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

SINGLES BAR 21

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 21In the wake of his criminally underrated album Rain Machine, RICK FOOT returns with a six-track EP, Songs Of Idiocy & Expedience. It’s pared down even from the minimalism of the album and Rick says that the songs were arranged with an eye to live performance. It is amazing what you can do with just voice, double bass and a bit a technology. Rick double-tracks himself and throws in some percussive noises on ‘Your House: Full Of Twigs’.

Rick’s voice is laid back and sounds despairing at times and there is a political dimension to several songs. The opener, ‘Whoever You Vote For’ leads inexorably to the tag-line “the government still gets in” and ‘Your House’ is, I think, about a collapsing or collapsed society. Rick’s lyrics are often witty and sometimes quite surreal so ‘Potato’ and ‘House Of Cows’ require further study. The idiocy comes in ‘Lincolnshire Poachers’ but I won’t spoil it by telling you the story. Just go out and buy Rick’s records.

http://www.rickfoot.com/songs-of-idiocy.html

Singles Bar 21Anglo-Welsh trio THE TRIALS OF CATO formed in Beirut but now they are back home with an eponymous EP. They sound thoroughly traditional and it’s only when you start to listen carefully that you realise that these are original songs. ‘Matthew VanDyke’ has the rolling feel of an eighteenth century sea song but like the origins of the band it’s centred on the tragedy of the Middle East. ‘Reynard And The Goose’ is a conversation between the titular creatures – think ‘The False Knight On The Road’ – and is very clever. ‘Fighting Jack’ takes us back to the army and back to the war zones while ‘Aberdaron’ is sung in Welsh and paired with ‘The Shaskeen Jig’. There is so much potential here – we should hear more from The Trials of Cato before too long.

www.thetrialsofcato.com

At first JOE MARTIN sounds American but the subtlety of his lyrics suggest otherwise – he’s really based in Leeds. He’s supported on Small World by Andy Leggett on double bass and Henry Senior on pedal steel. ‘Denver’ is pure Americana as is ‘When The Time Is Right’. The former has a lovely wistful lyric with a clever closing line that suggests that he’s not totally subsumed into the genre but can also look in from the outside. Joe’s acoustic guitar playing is clever without being flashy and his voice, and indeed his songs, are front and centre.

http://www.joemartinmusic.com/

‘Trouble’ is the new digital-only single from the rather wonderful Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter ANNIE KEATING. A smooth country blues, ‘Trouble’ follows on from Annie’s recent album, Trick Star, and heralds her upcoming UK tour. It settles quickly into its groove with a simple bass line echoing her acoustic guitar decorated with restrained slide guitar.

http://www.anniekeating.com/

Falkirk band THE NICKAJACK MEN make their recording debut with an EP, Wasting Away. They fall somewhere in the alt-rock/country field but the best track here is probably the nearly-folky ‘Marilyn’ with some really nice echoey vocals by Lewis White and the slow bluesy ‘Erb’ is pretty good, too. Twin guitars and keyboards give The Nickajack Men a full, rich sound over the bass and drums of Jamie Burns and Matthew McAlister. An excellent debut.

https://www.facebook.com/thenickajackmen/

MARIA KELLY releases her first EP in download-only format. The Things I Should follows three singles all produced by Matt Harries. The second track ‘Far Below’ reveals a hidden strength in her voice as the arrangement cranks up the pressure. In contrast ‘Where’s The Worth’ is more delicate with lots of strings and a spare drum arrangement while ‘Pretend’ takes a more folk-pop direction.

http://www.mariakellymusic.com/

SINGLES BAR 13 (I Ain’t Superstitious)

A round-up of recent and forthcoming EPs and singles

Singles Bar 13This year, Armistice Day, November 11, also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of, not just WWI, but all history with over one million wounded or killed. Among the Tommies who fought and gave their lives in the fight for freedom, were at least 13 of the 22 gardeners from Heligan, the Cornish country seat of the Tremayne family. Of these, only four survived. Before they left to do their duty, in August 1914, the men signed their names on the wall of the Thunderbox Room; however, with the gardens quickly falling into decline with the workforce absent, everything was soon overgrown. It was not until 1990, that the gardens were rediscovered and excavations and restorations begin on what would become known as The Lost Gardens of Heligan. During this, buried under fallen masonry in the corner of one of the walled gardens, the tiny room was discovered, on its wall, etched in pencil, the signatures of the men who had tended them. In 2013, the Imperial War Museum recognised Heligan’s Thunderbox Room as a ‘Living Memorial’ to ‘The Gardeners of Heligan’ and a plaque, a Cornish shovel and a WWI helmet now mark the spot .

A further tribute has now been made by THE CHANGING ROOM, a Cornish folk collective fronted by guitarist and singer Sam Kelly and accordionist Tanya Brittain, who, in a joint project with The Lost Gardens of Heligan, have recorded Names On The Wall (TCR Music TCRM75044), a four track EP (the inner sleeve of which features a photo of the gardens’ staff) headed up by the Brittain-penned hymnal title number that, featuring chiming mandolin and piano, movingly recalls the men (“our husband and our brothers, our fathers and our sons”) who went to war (“they read their Bibles whilst in hell and they said their last farewell”) and warm brass from Jason Hawke adding to the poignancy.

The other tracks maintain the theme of lives lost to the war, the stark ‘We Will Remember Them’ written and performed by Kelly and Brittain and taken from their recent Picking Up The Pieces album, while, with military drum percussion from Gareth Young, the latter does vocal duty on her own traditional-styled ballad ‘He Died With His Boots On’ which, touching on those who, returned from the war but traumatised by their experiences, found it hard to adjust to normal life and, like her great grandfather, ended up committing suicide as the tells of the soldier, medals proudly pinned on his chest and bible in hand, prepares to die with dignity. The fourth number returns to the title track, this time sung, fittingly and even more affectingly in Cornish, the whole EP a magnificent tribute to those who served and those who paid the ultimate price.
www.thechangingroommusic.com

stars-and-rabbitThere are very few Indonesian folk-pop duos on the scene so STARS AND RABBIT may be unique. Their first official single will be ‘Man Upon The Hill’ released next month but in the meantime ‘The House’ is available as a free download. It opens with acoustic guitar and Elda Suryani’s lead vocal, somewhat reminiscent of the gymnastics of Bjork. Guitarist Adi Widodo has a distinctive style but before you can fully appreciate the nuances of his playing the record is taken over by a big band. To employ a word that should never be used: interesting.
http://starsandrabbit.com/

my-nirvanaSAM JORDAN is a former builder and ballet dancer (go figure) who leads a musical collective known as The Dead Buoys. ‘My Nirvana’ is taken from their forthcoming EP, Thoughts of Paradise, their follow-up to When Golden Morning Comes. Sam describes it as love song if you don’t listen too hard and their experimental approach makes it more rock than anything else with some screaming electric guitar and heavy-duty drums. It’s beguiling enough to make you want to hear more.

peace-of-mindSAM BROCKINGTON is a much-travelled singer/songwriter now based in Bristol and Peace Of Mind is his debut EP. The title track is soulful, almost rocky and that’s followed by his previous single, ‘Follow’. Sam has a very distinctive vocal style with which he twists and sometimes truncates words. ‘Follow’ opens with a clever guitar part – it sounds like an electric played as though it were an acoustic – but by the end he’s pulled out all the stops. ‘Manta Ray’ probably stems from his time in Australia, ‘Cold Feet’ is a gentle finger-picked song, at least at the start, and ‘Unstitched’ follows a similar pattern. Sam has definitely got something here.
https://www.bimm.co.uk/stories/success/sam-brockington/

maria-kelly‘Stitches’ is the pretty new single from MARIA KELLY from County Mayo. Based on acoustic guitar it is awash with strings but still leaving Maria’s voice out front. I wish the words were clearer: a couple of the refrain lines are easy to pick out “Here I go again” and “I don’t know what to say to you” but too much of the rest is lost. The sound is lovely and you can enjoy the record on a superficial level but if a singer-songwriter has something to say it should be readily discernible.
http://www.mariakellymusic.com/

Video Wall 3

As we look back on the summer musicians are looking forward and sending us videos heralding new albums due for release in the coming months. Here is the pick of them and, as it turns out, all are by female artists.

First we have Gitta De Ridder and her new single ‘Even If’ which is taken from her album, Feathers. Both are available now.

Next up is Irish singer-songwriter Maria Kelly with her single, ‘Stitches’.

Katie Melua returns to her Georgian roots with her new album In Winter. ‘Dreams On Fire’ is the first video release.

Anne Elizabeth Laube covers Beyoncé’s song ‘XO’ from her third album, Tree, which is released next month.

Last but far from least comes ‘The Year That I Was Born’ from Heidi Talbot’s new album Here We Go 1, 2, 3 out now.

Video Wall

It’s too hot for thinking and writing so we’ll take the opportunity to post some of the many videos we’ve received recently: the first of our Video Wall series.

First, here’s Kat Healey with ‘Hearts Entwined’ from her EP, Wolf.

Next we have Billy Bragg and Joe Henry with their version of Jean Ritchie’s great song ‘The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore’.

Here’s Maria Kelly’s official video for her single ‘Black & Blue’.

Have we shown you this one? It’s worth seeing again: the title track from Yvonne McDonnell’s EP, Endless Soul.

Finally, here’s Annie Keating with ‘Lucky’ from a One On One live session in New York.

Maria Kelly – new single

Maria Kelly

Maria Kelly left quite an impression last year with debut single ‘Before It Has Begun’ – a mournful finger-picked song that shows off Kelly’s pin-drop vocals and beautiful lyricism. Her latest single ‘Black & Blue’ still feels vulnerable, with a hint of foolish optimism, managing to effectively captivate her talent for bittersweet storytelling – fans of Regina Spektor and She & Him will feel at home here.

“‘Black & Blue’ is about foolish optimism; waiting around for something that’s never going to come”, Maria Kelly explains. “I wrote it as a kind of ‘see ya later!’ to a certain time in my teenage years. I spent so long waiting for something that was clearly not on the way and this song attempts to look at that situation, accept it, laugh at it and move on.”

Growing up in Mayo, Ireland, Maria spent many years crafting and developing her sound into a stunning combination of delicate indie-folk. She has been writing music since the age of 10 and has already played numerous shows in both the UK and Ireland supporting the likes of Orla Gartland and Wyvern Lingo. Maria has also received praise from various online publications including The Irish Times, Nialler9 and Beat Surrender to name a few. Maria is working in the studio on new tracks for her next EP and developing her live sound in preparation for a busy 2016.

Artist’s website: http://www.mariakellymusic.com/

Listen to ‘Black & Blue’ here: