SINGLES BAR 56 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 56The first of LAU’s Live Series EPs opens with the sound of crashing waves and the cries of seabirds before Aidan O’Rourke’s melancholy fiddle leads into his tune ‘Gallowhill’ which he wrote on the Black Isle. The music was recorded in London at the start of a truncated acoustic tour and the live sounds were put together by Chris Watson of Cabaret Voltaire

The second track, ‘Far From Portland’ has a thundering industrial sound – but is this Watson or Martin Green’s electronic wizardry? The tune settles down into a lovely guitar break from Kris Drever and Green’s keyboard decoration before building towards one of Lau’s trademark big finishes with the players seemingly battling for supremacy. However the battle ends in cooperation. More strange sounds introduce ‘The Death Of The Dining Car’ complete with railway rhythm and someone playing the sound of a train whistle before Drever gets to sing. Green’s accordion kicks off the magnificent ‘I Don’t Want To Die Here’ and the set closes with one of Lau’s few covers, ‘Lord Yester’, originally recorded by The Corries.

Live Series 1.0 is powerful and varied and available only from the band’s website.

OLD SEA BRIGADE is actually Ben Cramer from Nashville and with LUKE SITAL-SINGH (London and Los Angeles) he’s recorded an EP, All The Ways You Sing In The Dark. The four tracks are pretty and laden with strings and backing vocals – very Laurel Canyon. Unusually in these strange times it was written and recorded before the world went pants, which may go some way to explaining its optimistic sound. That said, the lyrics of the opener, ‘Call Me When You Land’, have a hidden bite. There is some lovely ringing guitar on ‘Amaranth Moonlight’, a sound that is imitated on keyboard in ‘Los Feliz’. /

Having released his pandemic single ‘When We Get Through This’ alongside a new version of ‘Nye’ earlier this year, MARTYN JOSEPH now gathers them together on the When We Get Through This EP (Pipe) which adds acoustic versions of the title track, ‘Here Come The Young’ and a brooding take on the bluesy ‘On My Way’ from Under Lemonade Skies plus the briskly fingerpicked, harmonica blowing, handclapping ‘Come To Be’ about taking control of your life and how “you’re not the paper you’re the pen”.

Skail is a three-track EP of  Scottish Americana by MACOLM MacWHATT. ‘The Crofter And The Cherokee’ links the Highland Clearances with the Trail Of Tears – moving from Scotland to the USA wasn’t an easy option. ‘The Widow And The Cruel Sea’ picks up the theme as the young widow of a drowned fisherman crosses the sea to Maine with her late husband’s brother who she was pressured to marry. Finally, ‘Old World Rules And Empire Takes’ goes back to the war of independence which, by force of circumstances, found Scot fighting Scot. Malcolm’s sound is definitely American with fiddle, banjo and steel guitar but its roots are in Scottish balladry.

What Passes For Live These Days is the aptly titled EP of “live” recordings by PARACHUTE FOR GORDO. The tracks were recorded in Berlin and…er…Aldershot and originated on the band’s recent album, Best Understood By Children And Animals.  It’s difficult to characterise the trio’s music: they are purely instrumental and though it sometimes seems that they are improvising their complexity suggests there’s more to it than that. It may not be like anything you’ve heard before but it’s oddly captivating. Muse upon such titles as ‘When I Was A Teenage Manta Ray’.

JOHNNY ASHBY is a British singer-songwriter now based in Los Angeles – if he’d stayed at home he’d probably be Blair Dunlop. His vibrant EP, In Bloom, was written and recorded in conjunction with Fredrik Eriksson, Sebastian Fritze and Bill Delia of LA band Grizfolk. He’s inspired by the likes of Kings Of Leon so the record is close to the stadium end of folk-rock. ‘SOS’ is a belting track set firmly in the now: “I don’t know where we’re going but we’ve got to stick together” he sings over solid drums and a lolloping guitar riff. The lead single, ‘Born Again’, is pretty close to pure Americana and ‘Found You’ is an exercise in nostalgia.

Melancholic Antidote is the debut EP by London-based singer-songwriter FRANCESCA LOUISE. Francesca plays guitar and piano – the title track is a piano instrumental – and she is supported by Josh Neale on drums and percussion. The songs are very personal and the opener, ‘Out Of Sight (Out OF Mind)’ is perhaps a bit radio-friendly but with ‘If I’m Wrong’ she really gets stuck in. ‘Ride The Waters’ is full of self-examination mixed with defiance and ‘Season’s Change’ would be a very satisfying big finish if Louise hadn’t added an acoustic ‘You Don’t Love Me Now’ – a gorgeous, plaintive song of lost love.

BEN GLOVER has a new EP, Sweet Wild Lily, waiting in the wings, the first taste of which comes with ‘Arguing With Ghosts’ (Proper), a co-write with Gretchen Peters and Matraca Berg that originally appeared on the former’s Dancing With The Beast and here featuring vocals from Kim Richey. It draws on the changes and loss wrought by the passing of time as, over a simple strummed guitar, he sings “I feel lost in my home town…I find myself all turned around” and how “There’s a picture on the wall/We got married in the fall/Now I don’t know those kids at all”, the arrangement gradually swelling with electric guitar as it heads to a close.

A collaboration between musician-historian Danny Pedlar and singer-songwriter Greg Russell, PEDLAR-RUSSELL release ‘Some Make Noise’ (Fancourt Music), a song written for the Field & Dyke tour in support of the album of the same name, a project inspired by localised real life stories in the fenland district of South Holland, Lincolnshire and incorporating audio samples of oral history interviewees and contextual sounds and rhythms. The folksy strummed, accordion flavoured single continues the theme in concerning rural market towns, their inhabitants, the changing economics of local agriculture and local politics.

CHASTITY BROWN raises an angry voice on her single ‘Golden’. “Why have I got to be angry?” she asks. That’s simple – she’s a black woman living in Minneapolis. The song was recorded in a single afternoon using drum loops and keyboards and succeeds in being catchy and hard-hitting at the same time. It’s free to download from Chastity’s website where you’ll find links to make charitable donations.

Written by the late Coventry-born, Birmingham-based Irish singer-songwriter, Rich McMahon, and joined by Andy Miles on lead acoustic guitar, JOHN NAPIER has released Bandcamp download ‘Inbetweenland’, a stompalong song about the culture shock experienced when he family moved back to rural Ireland and the feeling of being neither British or Irish,a launch pad to tell the stories of different emblematic characters and explore national identity, originally featured on McMahon’s Songs of Exile, Love & Dissent album. All proceeds from the download will go to Birmingham homeless charity, Sifa Fireside.

Released in early September, featuring Niamh Dune and Sean Og Graham from Beoga on fiddle and accordion and Jon Thorne on double bass, Co. Down singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist MATT McGINN offers up lockdown recording ‘Annie (Many Moons Ago)’ (Binlid Records), a slow-paced, piano-backed ballad reflecting on an old relationship that serves as a taster for his follow up to Lessons of War.

Also from Ireland, EOIN GLACKIN releases ‘Before the Rain’ (Good Deeds Music), a fine, piano backed, crowd-shouty chorus, shantyish pub stomper, a song he describes as “an evocative ramble through a world on the brink of change”.

From her upcoming covers album, …but I’d rather be with you, MOLLY TUTTLE releases her version of ‘She’s A Rainbow’, a song released before she was even conceived. For a Californian she manages to add a creditable London twang to her voice here and there, not to mention some tasty guitar picking.

Her first foray into producing, Danish folk noir songstress IDA WENØE lays the ground for her third album with the delicate and atmospheric strum of ‘One Step’ (Integrity), a metronomic drum beat and spooked clattery percussion that, part inspired by Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, plays as a paean to the innocence of childhood when the world seems so much bigger and your dreams feel magical, where knowing less affords a sense of freedom and innocence.

ANNIE DRESSNER releases ‘Midnight Bus’, the latest single from her upcoming album, Coffee At The Corner Bar. Lovely rolling guitar, piano and organ provide a rich underpinning for the song – perhaps too rich as the vocals get lost towards the end. It works better in the context of the album.