson and Sir Patrick Spens. You can believe what you wish – hopefully not too much – but the song is a lyrical tour de force.
JACK BADCOCK gets into soulful jazzy vibe for the organ-backed ‘Entropy’, the first taster of his forthcoming EP, The Driftwood Project, that sees him expanding his musical palette. An early warm, chill-out summer haze that finds beauty in impermanence, it features Loic Guenneguez on trumpet, Pablo Lafuente on shaker. Rachel Lightbody, Cariss Crosbie and Emilie Boyd on backing vocals and Gus Stirrat laying down the cool bass line.
In advance of their upcoming album, Calla Lily, THE BROTHER BROTHERS release a new single, the appropriately titled ‘Sorrow’. The boys’ harmonies rise above grumbling bass and guitar as they tell the story of lost love.
BRÍDÍN is a traditional harper and singer from Co. Sligo and is the fourth generation of her family to play traditional Irish music. Her new single, ‘Floating’, taken from a forthcoming EP sounds remarkably modern with percussion and crashing chords leading the way to voice and harp.
ERVIN STELLAR, aka Andrew Jordan, has a new EP dropping next month and leads us there with a single, ‘Love Is Love’. Superficially it’s all cowboy country with big guitars and drums, a rolling bass-line and Dylanesque harmonica but it has something that will draw you back for another listen.
We’re not going to make a habit of this but following on from his new album DAVID A HARLEY releases a digital single, ‘One Step Away (From The Blues)’. The lyrically clever song comes from an unreleased album recorded thirty-some years ago and freshly remixed. Never throw anything away.