SINGLES BAR 75 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 75Originally from California and now Nashville-based, ERINN PEET LUKES has enlisted Rachel Baiman to produce her new self-released EPL, a seven-track EP of folksy Americana inspired by the bluegrass music she studied and the pop-rock of her youth, each track taking on a different vibe. It opens with the easy flowing bruised relationship country pop of ‘Stung’ (“He was prone to drifting and to running around/I opened up my heart but now I’m burden bound”), ‘Catalyst’, another on a similar theme (“This isn’t my first rodeo/I’ve been the fool of the show and I’ve kicked it with my share of cowboys and I always find my way home… fate won’t let you realize that/I might be a bad idea but if I’m being real you only got one life to live”) inspired by the folk-indie stylings of Phoebe Bridgers. As the title suggests, featuring Baiman on fiddle, the warbled, slow walking beat ‘Country Music Breaks My Heart’ traces the barroom beers and tears route (“I’ve been hurt, so have you/Here’s a quarter put it in the juke/And watch me fall apart”), the pop-rock apocalyptic ‘Piece Of Land’ (“Look ma, the sky is fallin’/I’m prepared and I got plans/I can hear the trumpets callin’”) draws on Panic! At The Disco and Blink-182, and ‘Dime A Dozen’ is a sad fingerpicked, pedal steel and fiddle ballad (“You just thought I’d make a good wife/Maybe I’d become your mother/Well it seems that my dreams/Are more important than a lover/Who doesn’t care about my music”).

Another track summed up by the title, the anthemic slow swaying standout ‘Loneliness or Solitude’ takes Irish-tinted Appalachian folk as its basis and build on this with droning fiddle, rolling banjo,  fuzzy bass lines and a walking drum beat, while the last track, Queen  is a dance friendly pop bounce written for her childhood hero Britney Spears and her very public meltdowns, (“They used to love you til you got older…I hope your happy now/I hope you tuned them out/I hope you found a way/To keep your sanity… You may have faded from the magazines/But in my mind you’re still a queen/Of the late 90’s pop scene”).  The different styles may make it difficult to pigeonhole the audience, but if catchy country-folk pop ticks the box, then this is for you.

A year ago RACHEL WALKER was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, in partnership with AARON JONES, she releases an EP, A Happy Place, to tell her story and benefit the support charity, Maggie’s. The first track, ‘Song Of Hope’ is a narrative of the last year giving thanks for that support. In contrast ‘Hope Remains’, written by Steven Crawford, is more of a pull-yourself-together song, particularly as Aaron sings it. It wasn’t written for this project but the message that there is always hope is an important one in any situation.

‘Càite Bheil i ann am Muile’ is an upbeat song from Cape Breton with a jangly accompaniment and underpinning bodhran. It seems to take that message on board as it skips along. ‘Waiting For Love’ is another song that wasn’t written for this project but is totally appropriate and finally, ‘An Innis Àigh’ is another song from Cape Breton, translating as ‘The Happy Island’, a beautiful, gentle tune that brings the comfort of a much-loved place.

Following up on last year’s auspicious debut album Notes For A Maiden Warrior, Irish singer-songwriter DANI LARKIN joins forces with The Ulster Orchestra for Between Worlds, a self-released EP that, recorded live with over forty musicians, revisits three songs off the album in a new light. It begins with the steady strummed anthemic Love Part Three, the original cello part now a full string section with added brass, followed by ‘Samson & Goliath’ where the Appalachian colours are now recast in a brass-caressed Irish embrace and ends with the moodier ‘The Red (Maca’s Return)’, a number about an Irish war goddess, the starkness swelling on orchestral storms as Larkin shows the dramatic range of her vocals with an almost Piaf-like intensity.

Americana from a Welshman with influences from somewhere south of the Rio Grande is served up by WILLIAM POYER on his EP, Forgiven. It opens with the powerful title track underpinned by Hammond organ and William follows that up with ‘The Eagle’, a soulful blues. ‘Lightning’ is an upbeat song built on some growling guitar with a first nations feel to the break while ‘Vincent’s Song’ lowers the intensity just a bit with plinky piano adding highlights. Finally, ‘For Yesterday’ with the return of the Hammond and some ringing guitars starts out in the wild west, musically at least, but seems to end in a darker place.

Intertwined is the debut EP by Icelandic singer-songwriter ARNY MARGRET. It opens with the title track followed by ‘Akureyri’ and when it started it felt as if she was singing in Icelandic – her diction isn’t always the greatest but it resolved into English. ‘In Tall Buildings’ is probably the best track as Arny looks forward to her retirement when she doesn’t have to work in those tall buildings any more. It’s a clever little song. ‘Sometime’ closes the set with strings over Arny’s acoustic guitar.

Recorded during the sessions for More Notes From The Field but not included on the album, JACOB & DRINKWATER now release ‘New Capri’ (Polyphonic) as a single, a slow sway melancholic, nostalgia-soaked (“I didn’t care much for school.  I wasn’t handsome or tall”) number about how “life is for living don’t let it pass you by” because “you’ll get old, pay your taxes and you’ll die” so “don’t wait til tomorrow to find your own way… you can start today”.

In advance of their second album, Where Old Ghosts Meet, Anglo-Irish band THE HAAR release a single, ‘The Wild Rover’. Their starting point is the table-thumping chorus song that we’ve all tried hard to forget but The Haar move it on a long way. Slowed down with an echoey lead vocal by Molly Donnery and an eerie accompaniment. To complete the transformation, Adam Summerhayes has added a final verse that gives the song a very different slant.

Another taster for the forthcoming album, the first by the new line-up of Bella Gaffney, Holly Brandon and, her bubbling clawhammer banjo prominent, recent arrival Kate Griffin, THE MAGPIES self-release ‘Undertow’ ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March. A spare, Appalachian-coloured number featuring a fiddle solo from Brandon, it addresses a theme of drug addiction and the exploitation of women.

JACK BROADBENT releases his new album, Ride, next month and gives us a foretaste with a single, ‘Midnight Radio’. The arrangement falls somewhere between lounge jazz and rockabilly and the official video shows Jack working a white suit and a big old-fashioned microphone so we know where he’s coming from. Nice one.

A new married duo out of Nashville, ARBOR NORTH are Michael Boris and AC Jones, making their debut with the major chords country pop of the self-released ‘All The Right Mistakes’, a catchy number, big on pedal steel and electric guitar, about how everything that happens, everything we do, are part of some grand plan.

‘Calmac Kenny’ is the debut single by young Scottish duo CÀRNAN: accordionist Louden Mackay and guitarist/singer Arthur Brook. Mackay, who wrote the track, gives the accordion a really good workout and if you don’t get the reference it’s clear that you’ve never been on the Island Hopper.

Titled after the famous 16th century explorer, while the self-released ‘Magellan’ may be her debut single as FISKE (John Fiske was a 19th century American historian who wrote about Magellan’s voyage to America), the London-based singer-songwriter first emerged in the industry some 30 years ago as Sara Davis, previously signed to Rough Trade and releasing Tundra, in 1994 and her EP, She’s Been Sleeping, before dropping off the radar. Her return, written after the sudden loss of both her father and a close friend, is a soaring open tuning acoustic ballad about navigating loss and grief produced by Tim Bran with strings courtesy of Rosie Langley and an ambience that evokes the laid back side of Mitchell and Nicks.

Ringing guitars herald ‘The Moon’, the new single by THE SHIPBUILDERS, in advance of their debut album, Spring Tide. The song has a rousing Andalusian style and tells of a soldier in the Spanish Civil War contemplating the death all around him. As a taster it’s very tasty indeed.

Rolling a somewhat dreamy tropical rhythm amid the folk colours, featuring tea chest bass player Richard on the high notes harmonies and languidly sung by Liz Pearson, Sussex duo CHALK HORSE MUSIC digitally released ‘Telling Of The Bees’ (Chalk Horse Music), the title relating to the tradition of keeping bees  informed of important news like births and deaths lest misfortune befall the house,  the synth sounding like the insects buzzing,  back in 2018 but are now making it available on 7” vinyl backed with the breathy, troubadour acoustic and wheezing ‘Glorious Ascension’.

Ethnomusicologist DARIA is big on music for children and ‘Thanks To The Doctors And Nurses’ fits the bill. The message is simple and direct but what makes the song stand out is the guitar-led arrangement with lots of percussion. This is the way to make good music accessible for children.

CINDER WELL (aka Amelia Baker) joins forces with JIM GHEDI for a reimaging of two traditional numbers, performed with interwoven vocal harmonies, drones and acoustic soundscapes, the themes resonating with their pandemic experience, including travel bans which left families and loved ones stuck on opposite sides of the Atlantic. First up from Ireland is ‘I Am a Youth That’s Inclined to Ramble’ (Free Dirt), about emigrating to America, sung here from a primarily female rather than male perspective. The second is the Scottish traditional ‘Pulling Bracken’, sung both from the perspective of a fairy and the person he falls in love with, who collects bracken on the moors, a traditional role for women. The song segues into the fiddle tune ‘Highlander’s Farewell’, learnt from an Alan Lomax recording of Emmet Lundy.

With a new album, The Unquiet, coming soon PAULINE SCANLON releases a single, ‘The Bird In The Bush’, one of a long tradition of erotic songs. This one is less explicit than many and is given a nice chugging arrangement to disguise the “goings-on”.