SINGLES BAR 46 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 46Swiss-based BLACK SEA DAHU’s new EP, No Fire In The Sand, conjures the ghostly sound of Mediterranean waves that carry the swell of spooky folk-rock music.  BSD’s music has been described as “songs that Eurydice sadly sang in the aftermath of Orpheus’ forbidden glance”. These songs are ancient echoes still lingering in very modern memories. Magical music never ages.

‘Rhizone’ and ‘Thaw’ stretch with acoustic beauty, as a subdued guitar, keyboard, and percussion frame Janine Cathrein’s melancholic magnetic vocal. Comparisons can be made with The Dead Can Dance. This music sings with a haunted soul.

The title track dives even deeper in Stygian darkness. It’s a lonely soul of a song, yet the melody shimmers with brief moonlight. Again, the tune builds slow momentum with double-tracked voices, quelled percussion, keyboards, and a patient electric guitar that plucks silence into a strange lullaby.

The seven minute-plus ‘Demian’ begins with a simple guitar and Janine’s voice. The song gets electric and percussive. But it’s still a dreamy dance. By mid-song, the deep web of instruments simply bounces with dark mantric soul.

Finally, ‘How You Swallowed Your Anger’ has a slow acoustic and psychological pulse. An accordion is added to the mix. Words drip like Salvador Dali’s surreal time. And the melody quietly spins in a ghostly dance and then dissolves into a run-off groove filled with memories that come and go, like the ageless Mediterranean tide that flows through the music of Black Sea Dahu.
https://www.blackseadahu.com/

Singles Bar 46Originally one half of American folk-rock duo The Story alongside Jennifer Kimball, JONATHA BROOKE has been around for quite a while, working as both a solo artist and in tandem with names that range from Katy Perry to Patty Larkin, nothing up ten studio albums, including a collection of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. The Imposter (Bad Dog Records) is her first new material in three years, a five track EP opening with the swaggering title song, pizzicato violins, accordion and tuba giving a gypsy jazz feel, a lyrical spin on the emperor’s new clothes that harks to artists’ nagging doubts that what they do is a waste of time and that they’re a “Liar, Loser, Phony/No one ever says so, but I know it’s true/Poser, lightweight, cheapskate/The wanna be, the woe is me”.

That creative mind swing between confidence and uncertainty veins the EP, with the brass-brushed bluesy speak-sing slink of ‘Fire’ declaring “I’m in the ring, and I’m a knockout, so watch out” and “I’m not shutting up/Until you agree that I’m extraordinary” while’ on the woodwind and cello-coloured, relationship-based ‘Twilight’ she sings “I love you, not perfectly, not well/But I love you, and I’m leaving soon, so fare thee well”. Set to a shimmering show tune pop arrangement, ‘Revenge’ is basically about how things come back to bite you (“My best laid plans played a killer last hand on me/And you got the last laugh”) but then she again switches it around with “I’m nothing if not resourceful/I’m flexible in a pinch/I’ve got this, I can top this. It’s a cinch”.

It ends with the moody piano, flute and classical string quartet ballad ‘True To You’, a simple hymnal (“How much will it cost, Lord?/I will bear this cross, Lord/I will walk through the night/Through the valley I’ll fight/But must I be alone, Lord/To be true to you?”) that sounds like it should be a dimmed lights showstopper in some Broadway musical, a reminder, of course that she wrote her own musical theatre piece, My Mother Has 4 Noses, about caring for her mother in the last stages of dementia. Brooke has no need to question her artistic worth or integrity, she’s the real thing and when she sings “I’ll be parading high fives on the way outta here”, you can’t help but agree she fully deserves to.
https://jonathabrooke.com/

MARISA JACK & DAVY are Marisa Straccia, Jack Sharp and Davy Willis a somewhat diverse trio. They got together in Bedford a few years ago to play at the events they were promoting and have been honing their craft since then. They have been praised by Nicola Keary and Jinwoo and have been dubbed “earthy” and “weird” but in reality they are just approaching the songs in their own way.

Their debut EP is Bring Us In and consists of five traditional songs and one from the celebrated Kipling and Bellamy songwriting partnership. The set opens with ‘Bring Us In Good Ale’ taken at a stately pace with just enough reverb on the verses to suggest monks processing through their cloisters. They maintain that feel as their arrangement of ‘Bushes & Briars’ will put you in mind of a mediæval bard. ‘Nottamun Town’ is a bit weird, you know, and Marisa Jack & Davy emphasise the strangeness of the lyrical contradictions. This is the full version of the song pretty much as recorded by Jean Ritchie.

‘Oak & Ash & Thorn’ comes from Kipling’s mystical period and is also a bit weird and this reading does nothing to negate that. ‘The Sun Rises Bright In France’ is a song of longing and ‘Bows Of London’ is one of best version of the ‘Two Sisters’ story. Whatever happens, Marisa Jack & Davy should be huge before too long.
www.marisajackanddavy.com

Singles Bar 46An early Christmas arrival comes from THE MINING Co. with Three Kings (PinDrop), wherein Michael Gallagher offers up five festive treats in his quest to recapture his own memories of Christmases past and a more recent one spent in Spain. Recorded in Andalucia with producer Paco Loco who also contributes Spanish guitar on two tracks.

The first parcel under the tree is the banjo and strings accompanied ‘Long Way To Christmas’ which would seem to draw on Jona Lewie influences  and a Roy Wood kiddies chorus,  followed by the dreamy and smooth Johnny Mathis tones (and Glen Campbell colours) of  ‘Christmas No 1’ (with, yes, sleigh bells). Military snare (a la ‘Little Drummer Boy’) provides the tinsel on ‘Wild Gift’ (from where the album’s Biblical reference title comes), the final trimmings being the Latino samba sway of ‘Ghost Writer’, where his voice finds its deeper range, and the childhood nostalgia of ‘Holloway’, with its picked Spanish guitar and muted rumble of drums, when “every morning was Christmas Day”. One for your Santa wish list, I think.
https://www.facebook.com/theminingcoband/

Singles Bar 46GLORIOUS LEADER’s ‘Borderline’ is the first single from the up-coming EP My Kingdom, which is a wonderful collection of ethereal songs that walk in the acoustic footsteps of the human heart.  Kyle Woolard is the one-man talent here. He’s on leave from the very fine band The Anatomy of Frank, whose album South America was described as “a melodic folk-rock masterpiece.

This solo record travels into intense personal soil; yet as Walt Whitman wrote, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”. So, these songs resonate as a totem for sensitive folks who enjoy a really nice melody. That first song, ‘Borderline’, sings, “I guess we’re all trying to make it work”. That sort of sums up modern life.

As reference points, imagine music filled with the intense quietude of Paul Simon’s ‘Duncan’, Magna Carta’s ‘Living In The Land Of Ulysses’, and the entirety of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.

The rest of the songs echo that gentle melodic pulse. ‘Onism’ has a passionate and irresistible chorus (with great handclaps!). ‘Sweet Louisa’ brings a ukulele, strings, and heavenly harmonies. ’Kyla’ is strummed and slow, and it dances with a few electronic sounds. ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ has David Crosby’s ‘Guinevere’ depth. This tune has “green eyes”.

The final song, ‘Half Alive’, is confessional stuff. And it has a hymn-like quality that plucks, with that darn ukulele, some sort of vague hope for a better tomorrow. And that’s a really decent song for any record to sing.
https://ohgloriousleader.bandcamp.com/releases

Singles Bar 46Birmingham songstress KATHERINE PRIDDY follows-up her well-received debut EP Wolf, which sold out three pressings,  with a limited edition single ‘Letters From A Travelling Man’ (Static Caravan),  an upbeat, frisky Americana-styled number that takes its inspiration from her experiences of living on the road and the struggles of trying to maintain relationships alongside an unsettled lifestyle.  Paired with  the softer  slower strummed ‘Come and Go’ , a yearning for a  place to call home but  acceptance that everything must inevitably pass, where she duets  with Northern folk singer-songwriter George Boomsma, it’s released digitally as well as a limited run of collectable coloured vinyl alongside a postcard urging the listener to rediscover the lost art of letter-writing.
https://www.facebook.com/KatherinePriddy/

Singles Bar 46NAVARO release the first single from their forthcoming album. ‘The Fall’, written by Pete White, is described as an “autumnal hymn” and is simply built around acoustic guitar and keyboards with the band’s signature harmonies.
http://navaromusic.co.uk/

Singles Bar 46THE MAGPIES were originally formed in York in 2017 as a duo of Bella Gaffney and mandolinist Polly Bolton, expanding to become a quartet in 2018 with the addition of cellist Sarah Smout and fiddler Holly Brandon. Drawing on shared and individual influences to create a fusion of Celtic and bluegrass folk, they have a debut album arriving shortly, preceded by the gently flowing download newgrass single ‘Run, River Run’, written by Ganney and originally featured on Bella and Polly’s own self-titled EP, here given extra colour with fiddle and cello.
https://www.themagpiesmusic.com/

Singles Bar 46With Brexit in mind, BEANS ON TOAST released his single, ‘England, I Love You’, on October 31st.  It’s full of his familiar biting wit paired with a jolly tune and “patriotic” brass. The song is taken from his forthcoming album, The Inevitable Train Wreck which you will buy if you know what’s good for you.
https://beansontoastmusic.com/

Singles Bar 46ANNIE DRESSNER has a new self-released album due early 2020, meanwhile she has a taster single in ‘Nyack’, a simply fingerpicked, brushed snares shuffle named for the Orangetown village in Rockland County, New York, a song about memories, her childhood, her brother and leavings.
http://www.anniedressner.com/

Siingles Bar 46DUSTY WRIGHT dedicates his acoustic version of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ to the world’s climate change warriors. It’s from his forthcoming album Can Anybody Hear Me? and despite its Dylanish harmonica it ‘s actually rather polite. You can hear all the words, though, possibly for the first time.
https://dustywright.com/

Singles Bar 46Israeli singer/songwriter MARBL has a new single, ‘The First Day Of The Rain’. It’s piano driven and drenched with strings and is rather lovely. We’re told that she’s into supporting abandoned animals but that’s not coming over here.
https://www.marblmusic.com/

Singles Bar 46‘Battle Ready’ is the single taster and title track from the new EP by Manchester’s JOHN TILLER. It’s a powerful song with solid drums and ringing guitar. Americana but with a British twist.
https://johntiller.bandcamp.com/music

Singles Bar 46

DARWIN’S DAUGHTER also gets into the festive spirit with ‘Snow Angels In The Rain’  (self-released), her first and last release of 2019, a gently lovely cello and fiddle-sprinkled ballad about transience that comes with a Christmas Edit which replaces the xylophone at the end with jingle bells. Ahh, bless.
https://www.facebook.com/darwinsdaughter/

SINGLES BAR 35 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Released to commemorate the 100th anniversary on the end of WWI, ‘Letters From Walter’ is a poignantly movie number from Cambridge folk crew RED VELVET released on Clunk and Rattle in aid of the Riders Branch, Royal British Legion. Written and sung by Les Ray, who plays guitar and banjo, and featuring harmonica by George Harper, it’s based on letters sent home by his grandfather, Private Walter Mabbutt, to his younger sister Edie in Titchmarsh, who, shortly after being despatched to France after training at Felixstowe, died in combat in Picardy, aged 19, just a few weeks before the end of the war. The song also included a spoken passage by Deirdre Muphy who reads from a letter, dated 24th November 1918, sent to Walter’s parent by Lance Corporal W. L Mandeville offering his condolences at Walter’s death, and describing some of the circumstances surrounding it.
www.clunkandrattle.com

Singles Bar 35With war on our minds, punk-folk rockers SKINNY LISTER release ’38 Minutes’ in advance of a new album next year. The song was prompted by a ballistic missile alert in Hawaii earlier this year and is typically high energy as it portrays the sense of impending doom felt by the island’s population. “This is not a drill.
https://skinnylister.com/

Singles Bar 35Here’s a Christmas song with a difference. ‘Xmas Back Home (War Has Begun), in part inspired by John Lennon’s similarly titled song, is the recording debut by MUDDIBROOKE, a mysterious being whose true identity is a secret. It is the story of a young female soldier away from her children but who wants them to have the best Christmas possible in spite of her absence and serves to remind us that it’s not just men who are on the front line. Proceeds from downloads will go to The Royal British Legion.
www.muddibrooke.com

MARINA FLORANCE offers up another self-released EP commissioned by the Warm & Toasty Club, a Colchester-based intergenerational community organisation working in music, arts and social history. Named for the latest project, Colchester Memory Afternoons features three numbers co-written with Jules Fox Allen drawn from the stories and reminscences of some of the town’s senior residents, opening with the gently jogging, ‘Photograph Album’ (part Emmylou, part Don Williams) featuring harmonica, cajon, melodeon and violin with Fox Allen on backing vocals. Perfectly living up to its title, ‘Warm & Toasty’ is a folksier and more specific English nostalgia track closing with spoken samples from residents at Enoch House retirement home with the third number being the violin and trombone-coloured slow waltzer ‘Take Me Back In Time’. A lovely musical comfort blanket all round.
www.marinaflorance.com

Notes To Self is the new EP by MARIA KELLY. It opens with the delicate and fragile ‘Prelude’ which builds up until the repeated last line is lost in the mix, justifying her alt-folk tag. The other tracks are ‘June’, ‘July’ and ‘August’, the first two having already been released as singles. They tend to follow the same template as ‘Prelude’ – a simple acoustic opening building up with sound effects and more instrumentation until the production threatens to overwhelm the song. Maria’s voice is mixed too low or is perhaps not big enough to stand up to this treatment all the time.
www.mariakellymusic.com

JONAS AND JANE are a Surrey-based Americana duo, he on guitar and banjo and the pair sharing vocals. Sedona Rain is their third self-released EP, a five track set that highlights both their harmonies and bluegrass inclinations, although the opening ‘Hold Me’, with Jonas on lead, is a spare and harmonica haunted rootsy ballad. He’s also to the fore on the banjo speckled and equally moody ‘Jumping Ship’, while the three other numbers see them sharing the vocal spotlight. ‘Too Little Time’ is an equally world-wearily paced but more Appalachian flavoured number, while pedal steel bolsters the aching title track. The pace eases up a notch for the remaining track, fingerpicked and dobro styled break-up number ‘Don’t Cry For Me’ being cast in the type of bittersweet break-up song that recalls such classic pairings as Gram and Emmylou, The Civil Wars and Welch and Rawlings
http://www.jonasandjane.com/

Named for the Highland settlement, BIRICHEN is a new project by Catriona Sutherland, a regular performer in the Highlands, mostly with the 10-piece Dancing With Sharks. Working with fiddler Iain-Gordon Macfarlane and Robert McDonald on dobro slide, Hush (Birnam) is the debut EP, a five-track collection that opens with the latter’s ‘Holding On To Each Moment’, the sound of birds and running water backdropping a fingerpicked and fiddle accompanied number about appreciating the time and the things we have.

While steeped in folk, she also brings Americana influences to the table with two covers, first up bring the Welch and Rawlings number Scarlet Town, here given a stark British traditional folk setting with the fiddle serving as a drone-like backing. The other harks back to the music of her raising with a terrific unadorned version of Guy Clark’s ‘L.A.Freeway’ where her pure Scottish tones take on a touch of earthier dirt track roughness .

‘Gonnae Get Good’ is a slightly jazz and blues shaded self-penned number that pulls together a spectrum of influences, the final track being another cover, Jim McLean’s ‘Smile In Your Sleep, sometimes known as ‘Hush, Hush, Time To Be Sleeping’, hence the EP title. Chiming with her own family history and the history of the area, it’s Scottish lullaby set to the tune of the Gaelic air ‘The Mist Covered Mountains’ which charts the eviction and emigration  of  the crofters during the Highland Clearances, her given a nakedly sung reading that gradually gathers in suitably moody instrumentation and features evocative sampled distressed voices and rain and storm effects.  This is, apparently, her first commercial release. Hopefully, there’ll be many more to follow.
http://birichen.com/

An acclaimed bluegrass musician and one half of 10-String Symphony, RACHEL BAIMAN gets into the (American) holiday spirit with Thanksgiving (Free Dirt), a four track EP of introspective songs centred around themes of indigenous rights, home and homelessness, and love in hard times. Opening number ‘Tent City’, a lively bluegrass number with echoes of ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and featuring, among others, Tristan Scroggins and Molly Tuttle, was inspired by a Nashville homeless community and is sung from the perspective of a man fallen into homelessness and addiction, making him a person rather than a statistic.

Taking the tempo down, the title track emerged from a writing residency and concerns indigenous rights and relationships as embodied in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the song fuelled by “the irony of Thanksgiving being celebrated right as people were being arrested and sprayed with water guns for protecting their right to clean water.”

Again joined by Tuttle with whom she worked up the number during their UK tour, ‘Madison Tennessee’ is a cover of the John Hartford love letter to his home town (to where she herself has recently moved), the EP ending with ‘Times Like These’, a pedal-steel lined and fiddle slow waltz testament to what gets us through the bad, co-written with Thom Shuyler and duetted in harmony with Josh Oliver.
http://www.rachelbaiman.com/

‘I Think I Saw You On The Street’ is the first single from a new EP by MARBL, an Israeli duo possibly based in Germany – the information available is a bit vague in places. It’s a reflective song inspired by a chance encounter with an ex and the thoughts that it provokes – a scenario that everyone can relate to.
www.marblmusic.com

BEANS ON TOAST (aka Jay McAllister) brilliantly tackles the shock of the new with ‘Alexa’ – “Alexa, have you considered your military capabilities?” – the second single from his forthcoming album, A Bird In The Hand. It’s a punkish sort of song with words tumbling over one another as Jay races to beat the three minute mark. It’s all true – we may be suspicious of Amazon but it’s just too damn convenient.
https://beansontoastmusic.com/

Following last year’s debut album, Alight & Adrift, Suffolk-born, York-based mandolinist singer-songwriter TILLY MOSES returns with a new single ‘Cradled And Cared For’ (GingerDog Records), a lovely softly sung fiddle-hued number, about how friendship and a warm kitchen can give you the strength to get through hard times and fight to improve the world.
www.tillymoses.com

‘Haunted Man’ is the debut digital single from THE KILPECKS, a band formed in the Welsh Marches by members of Lonesome Stampede. It’s big and funky with a knockout bass line and a powerful lead vocalist and although it was released for Halloween it has a link to #MeToo. It would be nice to think that an album might be in the wind.
https://thekilpecks.bandcamp.com/releases

Scottish outfit ATTIC LIGHTS have a new album, Love In The Time of Shark Attacks, set for release next year, trailing it with the jangly folk-pop ‘Never By Myself’ (Elefant), a number written on a bus by singer Colin McCardle after somehow being left behind by the band following a show in Inverness. It’s paired with a sparkling cover of ‘Bright Eyes’ given a Teenage Fanclub treatment.
https://www.facebook.com/atticlightsband/

‘Bless The Ground You Grow On’ is the first single from ODETTE MICHELL’s forthcoming debut album. It was produced by Stu Hanna and has the pastoral autumnal feel of Robin Williamson’s ‘October Song’. It’s coupled with ‘The Eastern Seas’, a song about Irish emigration built on shruti drone and acoustic guitar with violin and bouzouki. Odette has a strong voice and songwriting talent that we should be hearing a lot more of in the future.
www.odettemichell.com