Yet another British-Asian who’s been drawn to British and American folk style, variously based in Oxford (where he heads a Beatles covers band) and Exeter, the smooth, treble-voiced RIAZ AHMAD makes his debut with the All At Sea EP, self-released towards the end of February but preceded by the lead single ‘Pray To God’, fingerpicked acoustic guitar blending with tabla and sitar in a fusion of his roots on a song about teenage arranged marriage and the hopes and fears of the parents.
Addressing themes of family, migration and love, elsewhere Simon Mayor contributes mandolin on the jazzy rhythmed ‘Blank Canvas’, another song about a woman transitioning to another life and unreadable emotions, the melodic 80s jazz-pop swing. ‘It’s Not A Crime’ features flugelhorn solo leading into the instrumental playout while the dreamy, piano and double bass-accompanied ‘All At Sea’ brings calm and peace, albeit ambiguous as “you leave me no choice and glide away”. Ahmad works as a singing teacher and there’s an assured relaxed confidence in his voice and delivery, while the songs are testament to his abilities as composer and lyricist. His future may well lie more jazz than folk clubs, but, either way, on this evidence it’s a very promising one
You thought that Christmas was over – not quite. SKINNER & T’WITCH got The Bells Of Christmas out in time for the festive season but we didn’t get our copy soon enough. The six songs are all by Steve Skinner and blend his familiar humour with serious messages. The opening track, ‘The Drinking Song’, falls into the former category and I doubt that taking his advice, throwing all your bills away and opening another bottle will solve your problems.
‘Silent The Night’ is a vision of the perfect Christmas and the witty ‘I Don’t Want An iPad (I Just Want World Peace)’ looks to hoped-for better times, a theme returned to in ‘Santa, Teach The World To Fly’. ‘The Winter Song’ is another slice of nostalgia and the record ends with ‘The World Carol’ which began life somewhere in the vicinity of Coventry. If you didn’t get a copy of this EP back in December buy one now and save it up for next year. It will still be topical.
Hailing from Boston, to where she’s recently returned after a ten-year stint in Toronto, indie-folk singer-songwriter LINDSAY FOOTE self-releases her Rollercoaster EP which, working with multi-instrumentalist producer Joel Schwartz, offers up six numbers reflecting the title’s theme of a life of ups and down. Opening track ‘Don’t Go Changing Without Me’ reveals a soft and tender, whispery yet slightly grained voice and a leaning towards pop inflected folk, drums and electric guitars complementing the plucked mandolin acoustic foundations. Nodding a little to Fleetwood Mac and written some three years ago, ‘New York City’ recalls a decision not to move to the Big Apple with her then boyfriend, the image of distance echoing how she was feeling about the relationship.
The EP title surfaces in the undulating rhythms of ‘Ready’, another song about a relationship going nowhere, though this time she’s the one left behind, while the remaining cuts are made up of chiming guitar and steady drumbeat midtempo ballad ‘That Won’t Do Me Any Good’, the mandolin-intro reflective slow waltz ‘For Real’ and, a personal favourite, the hymnal feel of ‘Resting Place’, its minimal backing putting the focus firmly on Foote’s emotive vocals and Belinda Corpuz’s harmonies.
AISHA BADRU is an African-American singer-songwriter who has documented her move from New York to Florida and self-sufficiency in her EP, Trancendence. Aisha has the sort of breathy voice that I don’t usually care for but here it really works because of its intensity. Her acoustic guitar is supported by piano and strings and her writing is superficially simple but incisive.
The opening track, ‘Millennial’, is a countdown to her move and you can sense the eagerness in her words. In ‘Water’ she observes that “we can’t be keepers of anyone’s keep” and looks to a future when everyone can be free. ‘Love Doesn’t Fade’ is on the one hand a personal song and, on the other, a universal one. Aisha has a lot to say and I’d like to see her do well.
Alabama cheerleader turned songwriter, with ringing, reverb electric guitars and driving drums dusky-voiced CHARLI ADAMS is on the alt-rock side of the Americana camp for her ‘Good At Being Young’ (Color Study) debut EP, opening with the synth and guitar swirling interplay of the slow march-paced Passenger Seat and closing with the alt-folk strum of the reflective ‘Cloverland Drive, the street on which she’s lived since moving to Nashville when she was 17, the song looking back on an era that embodied the invincibility of youth and the freedom of early adulthood.
In-between, things get rockier on the Stevie Nicks-like ‘Bad Caffeine’ (“it hits you that you might have/Needed me/Just don’t say I didn’t warn ya”), another track where synth figures in the mix; the chugging steady beat ‘Backseat, an anthemic ode to the tail-end of adolescence (“I’m young and I’m falling in love/With the night”) ; the pulsing rhythm and synth eddies of the unsettling ‘Black T-Shirt’; and the measured aching moving on balladry of ‘10th Avenue’ (“I can’t stay here but I’ll never love it more”). An impressive debut from a voice I suspect we’ll be hearing much more of.
‘Bourbon And The Truth’ is the first of six singles that PETE GARDINER is planning to release during 2020. His lyrics have been widely praised – here he packs more words and ideas into three and a half minutes than should be possible. Originally from Northern Ireland, Pete is now based in and around London, and his brand of Americana should really start a fire.
Already well-established, MARINA FLORANCE makes her first appearance in 2020 with the February 29 self-release of ‘Long Way Home’ which, Mark Jolley on mandolin and strings, is a suitably languid number about those times when you want to make the moment last because, as she puts it, “you are coming back to stuff that you don’t really want to do”.
A Wiltshire-based exponent of traditional folk and melodeon, JONATHAN STUART has, however, opted for one of his own as his debut single, ‘I Don’t Wanna Sing The Blues’, a warmly sung, gentle don’t break up with folk-shaded ballad accompanied by woodwind and delicate piano notes released for download.
THE COO is a duo formed by Matt Arthur and Jara Holdert after a chance encounter in Amsterdam. Their debut single, ‘Low Country Girl’, tells the story of their meeting with harmonies and mandolin over their guitars. Their sound has been likened to that of the late 60s/early 70s canyon but it’s more modern and spiky than that on this evidence.
‘Long Way Home’ is the second single taken from Just Words, the seventh solo album by LYNNE HANSON who is also one half of The LYNNeS. Lynne’s voice can be a hard-bitten, whskey-fuelled drawl or take on a smoother reflective tone. As you might expect from a singer of her calibre the arrangement and production are excellent.
CARL STREET channels Johnny Cash on his single ‘Bunking The Midnight Train’. There are some nice guitars and while there is nothing terribly new here the song is in the tradition of Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie and is entertaining enough to make us want to hear more.
IZZIE DERRY has been our way before and with this song. Her new single, ‘Learn To Grow’, is a remix of a track she released last year. The new mix is pretty meaty and Izzie mixes a country-tinged folk-rock sound with a very distinctive English voice that oozes power. The arrangement is superb and we love those drums.