SINGLES BAR 84 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 84Having released the title track and ‘Rough Edges’ earlier as singles, JOSHUA BURNSIDE now follows up with the full Late Afternoon In The Meadow (1887) (Attic Things), EP, the title taken from Camille Pissarro’s 1887 impressionist painting. In addition to those two numbers, featuring distant spoken cassette samples of one James Kelly, the drone-backed, banjo-shaded ‘Woven’ unravels a  theme of depression (“Woven through your head/Like black thread/Tangling up/Everything you think”) that references the Ards (an Irish term for mountainous regions) with “boulders you can’t shift/Piling up above you/’Til the light is gone”.  Driven by wheezing fairground accordion, hollow bass drum, banjo and brass, the waltzing ‘Louis Mercier’, tells of how our young hero was terrified as a four year old imaging a monster in his home, growing to join the foreign legion, that, while a descendent of Noa Mercier off his second album, seems to be inspired both by the French actor who appeared in 1952 French Legion film Jump Into Hell and Louis Mercier-Varga, a Belgian syndicalist-activist who fought in the Spanish Civil War. The last track, ‘Where White Lilies Bloom’, is a slowly gathering upbeat traditional Irish flavoured instrumental drone with fiddle, banjo and muted drums, a mesmerising prelude to next year’s new album about the literary connections between Ireland and Paris.

Feather is a new EP by KATIE NICHOLAS, her first after a period of silence. It feels very autobiographical – the first two songs, ‘Feather’ and ‘Sitting Ducks’ are firstly about hope and secondly about just the opposite: a sense of time slipping by and of helplessness in that situation. Katie’s acoustic guitar is supported by Isabella Baker’s violin and Anna Corcoran’ piano. Together, they can be delicate or almost orchestral and despite Katie’s love of country and Americana, very English.

‘Tethered Doves’ is a rather painful love song. We’re not told what Katie has been through in the last year but what we can imagine may be worse than the truth. A clue may come in the final track, ‘The Poet’, about a friend who was sectioned. That must be a traumatic experience even from the outside but this song should stand for a long time to remind us of what it can be like.

Northern folk trio HARP & A MONKEY release their first new music since 2019’s The Victorians with ‘Poor People We’, a protest song about injustice that will form part of a new project exploring a wide range of everyday human emotions and experiences. The waltzing, music-box tinkling track was inspired by two 19th century North-West industrial street ballads ‘Humanity Is Calling’ and ‘The Spinners Lamentation’ dating back to 1863-64 and the great British cotton famine, a by-product of the American Civil War, that forced workers, lacking any form of benefits or support from the wealthy bosses (“playing different rules to the game”), were forced to find new employment.

From the album/project Stolen From God REG MEUROSS releases ‘Good Morning Mr. Colston’ and you don’t need much in the way of explanation. With typically forensic lyrics, Reg dissects the life and legacy of Edward Colston as seen by a black man in Bristol. It has a deceptively bouncy tune with a subtle hint of reggae and a flugel horn solo by John Hare. Jali Fily Cisshokho and Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne are the other featured musicians. The album will be with us in the fullness of time.

A distinct contrast to their previous Springsteenesque rocking ‘Nobody Lives Here Anymore’, THE BLUE HIGHWAYS come over all sensitive and serene with ‘Tonight’, a simple, straightforward and heartfelt ballad with one acoustic guitar and the harmonising voices of brothers Callum and Theo about a couple wandering the streets together at night and forgetting their problems in drinking, itself conjuring thoughts of The Boss as they sing about “a little bar that’s closing down” and how “when I’m drunk and I feel free, I lean on you,  you lean on me”. An absolute stunner.

OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW describe their single, ‘Trim This Tree’ as their Christmas card to Nashville. It’s a jolly, up-tempo song with what sound like quotes from traditional carols mixed in with their rolling country sound. The choir of sweet, curly-haired children may be less than welcome in some quarters.

A singer-songwriter from the Shetlands, FREDA LEASK self-releases ‘Another Coat Of Black’, a strummed Americana flavoured co-write with fellow Shetlander Gina Paola Ritch, produced and accompanied by Kris Drever alongside double bass and drums which, as the title might suggest, has a somewhat downbeat lyric.

‘Wonderful Time Of The Year’ finds PAULA RYAN very happy about the upcoming festivities. It’s full of carol-singing and bells ringing and other Christmas tropes – the sort of things that float most people’s boats. There is a suspicion here that the song was actually written just to work in the “deep pan, crisp and even” gag. If so you should be ashamed, Paula.

Written in memoriam of a family friend, Wiltshire trio THE LOST TRADES self-release the fingerpicked and percussive ‘Old Man Of The Sea’, which actually musically calls to mind Neil Young’s own ‘Old Man’ albeit filtered through darker traditional folk colours in a song about mourning, memories and hope.

‘I Would Appear Like This’ is the new single by Swedish singer-songwriter Krister Svensson aka KRIS WOODBIRD. His voice is hard to describe: sometimes gravelly, sometimes soaring to the top of his range but mostly a languid drawl. He doesn’t appear to have a website so please let us know if you find one.

Taken from his upcoming Arts Council England-funded album themed around a Bardic Druid (his own spiritual path), Liverpool’s JAMES J. TURNER releases ‘Cycle Of Life’, a stirring folk rock ballad that combines fiddle (by Merry Hell’s Neil McCartney), electric guitar, bass and drums, veined with his own childhood memories in an evocative hymn to the wonder and struggle of life from birth to death.

‘Liberty Awaits’ by THE TROUBLE NOTES  – the title track from their forthcoming second album – begins weirdly like a piece of avant-garde modern classical music, then explodes into pure Irish folk and gets strange again with a vocal section featuring Carola Zerega before dissolving into a wild instrumental coda.

There is a hint of rockabilly shuffle in ‘Miracle’, the new single from Brighton trio, HYBRID KID. Having spent some time in America they are now back home and perform with the authority of guys who have been there and done that.

‘Alene’ is the new single taken from the debut album by Norwegian folk-rock band, MÍO. Lead vocalist and co-founder of the band, Dionisia Fjelldalen, has a powerful voice driving the song over an accompaniment that references 70s prog and punk but bursts out into a full-blown traditional dance in the middle.

KATY ROSE BENNETT sees the year out with the December 9 release of ‘You Are My Team’, an inspirational ballad that, played on electric guitar with the vocals layered to provide a choral backing, is not just inspired by Amazons Prime’s gay baseball series ‘A League Of Their Own’, but features lyrics constructed totally from lines of dialogue in the show. Katy writes “As a butch, sports-playing teenager in the 90s, slowly becoming aware of my sexuality, there was such little LGBTQ+ representation anywhere, other than in 2-dimensional caricatures – I clung to k d lang in the sea of heteronormativity. Seeing this beautiful TV show as an adult had a profound effect on me. I wish it had been there when I was growing up. It would have saved me a whole lot of shame. This song is a love letter to A League Of Their Own”. She knocks it out of the park.