FINE LINES – Gaslight Roses (Parade PARCD009)

Gaslight RosesSix-piece Americana roots rockers from Cheshire, Gaslight Roses is Fine Lines’ second-full length album, co-produced by Merry Hell’s John Kettle (who also contributes guitar and bass) and band frontman David Boardman who writes the material, either solo or in tandem with drummer Mark Radcliffe (yes, the BBC one).

With its opening track, ‘On The Town’, the album sets up its stall on the backlot of radio friendly 70s alt-country in the manner of early Eagles, proceeding to encourage the tapping of toes and line-dancing with ‘Meet Me At Kiki’s’, Radcliffe laying down a steady beat, Boardman backed up by Emily Doggett’s fiddle and Zoe Blythe’s harmonies on the catchy chorus with Gary O’Brien providing the piano runs.

It takes a lot of balls to almost share the title of one of your songs with Kris Kristofferson, though they do add in the gs and a comma for ‘Sunday Morning, Coming Down’, but their five-minute plus slow paced, swelling bonds of brotherhood, day of reckoning piano ballad, O’Brien on Hammond and Chris Lee on pedal steel, pulls it off with aplomb.

The tempo kicks back up a notch again on another hooks-friendly number, ‘Sway’ before Blythe takes over lead on ‘Paradise (Here & Now)’ which opens on simple piano and fiddle before erupting into Celtic-infused driving folk rock.

In need of a breather, it’s back to a slow honky tonk sway as Boardman offers to ‘Buy The World A Drink’, pedal steel behind the bar as the piano player lubricates the emotional ache as, Blythe harmonising, he sings how “Sometimes I’m colourblind/Sometimes I just see red”.

Unexpectedly, the Rolling Stones put in an appearance with the Richards-riff bluesy swagger of ‘Begging You’, Blythe taking lead on a track that featured on last year’s Forget About You EP. The rock influences are also up front and in your face with ‘No Shangri La’, although here, surging on a driving organ and hammering drums, hey hark more to the legs-shaking sound of vintage rock n roll.

It’s sandwiched between the more laid back, organ-drenched country soulfulness of ‘You & I’ and, sung by Blythe accompanied by dobro, the simple bittersweet (“My money’s all gone/But my heart is not empty”) New Year’s Eve waltz of ‘Something About You’.

They play out on a similarly relaxed note with fiddle leading off ‘My Time Again’, another Celtic barroom sing and swayalong, ending with another EP track, the dance floor end of the night shuffle ‘Who Do You Love’ co-written with Craig White and with Ben Beer on piano.

Sometimes, faced with a deluge of releases from top line emergent Americana talent from the US and Canada, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the stars shining in our own backyard. This is an excellent reminder why we shouldn’t.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

‘On The Town’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 29 – a round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 29VIRGINIA KETTLE is one of Merry Hell’s front line as songwriter and singer and formerly a successful soloist around the clubs. This eponymous EP with The Dreamcatchers (who are not named but who look suspiciously familiar) is, we’re told, the precursor to a solo album. Her songs tend to be human stories, often with a twist, some of which scale up for the band but these would not.

‘The Butter Song’, which opens the set, begins with the brilliant lines “Ever considered someone like me to spread the butter on your bread” and is sung over hand percussion. ‘More Than This’ sees The Dreamcatchers joining in, initially gently pastoral then building up and finally slipping away. As I’ve come to expect the songs are clever; sometimes quirky like ‘Little Warm’ or deceptively deep like ‘Freedom (The Sweetest Taste)’. We’re looking forward to the album already.

A collaboration between Brighton songwriters, Rebecca Brandler and Scott Booth, PAPER HAWK make their debut with The Tide, a four track download EP via local label Folklore Sessions recorded in the living room of their flat. The opening track, ‘Trails’, a number about the death throes of a volatile relationship, is what you’d probably call psych-folk with whispery-sung ethereal, echoey vocals, shimmering keyboard swirls, understated drum beat and skitterings of guitars. It’s a mood sustained with the watery finger picked acoustic guitar work accompanying Booth’s vocals on the breathily-sung and rather positive and idealistic ‘The Fourteenth Floor’, clattering percussion and a thumping drum beat gathering for the instrumental play out.

Underscored by spare bass guitar notes and plucked acoustic guitar, ‘Northern Sky’ is another airy piece from Brandler and, largely down to producer Josh Trinnaman, again builds the soundscape towards the close. That bass drum thump also underpins the final number, ‘Written In The Lines’, an electronic ambience enfolding Booth’s hushed vocals on a song that bookends the EP by both returning to the theme of a relationship past its use by date and with the outro mirroring the opening wordless ululation on ‘Trails’. An impressive debut that leaves you wanting to hear what else they can do.

Forget About You is a new EP by FINE LINES, a duo founded by singer-songwriter David Boardman and vocalist Zoe Blyth with a cast of supporting musicians – Mark Radclffe has been known to turn out on drums with them. The lead track and ‘Feet Don’t Touch The Ground’ both come from last year’s album, Hour Of Need while ‘Who Do You Love?’ and ‘Begging You’ are new songs. Their sound is acoustic rock with a slight country edge that sometimes forgets that it is supposed to be acoustic but it’s classy stuff.

Book SongsANNE-MARIE SANDERSON is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – guitar, cello and clarinet are among her accomplishments. Book Songs Volume 1 is her third EP and it will presumably be followed by a second volume in time. The five songs here are all inspired by novels, authors including such literary giants as Ian McEwan and Doris Lessing. As befits such inspirations, the songs are musically and lyrically complex. ‘Haweswater’ covers the same ground as Mike Turnbull’s ‘Drowning Valley’ and is a particularly fine song. ‘Mara’s Song’ is even better and like ‘Poisonwood’ is set in Africa – two very different Africas actually – one in the distant future and the other in the mid twentieth century. Anne-Marie plays every note on this EP and has fine voice with a hint of wildness in it that many critics have worked hard to describe.

ShardsEVAN CARSON is the folk scene’s go-to percussion at the moment but now we learn that he is also a composer of no mean talent. ‘Shards’ is the first part of what is intended to be a musical story of his grandfather, George Ocipinski, who escaped from a labour camp and travelled west to join the French Resistance in time for the Normandy landings.

Lead vocals are by Georgia Lewis and the music is built up by the piano of Gleb Kolyadin, Karl James Pestka’s strings and Toby Shaer’s flutes. The nine-and-a-half minutes composition begins with the sound of the wind underneath glockenspiel or chimes – or possibly both – played by Evan himself. Then it rocks a bit with percussion that, to judge from the later lyrics, might be intended to imitate a train as George makes his escape. ‘Shards’ is a dramatic piece of work and there is an EP in the offing. We can’t wait.