SINGLES BAR 47 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 47We’ll leave Christmas until later if you don’t mind. Belle Of The Ball is the debut solo recording by AINSLEY HAMILL of Fourth Moon and Barluath. She has an amazing cast of supporters including Graham Coe, Lucy, Evan Carson and Toby Shaer but what jumps out at you is that voice. She begins with the traditional ‘Latha Dhomh ‘s Buain a’ Choirce’ – a powerful but still authentic rendering over an insistent beat.. Butter wouldn’t melt.  Then comes the title track. The instruments are mostly traditional and acoustic but Ainsley sings in a dark, smoky, bluesy voice. Where did that come from? ‘Runaways’, a delightfully hedonistic song, is performed in the same style and then it’s back to the traditional ‘Ailein Duinn’ with Ainsley keeping to the lower end of her register.. Finally we have the country-tinged ‘The Green Woods Back Home’, different again and a cracking song to wrap things up with.
www.ainsleyhamill.com

Singles Bar 47THE PEOPLE VERSUS are a five-piece from Oxford who describe themselves as chamber pop but that could be a cover for posh folk-rock. The band spun off from Full Fathom Five and Ground Opening is their debut record – although they do a nice line in T-shirts as well. The EP opens with the double-header of ‘Like I’m Lonely/Driftwood’, built on a very basic drum-beat, possibly a loop, but ‘Driftwood’ gives the drummer more to do. ‘Ground Opening’ is also based on idiosyncratic percussion. Finally we have ‘Sea Monster (Charybdis)’ – you expect a touch of the classics from Oxford. The People don’t tell us much about themselves but we do know that the singer’s name is Alice and that she is blessed with a brilliantly flexible voice.
https://www.thepeopleversusmusic.com/

JAKE AARON certainly isn’t in a festive mood (good on you, Aaron) with ‘Here’s The Thing’. The thing is that he thinks we’re sinking and he could well be right. Jake has a nicely laconic delivery over a ringing acoustic guitar and a nice line in irony as he sings “here’s a song of hope and glory”.
https://jakeaaron.com/

In the spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men DUSTY WRIGHT released ‘The Book Of Tears’ in the wake of the epidemic of mass murders in the USA this year. Americana with a soul-tinged chorus, this is a fine song that deserves a wide hearing. “Who has read the book of tears?” That’s just one of the questions he poses.
www.dustywright.com

Northern Irish singer-songwriter AARON SHANLEY released ‘A Decent Apology’ just too late for last month’s post. As a post break-up song it’s one of the best. “I still don’t love you, I’m never going to. But I owe you a decent apology.” An EP is in the works.
http://www.facebook.com/aaronshanley

Grungy as you could wish for, SMOKE FAIRIES release ‘Elevator’ in advance of their new album, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, to be released early next year. You won’t be surprised to learn that the album and this track were recorded in Seattle.
https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies

Also grungy are THE ROQUES. Their single, ‘Valdivian’ begins with growling bass under strange drones and doesn’t really fit our remit but it exerts a certain compulsion. They look far too young to be having such dark thoughts.
https://www.facebook.com/theroquesmusic/

VARO are a traditional duo from Dublin who will release their debut album in the new year.  In the meantime they tempt us with their first single, ‘Sovay’ built on fiddle and drones supporting their close harmonies. Actually, Lucie Azconaga is French and Consuelo Nerea Breschi is Italian and their sound is more earthy than ethereal.
https://www.facebook.com/Varo.Dublin/

Christmas is still a way away for SERIOUS CHILD on ‘Brambles’. “Brambles will grow where bad people go to do unspeakable things” is the key phrase for the song is inspired by the work of forensic botanist, Mark Spencer. Can’t you just feel a TV series coming on? Alan Young, to give him his real name, occupies the same sort of musical and lyrical territory as Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Spooky but fascinating.
https://www.facebook.com/SeriousChildMusic/

A final festive flurry of singles heads up with SIOBHAN MILLER and her self-released ‘At This Time Of Year’, a piano ballad bedecked with lush woodwind and strings that offers a simple message about missing those you can’t be with at this time of the year and sending them your best wishes.
https://www.siobhanmiller.com/

The same sentiment can be found on the equally strings enrobed ‘Golden Christmas Time’ (Self-released), from TOBIAH, a song poignantly inspired by thoughts of absent friends and specifically the loss of her husband early into their marriage as she sings “See the dress I’ll wear tonight/Like the one you left for me/Placed beneath the Christmas tree”.
https://www.tobiah.co.uk/

Taking a somewhat different tack, strumming an acoustic guitar, one of Nashville’s few Asian country artists, GABE LEE offers up ‘Christmas Day’ (Self-released), described as a “sad and sarcastic” juxtaposition of the Hallmark seasonal schmaltz with the cold, harsh nature of winter in a song about a man on the run, hiding from the law as he sings “It’s been a long, long lonely winter / It’s been a cold, hard-livin’ couple years / And it kills me to say they’re gonna lock me away / And it don’t look like I’ll be home by Christmas day”.
https://www.facebook.com/gabeleetn/

Taking an equally less cheery approach, alt-folk trio THICKETS offer the slow waltzing, icy auto harp tinkling ‘A Winter’s Warning’ (Self-released), a song that began life as an attempt a carol and ended up a murder ballad with Rebecca Lavery offering the ethereal vocal and Emma Hamilton providing the wintery harmonies.
http://www.thickets.co.uk/

Keeping it downcast, from Sweden comes SOFIA TALVIK riding on the ominous rhythms of ‘Christmas Train’ (Makaki Music), a free download from her Bandcamp site that, in keeping with her previous holiday releases, harks to the darker side with a modern take on the legend of Krampus, Santa’s evil counterpart, who most decidedly is not bringing joy and presents, here embodied in a train rolling down the track to steal dreams and lives.
https://sofiatalvik.com/

Also from Sweden is BUFORD POPE telling is ‘What Christmas Ain’t’ (Unchained), a bluesy alt-country strum in which he recounts a kid preparing for Christmas with his sister and parents and then turning to a theme about those left homeless on the streets in the holiday season.
http://bufordpope.com/

A social conscience is also at the heart of the acoustic chime of ‘Stars’ (Fretsore), a reflective new single by Scotland’s JACK HENDERSON which, opening borrowing from The Tempest’s line about we are such stuff that dreams are made on, responds to the divisiveness in today’s world with a song that, contemplating the origins of life, talks of how, in matters of substance, we are essentially the same. And that, as he puts it, there is “a real sense in which our personal stories have contributed to our collective human story”. Which, I guess, is really what Christmas is about.
http://jackhenderson.co.uk/

What Christmas is about is at the heart of ‘Heart Of Mine’ by LADY NADE. The song is for her grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. You have to imagine what this time of year can be like for sufferers – routine is destroyed, strangers are all around and there is noise and bustle everywhere. Lady Nade simply says, “I won’t let you down”.
www.ladynade.co.uk

‘It’s Not That Cold Anymore’ also contemplates the problem of loneliness at a time when we’re supposed to be happy. YVONNE McDONNELL’s single is a lavishly arranged ode to nostalgia and lost loves. Add it to your Christmas mix-tape.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/yvonne-mcdonnell

SINGLES BAR 46 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 46Swiss-based BLACK SEA DAHU’s new EP, No Fire In The Sand, conjures the ghostly sound of Mediterranean waves that carry the swell of spooky folk-rock music.  BSD’s music has been described as “songs that Eurydice sadly sang in the aftermath of Orpheus’ forbidden glance”. These songs are ancient echoes still lingering in very modern memories. Magical music never ages.

‘Rhizone’ and ‘Thaw’ stretch with acoustic beauty, as a subdued guitar, keyboard, and percussion frame Janine Cathrein’s melancholic magnetic vocal. Comparisons can be made with The Dead Can Dance. This music sings with a haunted soul.

The title track dives even deeper in Stygian darkness. It’s a lonely soul of a song, yet the melody shimmers with brief moonlight. Again, the tune builds slow momentum with double-tracked voices, quelled percussion, keyboards, and a patient electric guitar that plucks silence into a strange lullaby.

The seven minute-plus ‘Demian’ begins with a simple guitar and Janine’s voice. The song gets electric and percussive. But it’s still a dreamy dance. By mid-song, the deep web of instruments simply bounces with dark mantric soul.

Finally, ‘How You Swallowed Your Anger’ has a slow acoustic and psychological pulse. An accordion is added to the mix. Words drip like Salvador Dali’s surreal time. And the melody quietly spins in a ghostly dance and then dissolves into a run-off groove filled with memories that come and go, like the ageless Mediterranean tide that flows through the music of Black Sea Dahu.
https://www.blackseadahu.com/

Singles Bar 46Originally one half of American folk-rock duo The Story alongside Jennifer Kimball, JONATHA BROOKE has been around for quite a while, working as both a solo artist and in tandem with names that range from Katy Perry to Patty Larkin, nothing up ten studio albums, including a collection of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. The Imposter (Bad Dog Records) is her first new material in three years, a five track EP opening with the swaggering title song, pizzicato violins, accordion and tuba giving a gypsy jazz feel, a lyrical spin on the emperor’s new clothes that harks to artists’ nagging doubts that what they do is a waste of time and that they’re a “Liar, Loser, Phony/No one ever says so, but I know it’s true/Poser, lightweight, cheapskate/The wanna be, the woe is me”.

That creative mind swing between confidence and uncertainty veins the EP, with the brass-brushed bluesy speak-sing slink of ‘Fire’ declaring “I’m in the ring, and I’m a knockout, so watch out” and “I’m not shutting up/Until you agree that I’m extraordinary” while’ on the woodwind and cello-coloured, relationship-based ‘Twilight’ she sings “I love you, not perfectly, not well/But I love you, and I’m leaving soon, so fare thee well”. Set to a shimmering show tune pop arrangement, ‘Revenge’ is basically about how things come back to bite you (“My best laid plans played a killer last hand on me/And you got the last laugh”) but then she again switches it around with “I’m nothing if not resourceful/I’m flexible in a pinch/I’ve got this, I can top this. It’s a cinch”.

It ends with the moody piano, flute and classical string quartet ballad ‘True To You’, a simple hymnal (“How much will it cost, Lord?/I will bear this cross, Lord/I will walk through the night/Through the valley I’ll fight/But must I be alone, Lord/To be true to you?”) that sounds like it should be a dimmed lights showstopper in some Broadway musical, a reminder, of course that she wrote her own musical theatre piece, My Mother Has 4 Noses, about caring for her mother in the last stages of dementia. Brooke has no need to question her artistic worth or integrity, she’s the real thing and when she sings “I’ll be parading high fives on the way outta here”, you can’t help but agree she fully deserves to.
https://jonathabrooke.com/

MARISA JACK & DAVY are Marisa Straccia, Jack Sharp and Davy Willis a somewhat diverse trio. They got together in Bedford a few years ago to play at the events they were promoting and have been honing their craft since then. They have been praised by Nicola Keary and Jinwoo and have been dubbed “earthy” and “weird” but in reality they are just approaching the songs in their own way.

Their debut EP is Bring Us In and consists of five traditional songs and one from the celebrated Kipling and Bellamy songwriting partnership. The set opens with ‘Bring Us In Good Ale’ taken at a stately pace with just enough reverb on the verses to suggest monks processing through their cloisters. They maintain that feel as their arrangement of ‘Bushes & Briars’ will put you in mind of a mediæval bard. ‘Nottamun Town’ is a bit weird, you know, and Marisa Jack & Davy emphasise the strangeness of the lyrical contradictions. This is the full version of the song pretty much as recorded by Jean Ritchie.

‘Oak & Ash & Thorn’ comes from Kipling’s mystical period and is also a bit weird and this reading does nothing to negate that. ‘The Sun Rises Bright In France’ is a song of longing and ‘Bows Of London’ is one of best version of the ‘Two Sisters’ story. Whatever happens, Marisa Jack & Davy should be huge before too long.
www.marisajackanddavy.com

Singles Bar 46An early Christmas arrival comes from THE MINING Co. with Three Kings (PinDrop), wherein Michael Gallagher offers up five festive treats in his quest to recapture his own memories of Christmases past and a more recent one spent in Spain. Recorded in Andalucia with producer Paco Loco who also contributes Spanish guitar on two tracks.

The first parcel under the tree is the banjo and strings accompanied ‘Long Way To Christmas’ which would seem to draw on Jona Lewie influences  and a Roy Wood kiddies chorus,  followed by the dreamy and smooth Johnny Mathis tones (and Glen Campbell colours) of  ‘Christmas No 1’ (with, yes, sleigh bells). Military snare (a la ‘Little Drummer Boy’) provides the tinsel on ‘Wild Gift’ (from where the album’s Biblical reference title comes), the final trimmings being the Latino samba sway of ‘Ghost Writer’, where his voice finds its deeper range, and the childhood nostalgia of ‘Holloway’, with its picked Spanish guitar and muted rumble of drums, when “every morning was Christmas Day”. One for your Santa wish list, I think.
https://www.facebook.com/theminingcoband/

Singles Bar 46GLORIOUS LEADER’s ‘Borderline’ is the first single from the up-coming EP My Kingdom, which is a wonderful collection of ethereal songs that walk in the acoustic footsteps of the human heart.  Kyle Woolard is the one-man talent here. He’s on leave from the very fine band The Anatomy of Frank, whose album South America was described as “a melodic folk-rock masterpiece.

This solo record travels into intense personal soil; yet as Walt Whitman wrote, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”. So, these songs resonate as a totem for sensitive folks who enjoy a really nice melody. That first song, ‘Borderline’, sings, “I guess we’re all trying to make it work”. That sort of sums up modern life.

As reference points, imagine music filled with the intense quietude of Paul Simon’s ‘Duncan’, Magna Carta’s ‘Living In The Land Of Ulysses’, and the entirety of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.

The rest of the songs echo that gentle melodic pulse. ‘Onism’ has a passionate and irresistible chorus (with great handclaps!). ‘Sweet Louisa’ brings a ukulele, strings, and heavenly harmonies. ’Kyla’ is strummed and slow, and it dances with a few electronic sounds. ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ has David Crosby’s ‘Guinevere’ depth. This tune has “green eyes”.

The final song, ‘Half Alive’, is confessional stuff. And it has a hymn-like quality that plucks, with that darn ukulele, some sort of vague hope for a better tomorrow. And that’s a really decent song for any record to sing.
https://ohgloriousleader.bandcamp.com/releases

Singles Bar 46Birmingham songstress KATHERINE PRIDDY follows-up her well-received debut EP Wolf, which sold out three pressings,  with a limited edition single ‘Letters From A Travelling Man’ (Static Caravan),  an upbeat, frisky Americana-styled number that takes its inspiration from her experiences of living on the road and the struggles of trying to maintain relationships alongside an unsettled lifestyle.  Paired with  the softer  slower strummed ‘Come and Go’ , a yearning for a  place to call home but  acceptance that everything must inevitably pass, where she duets  with Northern folk singer-songwriter George Boomsma, it’s released digitally as well as a limited run of collectable coloured vinyl alongside a postcard urging the listener to rediscover the lost art of letter-writing.
https://www.facebook.com/KatherinePriddy/

Singles Bar 46NAVARO release the first single from their forthcoming album. ‘The Fall’, written by Pete White, is described as an “autumnal hymn” and is simply built around acoustic guitar and keyboards with the band’s signature harmonies.
http://navaromusic.co.uk/

Singles Bar 46THE MAGPIES were originally formed in York in 2017 as a duo of Bella Gaffney and mandolinist Polly Bolton, expanding to become a quartet in 2018 with the addition of cellist Sarah Smout and fiddler Holly Brandon. Drawing on shared and individual influences to create a fusion of Celtic and bluegrass folk, they have a debut album arriving shortly, preceded by the gently flowing download newgrass single ‘Run, River Run’, written by Ganney and originally featured on Bella and Polly’s own self-titled EP, here given extra colour with fiddle and cello.
https://www.themagpiesmusic.com/

Singles Bar 46With Brexit in mind, BEANS ON TOAST released his single, ‘England, I Love You’, on October 31st.  It’s full of his familiar biting wit paired with a jolly tune and “patriotic” brass. The song is taken from his forthcoming album, The Inevitable Train Wreck which you will buy if you know what’s good for you.
https://beansontoastmusic.com/

Singles Bar 46ANNIE DRESSNER has a new self-released album due early 2020, meanwhile she has a taster single in ‘Nyack’, a simply fingerpicked, brushed snares shuffle named for the Orangetown village in Rockland County, New York, a song about memories, her childhood, her brother and leavings.
http://www.anniedressner.com/

Siingles Bar 46DUSTY WRIGHT dedicates his acoustic version of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ to the world’s climate change warriors. It’s from his forthcoming album Can Anybody Hear Me? and despite its Dylanish harmonica it ‘s actually rather polite. You can hear all the words, though, possibly for the first time.
https://dustywright.com/

Singles Bar 46Israeli singer/songwriter MARBL has a new single, ‘The First Day Of The Rain’. It’s piano driven and drenched with strings and is rather lovely. We’re told that she’s into supporting abandoned animals but that’s not coming over here.
https://www.marblmusic.com/

Singles Bar 46‘Battle Ready’ is the single taster and title track from the new EP by Manchester’s JOHN TILLER. It’s a powerful song with solid drums and ringing guitar. Americana but with a British twist.
https://johntiller.bandcamp.com/music

Singles Bar 46

DARWIN’S DAUGHTER also gets into the festive spirit with ‘Snow Angels In The Rain’  (self-released), her first and last release of 2019, a gently lovely cello and fiddle-sprinkled ballad about transience that comes with a Christmas Edit which replaces the xylophone at the end with jingle bells. Ahh, bless.
https://www.facebook.com/darwinsdaughter/