SINGLES BAR 36 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 36Following her debut album, Away From My Window, Aberdeenshire singer IONA FYFE looks across the Atlantic for her EP, Dark Turn Of Mind. Aside from Gillian Welch’s title track and Gregory Alan Isakov’s ‘If I Go, I’m Goin’, all the songs are traditional and have roots in the Ozarks and the Appalachians. ‘Swing And Turn’ comes from Jean Ritchie and uses the tune often associated with ‘Gypsy Davy’ and is a typical southern mountain song.

‘The Golden Vanity’ is found in variations all across the English-speaking world including Scotland of course. Iona’s version combines Child’s version with Cecil Sharp’s and she notes that it was recorded by Jean Ritchie more than fifty years ago. ‘Little Musgrave’ comes from Sharp and Jeannie Robertson in this version although it was known in print in the 17th century. Between these is ‘Let Him Sink’, an Ozark variant of ‘Farewell He.”

The EP is built on Rory Matheson’s piano which gives Iona scope for some powerful singing. Aidan Moodie plays guitar and adds perfectly judged harmony vocals while Graham Rorie adds more decoration on mandolin.
https://ionafyfe.com/

Singles Bar 36THE MARRIAGE is a new Americana union formed by singer Kirsten Adamson, the daughter of Skids and Big Country founder Stuart Adamson, and former ahab member Dave Burn on guitar and harmonies, making their debut with the self-released folksy strum of ‘Live, Love, Cry’, a rather fine taster for an EP and full album in 2019.
https://www.wethemarriage.com/home

Singles Bar 36She Wynds On was commissioned to promote a new tourist route through the Cairngorms – a project called SnowRoads. The music was composed by CALUM WOOD and he is supported by Robert Black, Ross Ainslie, Stuart Spence, Charlie McKerron, Tom Oakes, Brigid Mhairi and Julia Dignan. It opens with the title song, a sort of overview of the four sections of the route from Blairgowrie to Grantown-On-Spey via Braemar, Ballater and Tomintoul. I suppose there was a contractual obligation to include the line “the heart of the Cairngorms” but that’s the only jarring moment. The four instrumental tracks are dramatic without being overblown and Scottish at their very heart.
www.callumwood.com

Singles Bar 36Black country Americana singer-songwriter Joseph Hicklin, aka DEATH BY STAMPEDE, has released Contemporary Depressive, a 5-track download/stream EP from his Soundcloud site that, exploring the contemporary nature of depression (“this great big, looming Monster/ That holds you near and calls itself your home”), serves as an acoustic introduction to his music. With a dusty, slightly gravelly vocal reminiscent of the Handsome Family, Rod Picott or Willard Grant Conspiracy, it opens with ‘Daydream 27’, a mid-tempo fingerpicked chug musing on how “we all die on our own”. It’s followed by the choppier, early Dylan-like strum of ‘Neon (Reflecting)’ with its urban paranoia, the notion that reflecting on the past can be pointless and a chorus about “going to where the neon glows. where angels dance without halos.” ‘Songs of Love & Truth’ takes the pacing down again before building to an urgent climax, lines like “the moon is a thumbprint on a dirty widow” and the future being “just a fat man with a bird upon his shoulder singing songs of death, but also love and truth” underscoring his way with words and imagery.

‘Fool’ is another aching, world weary, introspective fingerpicked ballad (about being stuck in a rut and a sense of impotency how, since “life isn’t real and death is a joke” you may as well make the most even if “it seems so brave and it seems so cruel to live like a god and die like a fool.”

It ends with the slow melancholic gradually building sway of ‘My Morning Pill’, a feeling of helplessness and ennui where “nothing but smoke came out of my mouth” and “my whole life is like a train past my window sill” mingled with a desire to crawl out of the black hole “and get through the year and get through the day.” Closing with the line “I was an addict, just after one taste, it’s not too bad, I know now darling”, this is a breathtaking debut and unquestionably among the finest Americana releases of the year, you really should seek him out, he has the potential to be one of the greats.
https://www.facebook.com/deathbystampede/

Singles Bar 36‘Shooter On The Mound’ is the second single from country-folk duo HENGISTBURY and is also the opening track on their debut album, Add Another Minute. Jessica Mary and Pete Briley produce a big sound and this song reverberates with earthy guitar, banjo and lap steel. Both single and album are available in digital format and physical copies of the album are available from the band’s website:
www.hengistburymusic.com

Singles Bar 36An early taster for their forthcoming self-released album, Rivers That Flow in Circles, Birmingham’s BOAT TO ROW release ‘Spanish Moss’, a musically variegated, tempo-shifting affair that layers African percussion and electric guitars over a persistent bass line, before the instrumental playout with a wash of guitars, synths and violins. The album promises to be a more expansive and explorative musical palette than their debut.
https://www.boattorow.com/

Singles Bar 36Familiar Strangers is a fine debut by NEW TOWN JACK, a singer-songwriter out of Southampton. The theme of the EP is, reasonably enough, strangers but it isn’t that simple. Friends can become strangers in ‘Change The Rules’ – something we’ve all experienced – and people can deliberately isolate themselves as explained in ‘Let Me Be’, although the story is rather fanciful. Deeper down, it’s also about people looking for people in both the physical and metaphorical meanings.
www.newtownjack.co.uk

Singles Bar 36Also from Birmingham, RED SHOES contribute to the festive singles list with their download only ‘Time Stands Still’, Mark Evans providing the cascading strummed acoustic chords while Carolyn sings a moving lyric that draws attention to the homeless at this time of year, 50% of all profits being donated to Crisis UK. Available from their website:
www.redshoes-music.com/charity

Singles Bar 36CARA DILLON has also been into the tinsel cupboard and, in response to the reaction performing it on her last couple of Christmas tours, emerged with her cover of Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed ‘River’ from her classic Blue album. Featuring John Smith on acoustic guitar and John Garrison on keys, it’s a beautiful version that conjures the feeling of snow falling on a silent night. To complement it, she’s also covered The Pretenders’ festive hit ‘2000 Miles’, giving it a folksy serenade with cascading guitar notes and fiddle. Both are downloadable from the usual platforms.
http://www.caradillon.co.uk/

Singles BarRICK FOOT’s Christmas song isn’t terribly Christmassy, nor is it very long. In fact ‘A Message To The Future’ weighs in at just 39 seconds! It can be argued that this is quite long enough to tell the future to get its shit together and Rick sums up the current situation in seven words and double-tracked double bass.
http://www.rickfoot.com/

Singles Bar 36Back on a Christmas note, YVONNE LYON offers up the twinkling ‘I Believe In Christmas ‘(Self-released) with its silvery rippling keys and bells backdropping the strummed acoustic guitar as it builds to a choral finale. It’s backed with the ringing guitars of the more folk rock ‘Dear December’ with its hints of Amy Macdonald.
www.yvonnelyonmusic.com

Canadian singer-songwriter ALLISON LUPTON joins forces with BBC Radio 2 Folk Music award winning trio The Young’uns and guitarist Craig Werth for the self-released ‘The Eve Of Christmas Day’, a more carol-like affair that also features a warm silver brass quintet arrangement by Tom Leighton.
http://allisonlupton.com/

 

RED SHOES – It Isn’t Over Yet (Cedarwood CEDAR15)

Red ShoesOkay, first off let me declare that I’ve known Mark and Carolyn Evans, who are the core of Birmingham-based Red Shoes, for some 30 years. This, however, has no bearing on what I think of their music. Even had I not known them, I would still be a massive fan. I would also rate Carolyn as one of my all time top five female vocalists, and I’m not the only one who has compared her to Sandy Denny, admittedly her biggest influence.

Originally formed in 1983, they self-released the All Fall Down EP produced by Clive Gregson and a single on Mooncrest, a version of ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’, as well as a never-released album. However, eight years later they called it a day to focus on raising a family. Some twenty years later, they decided to give it another go.

Fate brought them into contact with Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg who offered to produce and play on, what would become their debut album, Ring Around The Land. Released in 2009, it was followed in 2012 by All The Good Friends, produced by the late Mick Dolan and again featuring Pegg, alongside Dave Swarbrick and Bev Bevan, and including a slow, deeply sad stunning version of ‘Blackberry Way’.

Now comes their third release, this time a double CD set comprising two acts, one electric and on acoustic, the former featuring the core line up of Mark, Carolyn and guitarist Nigel King alongside drummer Rob Mason and contributions from Pegg and Ric Sanders, while the latter is just the trio. Both discs also feature guest appearances by Joe Brown on Dobro and ukulele, respectively.

As depicted on the artwork, Act One opens with ‘Salters Screen’, one of two rerecorded numbers written as a commission by Worcester County Council for a libraries and communities audio-visual project. An uptempo folk-country chugger featuring Pegg on mandolin and Brown on dobro it was written in response to the memories of Droitwich locals who used to go to Salters Super Cinema which finally closed in the 1960s. A similarly uptempo approach is taken for ‘Dust In The Hallway’, although, carried along on shuffling brushed snare with Sanders on fiddle solo, the lyrics are actually about alcoholism.

Then comes ‘Hostile Place’, a song written several years back during a brief stint under the name of The Lorelei, arranged here by King and, quite frankly, with its line “this home’s a hostile place” one of the greatest songs about a dying relationship ever written. Sung with a vocally quivering heart-wrenching intensity by Carolyn and with Sanders augmenting the emotions on violin, if you’re not a weeping wreck at the end then you have no soul.

Taking its title from the Kevin Spacey TV series, the tumblingly melodic state of the world themed ‘House Of Cards’ was written as a biting response to Donald Trump and American politics and is in turn followed by the title track. Now, long standing fans will know this as a powerful ballad written and sung by Mark, here, however, it’s transformed into one of their jaunty folk numbers in the manner of ‘Swansong’ off the previous album. Both versions are terrific.

‘I Wish It Would Rain’ finds Carolyn in soulful mode for a powerful, slow-paced calling for a cleansing of the country to wash the hate from the shores of its green and pleasant lands. The curtain then falls on the first act with the five-and-half minute ‘Maple Tree Boy’. Sanders’ violin introducing a moving traditional-folk flavoured ballad set to a military slow march inspired by the true story of Arthur Wallace, a navy medic at the Normandy lands, the first casualty he treated being a young Canadian who died in his arms from a bullet that had passed through his helmet. Wallace was haunted by the experience to the end of his days and the fact he was never able to find out the lad’s name. Another one to exercise the tear ducts.

Act Two opens with ‘Floorspot Annie’, a poignant fingerpicked number about a would be folk singer who escapes the 9-5 grind down at the club on a Tuesday night, her hopes of getting spotted never materialising but, despite the fact that “she may not play the finest note or sing the brightest tune” always cheering the audience.

‘Heart of Stourport Town’ is the second of the commissioned songs, a touching slowly strummed, melancholic Dennyesque ballad about friendship and the ‘joyous company’ community that draws on an interviews with two women who grew up in houses attached to the Tontine Hotel, built in 1772 to provide lodgings and premises for the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Company, in the 1950s.

They don’t do many storysongs, but, Mark singing lead, the spare ‘Six Boats’ is a number inspired by Cornish (?) smugglers and sung in the voice of a young father condemned to hang after being betrayed to the Redcoats. Appropriately enough, this is followed by ‘Pirates’, written by Mark and sung by Carolyn, a wistful song of regret and of not putting down roots as she sings “my dreams have faded, faded far away and the sands have covered my footsteps”, Springsteen surely inspiring the line “like a pirate, riding a stolen car.”

Again penned by Mark, their debut single gets a six-minute revisiting with Brown on baritone ukulele, like the title track, has also been reimagined, transforming from its original soaring chorus ballad of desperation sung by Mark to a slower strummed, more world weary reading.

Mark taking lead again, taking its title from the Ayrshire town ‘All The Way To Troon’ is probably the newest number here, a lovely Celtic-hued folk ballad about seeking a lost love, one I can imagine club audiences swaying long to and one which Daniel O’Donnell might want to wrap his ears around.

A passionate member of the anti-fox hunting lobby, the last album featured protest song ‘Red Coat Ride’ and here she’s channeled her love of foxes into an adaptation of the similarly-themed traditional ‘Reynardine’, a stark reading featuring just her electrifying voice underscored by Mason’s rumbling drums.

And, speaking of foxes, she also has another identity as fledgling author C.S.Evans and, accompanied by King, the collection closes with her singing ‘Martha’s Song’, the words taken from her debut novel, Martha – Trinity of the Chosen, a magic-realism murder mystery in which foxes feature prominently, but existing in their own right as a celebration of childhood innocence and nature.

Although, live work will continue, there’s talk that this might be their last album, and, if so, then they are bowing out on a glorious high. However, I live in hope that it isn’t over yet. So should you.

Mike Davies

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‘Dust In The Hallway’ – live:

Red Shoes new album release

Red Shoes All The Good FriendsCarolyn and Mark Evans who go under the name Red Shoes, had their initial meeting with legendary bass player Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull in 2008, after Peggy heard their songs on MySpace on the internet. This in turn led to his offer to both produce and play on their debut albumEnlisting the help of fellow Fairport member, Chris Leslie on fiddle and Dylan Project/Little Johnny England guitarist PJ Wright, Dave Pegg then set about recording what would turn out to be the duo’s debut album, Ring Around The Land.

Released on Cedarwood Records in the summer of 2009, the album was critically acclaimed in the press, garnering such praise as “Folk album of the Year” from NetRhythms;  and  “Magical album” from R2. This in turn led to international distribution through Universal in 2010.

The connection with Dave Pegg continued by way of Fairport Convention recording their version of Celtic Moon (opening track on Ring Around The Land) for the album Festival Bell. The song remains a crowd favourite in the Fairport live set.

Red Shoes  have now released their follow up album All The Good Friends with Mick Dolan  (Stevie Winwood, Show of Hands, Ralph McTell, Fisherman’s Friends) in the producer’s chair. The release being funded with the help of the direct-from-artist-to-fan site Pledge Music. This new model for recording and releasing albums is definitely the way forward, giving the artist a real connection with their fans and vice versa.

This second album sees their songwriting growing in stature and maturity, whilst also retaining their skill for memorable tunes and strong choruses. From the opening track Red Coat Ride, with it’s anti-fox hunting theme and pounding rhythm, all way through to the closing lilting waltz of The Last Dance, telling the tale of a lonely woman in a ballroom, this album takes you on an emotional journey, which you won’t forget. With 11 songs – 10 originals and a dazzling version of the Roy Wood song Blackberry Way, Red Shoes invite you into the world of All The Good Friends

These recordings see the duo reunited with Dave Pegg on bass and mandolin, alongside Dave Swarbrick, legendary fiddle player from the halcyon days of Fairport. Also guesting are Ric Sanders & Chris Leslie (Fairport Convention),  Bill Hunt (ELO/Wizzard) and Bev Bevan (The Move).

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