SARAH YEO is British but she is more deeply steeped in the sounds of America than some Americans. Safe is a five track EP of original songs featuring Sarah Jory on pedal steel and Dobro with drums by Matt Butlin.
The opener, ‘I’m On My Way’, was actually written in San Diego and tells of a yearning for the big country. Next up is ‘War Of Worlds’ is described as the story of a falling out with someone close but if you want to take it as a metaphor for Brexit I certainly won’t stop you. Sarah isn’t taking sides but pleading for a cease-fire. If you’re familiar with the stage of a relationship when you’re not sure if it’s actually over or not then the title track will resonate with you.
‘Roadie 2019’ finds the singer looking for a roadie to help her with a gig in a “nice little bar in a Somerset town” but the story develops into a potential romance as Sarah observes that the hills begin to look more like California. Finally, ‘Lines’ tells of an enduring love although Sarah would seem to be singing from a viewpoint somewhere in the future. Safe is a lovely mix of themes.
A Glasgow-based country singer-songwriter, DAVID LATTO reverts to his solo soubriquet after a couple of outings as the David Latto Band for his new EP, Show Me How To Feel, although, featuring five backing musicians, it’s still very much a band work. It opens with the title track, a mid-tempo number written after a period when he felt out of touch with himself and his music, leading into the acoustic strum of ‘Blood & Whisky’, tracing similar idea of rediscovering yourself, here through reconnecting with childhood friends. Another ballad, but with a more leisurely approach, ‘Better Ways’ again draws on that feeling of running to stand still and needing to find a sense of direction and the right path to take. Stripped down to the basics with a minimal pulsing arrangement featuring John Mather on pedal steel, ‘Haunt Me’ was one of the first things he wrote after the band broke up, an impressionist nostalgic remembrance of past relationships recorded in one take while it ends with the walking beat ‘Losing You’, a song about feeling a relationship slipping away and wondering how to hold on to it before, as it builds to a crescendo, realising maybe letting go is the best thing.
Latto confesses that for a long time he felt he’d lost his creative spirit, listening here it’s clear he’s not only found it again, but it’s come with a full recharge.
No Songs comes on newly-fashionable 7” vinyl and consists of six instrumental tracks – ten tunes in all – recorded in 1967 by MARTIN CARTHY AND DAVE SWARBRICK. Martin plays guitar, of course, and Swarb plays fiddle and mandolin and as Martin says “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. Some of the tunes, ‘The Irish Washerwoman’ and ‘The Ash Plant’ for example, are familiar pieces from the duo’s later repertoire but many are less well-known. The opener, ‘Gillens’ Apples/Snug In The Blanket’, shows off Swarbrick’s finger-breaking mandolin to great effect while ‘Grey Daylight’ is a fiddle tour de force. The recording is very straightforward, as you would expect from the time – no messing about: they let the music speak for itself. A newly re-discovered gem that Martin is selling at gigs.
Based around Scandinavian Stef Rose and Happy Mondays guitarist Johnny Evans alongside Durutti Column drummer Chris Joyce and bassist Victor Freeman, DOVE TALES are a Manchester-based quartet mixing up 60s folk rock jangle, 70s country-soul and Brit rock, stirred together on the Lamplight Sessions EP (Awal), lead track ‘Come Over Here’ taking care of the latter. Of more interest to Folking ears will be the steady slow walking bass strut of ‘Bully’ with its country coloured chorus and the bluegrassy romp of ‘M6’ while Evans sings lead on the West Coast swayalong ‘You And I’ with its instrumental workout bridge.
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, aka Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, release Country Darkness Vol 1, interpretations of Elvis Costello’s country songs. It’s preceded by a single, ‘Heart Shaped Bruise’, and will be followed in due course by volume 2. ‘Heart Shaped Bruise’ isn’t terribly country but the second track, ‘Stranger In The House’, makes up for that. ‘That Day Is Done’, a slow piano-driven number maintains the vibe while heading into blues territory. ‘I Felt The Chill Before The Winter Came’ is more mainstream country but supplies a big finish. Supporting the duo is Attraction/Imposter Steve Nieve linking these new versions back to Costello.
Born in Shropshire and based in Glasgow, MOLLY LINEN releases her debut Outside EP, (Lost Map). Lead track ‘When They Didn’t Care’ with its layered guitars nodding to psychedelic folkpop while the sparse fingerpicked, echoey whispered vocals of ‘Waited Long and the slow-paced, doomily pastoral ‘Soft As Love’ throw up Nick Drake and Cat Power shadows, although its ‘Outside’ with its double-tracked vocals, muted drum beat and watery guitars that proves the most effective.
‘Picture’ is the taster single for the debut album that is due from ELIZABETH & JAMESON early next year. The album is centred around Whitby and the song was inspired by a visit to the Sutcliffe Gallery. The second track, a live recording of ‘To Mend A Broken Heart’, is the first song that Hannah Elizabeth (of Said The Maiden) and Griff Jameson worked on as a duo. Their simple style – guitar, violin and voices – suits the directness of their songwriting.
The Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher wrote in 1703 “I knew a very wise man … believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.” If that’s so, the world needs powerful songs as much as ever. The KEITH JAMES song ‘I Can See’, for online release on October 15th 2019, was written “in support of and on behalf of organizations and individuals currently campaigning to bring a wider and urgent awareness of global climate change“, and it certainly hits its target. Keith James clearly sees the danger of living in a post-truth, self-serving society, but he sees hope too, and that’s important.
Originally released on his 1984 album Aimless Love, JOHN PRINE revisits his classic ‘Unwed Fathers’ (Thirty Tigers) in the company of Margo Price who joins in on the second verse. The song a condemnation of the way unwed mothers are “kept under cover/like some bad dream” while the fathers “run like water through a mountain stream”, he re-recorded it as part of a fundraising effort for the American Civil Liberties Union in the wake of Alabama’s near-complete ban on abortion, stating “that song has always been about how women are the ones who carry, birth and sometimes are left with taking care of and raising children too. Now they want to take away their right to decide if or when they do that. Women should be the ones to make decisions about what affects their lives in such a big way”.
Mentioning Prine, JOHN MORELAND supported him on his last UK tour and now releases ‘East October’ as a taster for his upcoming Thirty Tigers album debut, a scuffed drum beat, percussive hiss and piano anchoring an achingly soulful song about trying to make it without a crutch to lean on as he sings “how am I ever gonna get by all by myself?”
Sacred is a lovely soft-rock download-only single by ALESSI’S ARK. Relatively simple keyboards, drums and bass support Alessi Laurent-Marke’s sweet voice with the whole thing topped off with electric guitar and some delicate touches that take time to register.
It’s been four years since the last SMOKE FAIRIES album, but Darkness Brings The Wonders Home is set for release in January, preceded by new single Disconnect’, a welcome reminder of their dark fecund and slightly spooked brand of folk with its jittery, guitar riff mantra and the gathering fuzzed rush as it hits the chorus hook that duly ramps up anticipation.