SINGLES BAR 40 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 40EDDI READER releases a new EP, Starlight (Reveal) which lifts the title track and ‘My Favourite Dress’ from her recent Cavalier album and adds three hitherto unavailable covers from the same sessions.

First up, featuring assorted friends and relative son backing vocals, is James Grant’s ‘Scarecrow Song’, a slow waltz lament of an old soldier, home from the wars with no sense of purpose and no welcome. Grant plays guitar on both that and John Douglas’s jauntier waltztime honky tonker ‘No Reply Dot Com’ with John McCusker on fiddle and John Douglas on ukulele. The third stays in waltz mode, but slows it down again for ‘Build High, Build Wide (In Contempt)’, a new musical setting of a folk song by the poet Aaron Kramer and Betty Sander written in protest to the jailings by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee.
http://eddireader.co.uk/

Singles Bar 40JOHN MOSEDALE says he spent “half a lifetime chasing the dream” in other areas of the business before an encounter with Richard Digance set him on the route to acoustic music.  Twenty Seven is his debut EP. Nothing is overworked and the songs are gentle or gently humorous like ‘My Dog Has 3 Balls’. ‘The Old Man In The Mirror’ is a reflection on aging and the fact that John has begun a new life in his mid-fifties, a theme continued in ‘The River Of Life’. ‘Four Left Feet’ is a charming, if perhaps slightly dated, portrayal of youthful romance and the title track is the first song John that wrote and is one he always finishes his set with. This version was recorded live at Bromsgrove Folk Club.
www.johnmosedale.com

Singles Bar 40Out at the start of May, BEN MORGAN-BROWN self-releases his fourth EP, Nameless Gold, recorded live in the studio on a January morning, all first takes with no edits or overdubs, and featuring three songs and two instrumentals.

One of these is the opener, ‘Windowsills’, a reflective fingerpicked open-tuned number that sets the mood for what follows. The title track continues the mood weaves memories inspired by Ben’s wedding ring, recast using gold from his late father’s, and traces an emotional legacy and heritage from father to son.

Looking back on the past, and how quickly a decade can fly, is also at the heart of ‘Ten Years Passing’, is a lively upbeat circling melody fingerstyle blues that recalls a summer spent living in a caravan, listening to folk music, teaching himself guitar selling fudge and ice-cream and working in the country’s largest bookstore in Piccadilly Circus, the song musing on how the experiences we have shape who we become.

The tempo shifting between slow and frisky, the second instrumental, the fingerpicked ‘Let A Sleeping Dog Lie Pts 1 & 2’, was the only piece of music that Ben’s young rescue Border Collie Jake would settle down to, clearly showing how canines can have great musical taste. It ends with another fingerpicked circling melody number about the passing of time, ‘Only So Young’, inspired by two photographs of his father, one of him holding Ben the day he was born, the other of the two side-by-side shortly before he died, as, punctuated by whoo-hoos, he softly sings of not letting life can pass you by while you wait for it to happen.
https://benmorganbrown.co.uk/

Live At St GilesLive At St Giles is the new EP from the remarkable BRICKWORK LIZARDS who blend middle-eastern sounds with a love of pre-war jazz. ‘Nikriz Longa’ is definitely in the former category with Tarik Beshir’s oud to the fore before Stephen Preston’s trumpet muscles its way in. ‘I Want To Spend The Night With You’ takes us back to the thirties with four close-harmony voices, that distinctive percussion sound and Preston’s trumpet again. ‘Roses’ requires a singer in a white dinner suit while ‘Sama’i Waltz’ takes us eastwards again – an swirling eight-minute epic featuring improvised lyrics by Beshir.
www.brickworklizards.com

Boat To RowBirmingham’s BOAT TO ROW offer a second taster of forthcoming album Rivers That Flow In Circles with ‘On Your Own’, further indication of their journeying into new, unexplored territories. A gorgeous, summery sound with breezy guitars and brass flourishes, as well as backing vocals from Katherine Priddy, it conjures the heady days of 70s Laurel Canyon and the SoCal sounds of Joni, James, CS&N and Seals & Croft.
https://www.boattorow.com/

SiveWe enjoyed ‘Holding’, he last single by Irish singer-songwriter SIVE. It reappears on her eponymous EP but gives ‘Quietly’ the honour of opening the show. Sive has an MA in community music with a special interest in healthcare which emerges in ‘Do It All The Time’, possibly the best song in the set. Sive keeps her public and private lives separate but we do know that she already has two albums to her credit.
http://www.sivemusic.com/

SkylarkAs a prelude to his new album, Songs From Aurora, DAVE FIDLER releases a single of the radio edit and the full album version of ‘Skylark’. It’s an upbeat song featuring finger-picked guitar and just a hint of slide. “The skylark only calls when it’s climbing” is the take-home message and it seems very appropriate for these troubled times.
http://www.davefidler.com/

One More DayCo-written with Jules Fox Allen and arranged for acoustic guitar and violin, MARINA FLORANCE releases ‘One More Day’ (Folkstock), a yearningly simple, heartfelt song of regret at not saying what you feel or doing what you want and then finding it too late.
https://www.marinaflorance.com/

Ultan ConlonWritten over Christmas, which probably explains the festive sway feel to the melody, Ulsterman ULTAN CONLON offers up ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’ (DarkSideOut), which, conjuring familiar mainstream Irish country singalongs, offers encouragement that, whatever trials and tribulations beset us, we will all ultimately recover.
www.ultanconlon.com

Learn To GrowYou’d think that butter wouldn’t melt in IZZY DERRY’s mouth then you hear her sing! ‘Learn To Grow’ is her new single – a taster for her new EP. It’s a pounding slab of folk(ish)-rock with thumping drums, singing electric guitar, bass and piano and a huge voice. This woman will be a star.
http://izziederry.com/

Dance The Hempen JigThe upbeat melody that TIMOTHY HOAD has written seems inappropriate for a title like ‘Dance The Hempen Jig’ but this is a song of survival not a man’s sorry end. “I was never one to dance the hempen jig” emerges as the defiant message after the instrumental break – just keep on going.
https://www.facebook.com/timothyhoadmusic/?ref=page_internal

Field medicFIELD MEDIC (aka Kevin Patrick from Los Angeles) releases ‘The Bottle’s My Lover, She’s Just My Friend’ from his new album Fade Into The Dawn. He backs a suitably cracked vocal performance with a lazy strummed guitar and some rather intriguing sounds in the background. We’ll be reviewing the album very soon.
https://fieldmedic.bandcamp.com/

Chloe FoyOh you are not well, you cannot string your thoughts together” are the opening lines of CHLOE FOY’s new single ‘Oh, You Are Not Well’. Here in the editorial catacombs we know the feeling. Chloe is building quite a name for herself and this richly orchestrated song can do her nothing but good.
https://chloefoy.com/

RatsoAuthor, actor and musician Larry “RATSO” Sloman steps into the limelight at the age of 70 with an album, Stubborn Heart, and a single, ‘Our Lady Of Light’ which features Nick Cave. There’s a lot of Leonard Cohen and a hint of Dr. John about this song, which is more than enough to make you investigate the long player.
http://www.ratso.org/

A Choir Of Ghosts‘Southwest Of The Moon’ is the new single by A CHOIR OF GHOSTS from his debut album, An Ounce Of Gold. He is probably Swedish and there is only one of him but there is very little else we can tell you that makes much sense. It’s a good song, though, and you can watch the video at…
http://www.achoirofghosts.com/

More artists revealed for Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2019

Shrewsbury Folk Festival has added a host of new acts to its line up as organisers reveal ticket sales are already surpassing 2018 levels.

Renowned singer songwriter Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders will make a return with a special show featuring the Hi Riders Soul Revue. Scottish supergroup Capercaillie and American trio Birds Of Chicago are also new to the bill of the four-day festival that takes place at the West Mid Showground from August 23 to 26.

This year’s festival will feature a special day of programming on the festival’s Pengwern Stage by duo Chris While and Julie Matthews to celebrate 25 years of their musical relationship. They have chosen Blair Dunlop, Burden Of Paradise, singer songwriter Charlie Dore and former Fairground Attraction lead singer Eddi Reader to perform on Sunday August 25, which will be topped off with a show by the While & Matthews Big Band.

Other new artists signed up included Áine Tyrrell, AKA Trio, Boxwood Chessmen and the Exmouth Shanty Men. Dance groups confirmed so far are Whapweasel, the John Spiers Ceilidh Band and Relentless. There will also be performances from the Corryvrechan Scottish Dance Display Team.

Already announced for the 2019 event were Kate Rusby, Oysterband, Martyn Joseph, Daphne’s Flight, Skerryvore, Daphne’s Flight, Gary Stewart’s Graceland, Phil Beer Band, Steve Knightley, Merry Hell, Edgelarks, Grace Petrie and many more.

The festival’s first tier of adult weekend tickets sold out in less than five minutes after they went on sale on December 1. It is now selling weekend tickets at its third price tier. Day tickets are also available.

Festival Director Sandra Surtees said: “Last year our weekend tickets sold out a month before the festival and many people were disappointed they couldn’t come for all four days despite regular warnings that we were going to sell out.

“We have sold more to date in 2019 than we had by the same time last year so, as ever, our advice is to book as early as possible. There’s so much more than just music for people to enjoy including dances, music and other workshops, great food and drink and a brilliant atmosphere!”

The festival, now regarded as one of the most popular UK folk events, has four main music stages, a dance tent with a programme including ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, workshops, craft fair, food village, real ale, cocktail and gin bars and on-site camping and glamping. There are also fringe events at local pubs with dance displays in the town centre and a parade through the streets on the Saturday afternoon.

Weekend and day tickets can be booked at  www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.

MIKE SPONZA – Made In The Sixties (EPOPS Music EPPS 1804)

Made In The SixtiesMike Sponza is a bluesman with a sense of adventure, some impressive collaborators and a great feel for his work. Made in the Sixties was released in the UK on November 23rd and is bold, if not audacious, in what it does.

The album has ten songs, one for each year of the sixties. Given the iconic status the decade has in both our wider cultural life and in the development of sophisticated modern music, this is some challenge. That the album pulls it off is even better. The first track ‘1960 – Made In The Sixties’ opens with drum and brass and the lyric “It was a great time for beginning” and the album closes with ‘1969 Blues For The Sixties’ in the video link below and the ending lyric, “I’m looking at my life/I see the sixties everywhere”. For all ten tracks I’ve been hooked.

Conceptually the album takes us through the decade good and bad “On the one hand the glamour and swing, and on the other, the dark and problematic side” is how Sponza describes his album. He covers the darkness of the Cuban missile crisis on ‘1962 – A Young Londoners Point Of View On Cuban Crisis’ “we didn’t even know in the far off days/Just how close it came to cancel our best decade” and JFK’s death on ‘1963 – Day Of The Assassin’; by contrast, he merges many images of the sexy sixties, most obviously a cartoon of Honey Rider on the CD and the name of Pussy Galore on the title of ‘1964 – Glamour Puss’, someone for whom “all the traffic halts”; the summer of love is treated to a Dana Gillespie vocal on ‘1967 – Good Lovin’’.

Musically the album works by keeping to a consistent style (it could have developed from, say, simple blues in 1960 to sophisticated blues in 1969 in line with the decade’s musical growth) which references the later years of the sixties – that intensely creative period, post-Revolver, Disraeli Gears, Are You Experienced et al when blues drove rock forward and combined with soul, jazz, gospel, Latin influences to move us from the black and white of early rock and roll to a more colourful soundscape as music paralleled the development of visual media.

Lyrically it’s also subtle and equivocal, the sixties are seen as both dark and glamorous. Dylan’s influence is referenced not just for his impact on lyrics but his wider musical development on ‘1965 – Even Dylan Was Turning Electric’. This is another lovely song with Eddi Reader providing vocals on a track that has an arrangement that brings to mind some of Joe Cocker’s best.

Made In The Sixties is an album I’ve really enjoyed listening to. Joe Cass’s production alludes to the style of the sixties and the tracks would grace any soundtrack from the era – just look at the video below: big house, white sports car, mini dress, shades, retro mic, 7” single, alcohol as sophistication – but this is a modern blues-based album with Sponza taking us through the decade in music which is simultaneously refined and just great fun to listen to.

Mike Wistow

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‘1969 – Blues For The Sixties’ – official video:

SIOBHAN MILLER – Mercury (Songprint Recordings SPR002CD)

MercuryTo be brutally honest, if this were Siobhan Miller’s first album and I was listening cold I probably wouldn’t have got past the first three tracks. I loved Strata – it was the perfect blend of new and old, of traditional songs and covers – but Mercury is pop music, well made and sophisticated, true, but pop music nevertheless. All the songs are originals, some written with Euan Burton, Louis Abbott and Kris Drever, performed with a fashionably modern band, embellished with violins and brass.

I’ll temper my criticism a little. The third track, ‘Strandline’ attracted my attention and the fourth, ‘The Western Edge’ is excellent. I hoped, at that point, that Siobhan had turned her back on foolish notions but, sadly, I was disappointed. A major problem is the absence of lyrics: they are not printed on the cover and, although we’re promised them on Siobhan’s website they are nowhere to be found. With everything that is going on around her musically, they are essential. Even the star guests like Eddi Reader and Kris Drever are lost in the wall of sound that Burton, Abbott and Iain Hutchinson generate.

The title track, which opens the album, actually sounds rather interesting on subsequent listenings – I can make out something about picket lines and throwing stones but it’s lost. The second track, ‘Sorrow When The Day Is Done’, is a nicely upbeat song but the combination of Abbott’s drums and John Lowrie’s piano overwhelms it. It’s rather like an episode of Masterchef – I can appreciate the skill and see the ideas going into the dish but there are far too many of them and the finished article is unpalatable.

I am so disappointed with Mercury. Come back to us, Siobhan, please.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.siobhanmiller.com

‘Mercury’ – lyric video:

EDDI READER – Cavalier (Reveal 077CDX)

CavalierForty years into her career, Reader’s 11th solo studio album, Cavalier, continues the recent trend of mixing original and traditional material with, naturally, something from Robert Burns.

Recorded in Glasgow and co-produced with husband John Douglas, and featuring a plethora of musicians, Boo Hewardine, John McCusker, Siobhan Miller, Phil Cunningham and Michael McGoldrick among then, it opens on a traditional note with the gently waltzing Irish tune ‘Maiden’s Lament (An Charraig Donn)’, with whistles, Martin Kershaw’s clarinet and Miller and Annie Grace on backing. The first of the original numbers comes with the poppy Douglas co-penned ‘Wonderful’, a song about learning to let go of trying to control your children’s lives as they transition to adults, the collaboration (along with Simon Dine) also providing the hushed slow waltzer ‘My Favourite Dress’, a nostalgic song reminding how short life is, written for his aunt Mary, in care and suffering from dementia.

It’s Douglas who provides the equally poppy, R&B brass-embellished uptempo title track about sharing the load, his other credits including the slower sway of ‘Fishing’, a number about learning that troubles always pass, even rainy evening, and the following ‘Maid O’The Loch’, a number written as a fundraiser to refurbish the titular boat that takes tourists around Loch Lomond. He also shares a co-write with Phil Cunningham on the gradually swelling ‘A Sailor’s Farewell To The Sea’, the latter putting words to the latter’s Christmassy instrumental and featuring both brass ensemble and accordion.

Hewardine provides two numbers, the first being the 50s-like jazzy shimmering, brushed drums, clarinet and brass-kissed ‘Starlight’ (to which Reader added a final verse), given a Mills Brothers-styled arrangement. The other, ‘Old Song’, takes on a very Scottish waltzing feel courtesy of Alan Kelly’s accordion, a romantic hymn to how music can touch memories and lift hearts.

Turning to Reader’s solo material, coloured by whistles and accordion, ‘There’s A Whole In The Desert Dear Darling’ is a swaylong waltzing lullaby of sorts written in memory of Milou Bedssa, a close friend from her teens who had recently passed away. The other is the album’s penultimate track, the lovely, ukulele-accompanied, percussion rippling ‘Go Wisely’, another song for the kids, both a benediction as they embark on their own lives and a reminder that phone calls don’t cost a lot.

Which just leaves the other traditional numbers. Given a rolling and tumbling Celtic rhythm, ‘Meg O’The Glen’ takes its lyrics from two 18th century poems by Paisley’s Robert Tannahill telling the tale of a lass of low fortune being forced to marry a rich old man she didn’t want, song seguing into an instrumental coda of Jerry Holland’s ‘Brenda Stubbert’s Reel’.

Found among songbooks during a late relative’s house clearance, picked out on the harmonium inherited at the same time, ‘Deirdre’s Farewell To Scotland’ is based on the Celtic myth ‘Deirdra Of The Sorrows’, about a pregnant Irish girl forced to seek sanctuary and the fate of her daughter, the story resonating with the contemporary refugee crisis.

Learned from a version by American jazz singer Kurt Elling, ‘The Loch Tay Boat Song’ is familiar number of love and leaving in the Scottish tradition, here given a laid back late night jazz arrangement for Steve Hamilton’s piano and dedicated to Davy Steele. It’s followed in lively fiddle-laced and wheezing accordion style by ‘Pangur Bán And The Primrose Lass’, a cocktail of an Irish poem about a cat hunting mike (the title translates as White Cat) that rolls into the instrumental interlude, a tune that apparently appeared on an early 70s Steeleye Span album as ‘The Primrose Lassie’, originally collected by Douglas’s great uncle, Irish song archivist Colm Keane. It features Monica Queen on harmonies, prompting thoughts that’s she’s long overdue an album of her own.

And so, Douglas on piano and McCusker on fiddle and whistle, it ends with another nod to her favourite Scottish songwriter, a four verse version of Burns’ classic ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’. She says she chose the album title to reflect how she’s feeling. The thesaurus defines it as offhand, high-handed or careless, but also, as a Caballero or a Quixotic figure. Long may she tilt at windmills.

Mike Davies

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‘Wonderful’ – official video:

Eddi Reader announces new album

Eddi Reader

Eddi Reader announces her brand new studio album Cavalier released worldwide on September 28 by Reveal Records.

Featuring sixteen songs, including recently performed live favourites ‘Wonderful’, ‘My Favourite Dress’, ‘Starlight’ and ‘Maiden’s Lament’, the new album was recorded and produced in Glasgow, Scotland by Eddi Reader and John Douglas.

Cavalier is a new creative peak in an already prestigious career, just under an hour of new music, incorporating both contemporary and traditional songs.

From the traditional to the contemporary, Eddi brings joyous life to all forms of song. Her taste in co-writers, writers, songs and players is impeccable and anything with her name on it is guaranteed musical treasure. Whilst the perfection of her technique is widely acknowledged, what sets Reader apart is the depth and quality of the emotional performance; her ability not only to move the listener but to connect her experience to that of her audience. Her passion and instinct move people in a way reminiscent of those who have influenced her work. Her rare blend of meltingly true vocals and towering romanticism combine with an astute and pragmatic nature to make her a unique and powerful figure in contemporary British music. She has effortlessly developed into one of popular music’s most thrilling and affecting performers.

Eddi is celebrating her 40th year as a live performer, a career which started in 1978 singing on Scottish country rock tours, then appearing on worldwide festival and concert hall stages with Gang Of Four and Fairground Attraction through the eighties and onto her own successful solo live career, which continues to this day.

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‘Wonderful’ – official video: