Turn To FrayIn a week in which we lost two great stalwarts of the folk scene it’s comforting to hear a young duo making such fine music as this. Hickory Signals are husband and wife duo Adam Ronchetti and Laura Ward from Brighton, assisted by Tom Pryor, who produced Turn To Fray, Scott Smith, Phil Ward, Deborah Stacey and Amy Squirrell.

Following two EPs, this is Hickory Signals’ debut full length recording. It’s an extraordinarily powerful work, sometimes painful, sometimes rather surreal and always absorbing but which, despite its depth, flashes by before you have really got to grips with it. It opens with an original song, ‘Rosemary’, based on the words of poet Rosemary Tonks. Actually most of the material is original but they follow on with the traditional ‘Who Put The Blood’, the familiar tale of fratricide. ‘Rosemary’ is the story of “a grieving widow’s only child” and, even though it’s not made explicit, you know that the interrogator of the murdering son is his mother. With Ward taking all the lead vocals Turn To Fray has a very feminine, not to say feminist, viewpoint.

‘Kana’ is about a Kurdish refugee and it’s a very angry song – “you’ve shown no light” is the concluding line but whether it is addressed to the people who destroyed Kana’s home or those who “welcomed” him to Britain is hard to say. ‘Two Girls’ is the oddly surreal story of a chance meeting on the road; not ‘Outlandish Knight’ but definitely outlandish and quite spooky as Ward’s flute weaves ‘The Cutty Wren’ through the song.

Frankie Armstrong’s ‘Doors To My Mind’ is a song whose time has come again and I’m convinced that I’ve heard someone else singing it recently. Originally recorded by Frankie in 1973, during what might be considered the first wave of feminism, we are every day being reminded that some attitudes haven’t changed much. Laura sings it simply and unaccompanied but it remains a rallying cry. There’s a setting of a verse by James Joyce, a song about Zelda Fitzgerald and the record closes with ‘Through Bushes And Through Briars’. Have you ever thought about the words of this song, particularly the third verse? You should.

Adam’s contributions, apart from his songwriting, include guitars, banjo, drums and shruti and the band’s guests include piano, slide guitar, violin, bass and cello. There’s a huge range of sounds from simple acoustic guitar to an almost orchestral band sound – sometimes within a single song – and that’s a part of what makes Turn To Fray so good.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Two Girls’ – official video:


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

noise-of-the-watersHICKORY SIGNALS are Brighton duo Laura Ward on vocals, flute and shruti box and Adam Ronchetti in guitars and percussion, their self-released second EP, Noise Of The Waters also featuring contributions on strings, banjo and lap. Produced by Stick In The Wheel’s Ian Carter, it comprises six tracks, a 50/50 balance of traditional and self-penned. The former kicks things off with a flute-led setting of a poem by James Joyce, the others being a spare, intimate confessional account of ‘Unquiet Grave’ and a shruti and violin coloured reading of ‘Irish Ways’, its lyric about the 17th century burning of fields and stealing grain given resonance with Ward’s dark and sonorous timbre.

Led by Scott Smith’s banjo, the duo’s own ‘Here I Am’ is a far lighter and more sprightly affair, ‘Bows and Arrows’ a more traditional sounding, stripped-back cautionary tale about the knowledge needed to make the weapons and snares to catch animals birds and fish that serves as an allegory for mankind’s penchant for destruction, Ward’s renaissance-styled flute solo adding to the mood. The final number is ‘Take The Window’ which duly satisfies the requirement of any traditional influenced folk release to contain at least one revenge/murder song, here that of a woman spurning her lover whose lengthy absence has “turned me into someone I didn’t want to know”.

dont-take-no-for-an-answerED GOODALE is a young singer-songwriter from Sussex who usually appears live with his brother Ollie on cajon. Don’t Take No For An Answer is his latest EP – a precursor for his second album – and the instrumentation is expanded by the contributions of producer Jamie Evans. I heard Ed live first, with no knowledge of him or his music and enjoyed every moment which, in my book, makes him a damn fine songwriter.

The songs here cover the range of his concerns. The title track is about keeping on keeping on despite setbacks and that’s important while ‘Sunday Morning’ is about waking up with a hangover. The major work here is the ecological plea ‘Beneath The Veil’. Ed suffers from Asperger’s, although you wouldn’t know it to meet him but his condition gives him a unique point of view. ‘Coming Up For Air’ is about his first trip on the London Underground something that you might imagine would be rather disconcerting. Make of all that what you will but here is an exceptional young talent.

flyHailing from New Quay in West Wales and signed to Charlotte Church’s publishing company, DANIELLE LEWIS has been likened to Karen Carpenter for the unfettered purity of her high vocals. Singing in both English and Welsh, she’s made quite an impression in her home nation, indeed two of her songs were used for a Visit Wales campaign, and was recently invited on to the BBC Wales’ Emerging Talent Horizons Project for 2016. Fly (Folkstock FSR43) is a new six track EP that gathers together her recent summery strummed, finger-clicking folk-pop single, ‘Anywhere Is Home’ with five new numbers. These kick off with the equally upbeat shuffling ‘West Coast Sun’, followed by the slower fingerpicked ‘About This Time’, a dusk-heavy number which suggests a Sandy Denny influence, whereas, on the other hand, the choppy strum of ‘Belong’ is more early Joni. Sung unaccompanied before acoustic guitar arrives midway, ‘Hiraeth’ is the only Welsh language track, but it’s the quietly anthemic, appropriately airy title track that strikes most, a touch of echo to the yearning, soaring vocals accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar pattern before closing on drums and string arrangement wings. Gorgeous.

thoughts-of-paradiseThoughts Of Paradise is the new EP from SAM JORDAN & THE DEAD BUOYS. We’ve already featured the lead track, ‘My Nirvana’, which sounds better and better with each play. ‘Favourite Messenger’ is rather lighter but still weird with a mostly spoken lyric mixed quite a long way down that breaks out into a more conventional song about half-way through. ‘I’ve Never Seen Her Fall’ is pretty and ‘The Stars Are Angels Marooned’ returns to a more conventional rock sound. I’m not sure where Sam fits in on the musical spectrum but perhaps that doesn’t matter.