SINGLES BAR 53 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 53CORRIE SHELLEY has released a digital only EP, Ghost Light.  It begins with the unaccompanied ‘Mother Earth’ sung live in an otherwise empty church to provide just enough atmospheric echo. It’s almost a hymn to our planet coupled with a plea to stop screwing it up. ‘Wedgwood’s Daughter’ is the story of Eliza Wedgwood who was disowned by her family for falling in love with a miner from Wigan. It’s dedicated to Corrie’s mother’s husband who is Eliza’s great, great grandson.

The title track, with its lovely shimmering guitar, is for all the theatres now dark except for a single “ghost light” placed as a statement of faith. Finally we have Corrie’s second lockdown song, ‘See You On The Other Side’ distinguished by one killer line: “everyone’s an expert on things they know nowt about”. Well said, Corrie, and it will be all over one day.

Singles Bar 53Now DÀIMH (pronounced “dive” for those that don’t have the Gaelic) had just started work on their new album when lockdown put the mockers on their plans. They had recorded three songs and have now released them as an EP – Stopped In Our Tracks. First is ‘Dómhnail An Dannsair’, a pretty springtime-sounding song punctuated with odd staccato beats just to keep you on your toes. The song translates as ‘Donald The Dancer’ and I believe it’s by Roddy Campbell.

Next up for Donald to dance to come ‘Triangle Reels’, opening with a delicate acoustic guitar and fiddle which builds almost imperceptibly with Angus MacKenzie’s whistle to a satisfying conclusion without ever going over the top. Finally we have ‘Òran Elle Do’n Phrionnsa’ – the words from an 18th century poem celebrating Charles Edward Stuart. What is really good about all three tracks is their restraint – tight arrangements and lovely vocals from Ellen MacDonald.

Singles Bar 53We haven’t heard from FRED’S HOUSE for a while but they are back bigger and stronger with a new EP, Walls And Ceilings. With Prue Ward now on violin they have an extra layer of sound to work with but the lead track is dominated by Lachlan Golder’s chunky guitar driving a song obliquely referencing the limited views available during lockdown although it’s really about something else entirely. ‘World’s Apart’ is another powerful song with a slight bluesy feel under Vikki Gavin’s voice and piano with a guitar break to die for.

The relationships detailed in ‘Steal The Night’ and ‘Only The Sun’ fall into the dysfunctional category, the latter again built on Vikki’s piano. It’s about guitarist (and Vikki’s former fiancé) Griff Jameson leaving the band and having to accept the whole messy break-up thing. Despite the underlying misery it’s probably the best song in the set.<

Ward ThomasHaving released ‘Hold Space’ earlier in the year, WARD THOMAS now have the full EP, The Space Between (Sony Music) which, in addition to that kissing cousin of Natalie Inbrugila’s ‘Torn’,  includes a lovely fingerpicked cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’, the poignant rippling ‘Painted Legacy’, written after the passing of their uncle as a daughter’s ode to her dying father and about children carrying on the legacy of their parents, and the similarly styled  ‘Someone To Someone’, a collaboration and duet with Dan Owen, about suicide as a result of verbal bullying.

In The ForestIN THE FOREST are a quartet from Hertfordshire comprising two couples: Bob and Rachel Harwood-Stamper and Alex and Becky Lee-Richards and two sisters. Their eponymous debut EP is released today. With four vocalists and original songs built on guitars and keyboards, their sound is rich and soaring; sometimes ethereal.

The lead track, ‘Means To An End’, is one of those songs that seeks to enfold you and one that you can go back to again and again. ‘White Wash’ is deliberately different, opening with Rachel’s jaunty ukulele with lead vocals by one of the chaps and a nice a cappella passage and the record finishes with the big sound of ‘On The Run’ and some heavy guitar. They do make a gorgeous sound but the lyrics can get lost in there from time to time.

CASEY NOEL, originally from North Carolina, got her real break at Richard Thompson’s Frets And Refrains songwriting camp in 2017 and the result is her debut EP, Not Just Pretty Words. Casey’s music blends country and pop with a bluesy edge. She’s up-beat and up-tempo in defiance of adverse circumstances as in ‘Pretty Words’ where she tells us that “a better man will come along”. Actually she slows things down a bit with ‘Marsh Girl’ a story of tragedy sung over a growling bowed bass inspired by the book Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

The opening ‘The Hang-Up’ is the perfect lead track for the set and ‘Prove Me Wrong’ isn’t far behind with its grin-inducing stuttering guitar breaks. Drums and fiddle give ‘You And Me’ a hoedown feel while a simple guitar pick accompanies the closing ‘Seasons’.

Singer-songwriter HENRY DEREK ELIS of Cave Flowers releases All The Pretty Little Horses, an EP of what he describes as “covers and curiosities”. You only have to look at the cover to appreciate the truth of that. Henry lays his gravelly voice over drones that maintain a sense of doom and the title track – also his first single – is decidedly odd. Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself’ is cheerful by comparison, but Glenn Danzig’s ‘Heart Of The Devil’ hits Beefheart blues territory and ‘Alabama Highway’ would make Tom Waits sit up and take notice. You can decide for yourselves where Henry sits on the musical spectrum.

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