SINGLES BAR 74 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Cardiff-based label Tŷ Cerdd Records release Hyperion, the debut 3-track EP from CARA LUDLOW, a twenty-something Welsh singer-songwriter and Assistant Producer for Cardiff Productions, developing documentaries and factual programmes for broadcast.. The title track with its caressing melody, sweeping strings by the Mavron Quartet and yearning, softly sung vocals draws on Keats’s poem The Fall Of Hyperion: A Dream (she’s an English lit graduate) setting the themes of fragility (“Oh sister, I am locked beneath/An ocean of my own defeat”) and how we respond to suffering and change. The quiveringly sung ‘Blue’ is a more subdued, circling acoustic fingerpicked self-accusatory break-up number (“I thought that this was love…But I fell for someone else’s charms/Any chance I’d get/You were more my child/Than my love in the end”), the strings almost playing the role of harmonies, the third track, again with a repeated fingerpicked guitar pattern,  being ‘Berlin’, a reflection on “the rub of time”,  returning to the German city, stirring memories of a relationship (“met a boy, I won his love, I found the holes within myself, and asked: What am I really seeking after?”) and seeking creative inspiration  (“There was music in the streets at night/And heavy, quiet dawns/ I still couldn’t find a voice to write”). With her poetic writing talent and a voice that makes you stop and listen, this is an auspicious debut.

You’d take SUZ DORAHY to be American but, in fact, she hails from the Central Coast region of New South Wales. The title of her new EP, Redemption Is Real, feels autobiographical given her journey to this point. Cutting a long story short, after a spell with The Wayward Henrys and a trip to Nashville she signed to a new record label and here is the result. Suz is a fine lyricist with an ear for melody, a combination which makes for good listening but it seems that Nashville has her in its grip. In short, there should be more Suz and a bit less of everything that’s going on around her. Or is that being picky?

The EP begins with ‘Something About You’ with Suz’s guitar dominating and piano supporting but then in comes steel guitar, choir and a practically orchestral sound level. The title track is next and it’s arguably the best song in the set with its optimistic message. The single, ‘Tell You’, is a tale of betrayal – “I don’t know if you’re gonna like it” is the message and we can only guess what “it” is. ‘Dark Stranger’ is a suitably dark, rolling song but then Suz saves almost the best till last. ’40 Years’ is the story of couple who have been together for all that time and are looking back and thinking we did OK. An excellent finisher.

STEVE DAWSON (he of  Chicago’s Dolly Varden not the Canadian multi-instrumentalist) releases the slow-swaying country soul of ‘A World Without You’ (Pravda), an outtake from last year’s  At The Bottom Of A Canyon In The Branches Of A Tree,  drawing on the classic country sounds of the 1960s and 70s and written about the passing of his  wife’s parents, though the lines “I’m standing in a bar with a few of my friends and the drinks and the jokes are flowing but all I can think of is how best to say, ‘gents, I must be going’ ‘cause all I wanna do is get back to my room before I fall apart” will resonate with anyone who’s experienced such loss.

As a prelude to her new album, Iníon, INNI-K releases two songs as a single, currently available as downloads when you pre-order the album. Both are in the sean-nós tradition with extra accompaniment by Matthew Berrill and Brian Walsh. The first is ‘Éamonn An Chnoic’, known to the English as ‘Ned Of The Hill’, the story of an Irish aristocrat and band and the second is ‘An Tiarna Randal’, a version of ‘Lord Randal’ complete with poisoned eels. In keeping with their traditional unaccompanied style both have minimal backing with Inni-K’s synth doing just enough and clarinet and piano for decoration – two long, leisurely songs.

Living off the grid in Terlingua, Texas, JIM KEAVENY  offers up a double A-side self-released single, both semi-spoken  love songs, the first, ‘Sunrise’, a gently jogging folksy, ode to the woman who rescued him from depression after his divorce that builds to a trumpet and handclaps finale whereas, in contrast, ‘Golden Carmen’, inspired by a psychedelic encounter with a woman in Colombia and featuring Stephanie Hatfield on backups, has an appropriately more narcotic, desert groove with a psychotropic atmosphere redolent of Jefferson Airplane and organ frills that conjure Ray Manzarek.

Responsible for one of the finest albums of 2021 with Kingdom Come, Pennyslvania’s GARRETT HEATH offers a taster for his next with  the title track, ‘The Losing End’ (self-released), a dusty, sad slow waltz rust belt ballad in the Springsteen, Earle and Mellencamp vein that offers a series of short vignettes focusing on daily life in rustbelt America, from a blue collar worker drowning in bills to a smalltown football coach, the death of mom and pop stores  and a new parent contemplating their daughter’s future, capturing the sense of  being  left behind by the modern American landscape,  beaten down by the daily grind and that such lives don’t really count anymore. Heath may be one of the American’s greatest undiscovered singer-songwriters at the moment, but this is yet further evidence that his star will ultimately go nova.

‘Waves’ is the new single from MARINA FLORANCE: a metaphor for the last couple of years but also a delicate love song. Marina knows her voice so well and writes to suit it – a low register but not quite husky and a deliberate not-quite crack in the last verse as she gets to the end. Superb.

Based around the experience of his father’s funeral, London-based Irish singer-songwriter LOUIS BRENNAN self-releases ‘Black Limousine’, a gospel organ accompanied Americana slow waltzer reflecting on his life and passing with all proceeds being donated to Mind.

THE HAWTTHORNS’ new single is ‘Let’s Get Together’ taken from their forthcoming album, Tarot Cards And Shooting Stars. It’s not quite folk, not quite rock and not quite country but rolls along rather beautifully. The message is one of optimism: let’s just do it because these could just be our best times and “we’re over the bad times”. It’s a sentiment that seems to be catching on.

Birmingham’s ROBERT LANE makes his first appearance of the year with the self-released lazily strummed, dreamily McCartneyesque love song ‘Sick Of Me’, the slightly Latin-flavour colours behind the walking percussion beat adding to the romantic miasma.

HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE have a new album coming in April but first they have an absolutely gorgeous single, ‘A Winter’s Night’. It’s very simple, just voices and guitars and the text falls somewhere around and Dolly Greer and Peter Bellamy’s versions although it originally came from Doc Watson. It’s wonderful.

The first single from their upcoming album, Hollow Heart, London cosmic country five piece THE HANGING STARS release ‘Radio On’ (Loose), a steady walking rhythm would-be make-out song that eases its way through Joe Harvey-Whyte’s pedal steel as Richard Olson sings of yearning and despair.