SINGLES BAR 83 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 83TALMORNEY  is 50ish Forest of Dean folk artist Matthew Macer-Wright who, inspired by the likes of The Unthanks, Vaughan Williams, June Tabor, Tori Amos and Natalie Merchant, has been drawn to compose new music to a collection of anonymous seventeenth century ballads (adapted from David Stell’s pamphlet ‘Ballads and Music of the Early Seventeenth Century’), under the title of The Good Fellows Complaint & Sundry Ballads (Five Beat Recordings), an EP prelude to the similarly themed On the Mending Hand album due next Spring.. On a timely note, the piano and woodwind arranged title track (which comes in an edit, extended and alternative just piano acoustic version) is a song of dissent about the rising cost of living, here themed around ‘beer-flation’, bewailing the excise duty imposed. It’s followed by ‘We Three Mariners’ who “care not for those martial men/That do our states disdain/But we care for those merchant men/Which do our states maintain”. A jauntier note is struck with ‘Old Simon The King’, another number about drink and its effects (though the version here follows different lyrics to that by Shirley Collins), as is, you’ll not be surprised to hear, ‘The Little Barly-Corne’, a Christmas revel from the Renaissance, that advises “It is the cinningst alchymist/That ere was in the land…’Twill turn a taylor to a man/And a man into an asse”.

Sam and Sarah Gotley were formerly Broken Bones Matilda and are now BLUE VIOLET. Following their debut album, Late Night Calls, earlier this year they have now released an EP, Love, Hate & Forgiveness. Two tracks are reworked from that record: an acoustic (sort of) reading of ‘Halo’ and a similarly revisited ‘Rabbit Hole’. There is a suspicion that “acoustic” shouldn’t include massive drums but the piano just about makes it through.

The opening track and one of the two new titles, previously a single, is ‘Favourite Jeans’ which is a sort of sequel to ‘Rabbit Hole’. It begins with strummed acoustic guitar and a country-ish lead guitar part and goes into the break with some clever percussion. ‘Love, Hate & Forgiveness’ was imagined as a film and opens and closes with the sound of an old projector as it depicts an interestingly-dressed Sarah having an animated discussion with Sam. Blue Violet have some great musical ideas but also a tendency to overdo things rather.

Canadian four piece THE REDHILL VALLEYS follow up their recent self-released EP with Travel Well, Pt. 2, again featuring  six tracks channelling 60s Nashville (the twangy ‘Old Country Song’ and the Patsy Cline tears and beers sound of  ‘That Lonesome Road’ and on ‘All On Me’, the rootsiness of The Band, the regret-stained simple fingerpicked ‘Final Lullaby’ and the slow waltzing, steel-haunted ‘Don’t Want To Leave’ rounded off with bassist Chelsea McWilliams burning the torch for a passionate live cover of Lucinda Williams’ ‘I Lost It’.

Suze Terwisscha, professionally known as CATCH THE SPARROW releases a seasonal EP, Winter Flowers mixing traditional songs and tunes from Northumberland and Newcastle, where she now lives, with her own writing. Nothing is quite straightforward. The opener, ‘Farewell/Here’s The Tender Coming’, gives two views of a young man off to sea. Oddly, the second doesn’t embody the usual crying and tearing of hair; instead the singer seems proud that her young man is off to war. ‘Game Of Chance’, the second single from the EP, is an original composition but you might wonder on first hearing.

Third is the wordless vocals of ‘Interlude’, followed by the unmistakeable sound of Andy May’s Northumbrian small pipes playing ‘Border Spirit’ which leads into ‘Before The Flood’, a powerful song on which Andy plays the final notes. Finally we have the piano-based ‘Winter Flowers’ paired with ‘Liberty For The Sailors’ as the men come home. This isn’t a collection of traditional songs from the north-east but it is influenced by them; it’s a record about and for Newcastle.

The first in a series of download only EPs building up to an album, Was has the artist briefly formerly known as Afterlight reverting back to her real name as THEA GILMORE. The EPs (the others will be Is, Will and Could) will each include four songs, one being a  cover, the first, as the title suggests, dealing with the past and what leads up to make the decisions we do. Riding a throbbing bassline and pulsing percussion, opening track ‘Bones’ concerns what it means to be a woman while set to a minimal repeated piano phrase with a spooked vocal ‘Hope and Fury’ looks back at childhood in a reminder to stay true to and reclaim the person we could have been. The discordant nature reflecting the title, ‘Talking Out Of Tune’ with its metronomic folk rhythm, feverish atmosphere and almost Eastern European wailing, is inspired by more personal recent upheavals in reflecting how the past can cast a shadow over the present, the cover this time round being ‘Hey Jealousy’, the biggest hit by 90s alt-rock guitar outfit Gin Blossoms, recast as a slow piano ballad.

ANDY SMYTHE will be releasing a single from his critically acclaimed album Hard To Be Human (which was released earlier this year), entitled ‘The Riverman’. Andy is no stranger to success after releasing some fabulous albums over the years, and this latest set of songs and this single is just brilliant. He found inspiration for the lyrics after watching a Nick Drake documentary which sparked some sadness in his heart.  Nick had the ability to move emotions in all of us, particularly the creative souls like Andy, who find it hard to push themselves in front of the right people.  However, after seeing him live he covers the shyness very well!

‘The Riverman’ is a song ‘about creating oneself, a journey which can be challenging in a cut-throat world that favours the extrovert. Many of us have suffered but also rejoiced’ as Andy asks ‘where is the road without the hurt’? The song starts slowly winding the listener in with Andy’s delicate vocals, then straight into an upbeat tempo! Foot tapping, melodic, catchy and excellent fiddle and imagery on the fiddle.  However the lyrics paint the picture.

CHRIS CLEVERLEY takes off in a new direction with his new single, ‘Nausea’, taken from his upcoming album, Broadcast The Secret Verse. There are synth overlays, what sound like programmed drums and Chris employing a breathy voice. The words are interesting, as Chris’ words always are, but it feels dangerously mainstream.

New Forest folk-Americana trio BECOMING BRANCHES release their first new material in two years with the infectious toe-tapping folksy pop ‘Right Words’ (Self-released) with its earworm chorus hook conjuring thoughts of early Mumford & Sons.

Acoustic guitar and restrained electronica provide the background to ‘St. John’s Eve’, the new single by JOHN BLEK. June 23rd is the night of a pagan bonfire ceremony in John’s native County Cork and the song is a love story set against that background. It sounds really good.

A composer and singer of North African and Eastern European heritage, as a taster for next year’s album, ESBE is releasing the traditional title track ‘Blow The Wind Southerly’ (New Cat Music).  Famously sung in a solo operatic version by Kathleen Ferrier, Esbe brings to it soaring harmonies, taking as her inspiration an image of a young woman, standing on a cliff in the moonlight, wishing for her lover would return safely from his ocean voyage as reflective verses are followed by a faster bridge chorus.

Delicate electronic sounds seem to be in vogue at the moment. Inspired by Sylvia Plath and borrowing a few of her words, ‘Forgive The Moon’, the new single by RUBY MUSE, has a cosmic mystical vibe. Ruby Muse, (Jools and Malcolm Heyes) call it a love song for the universe.

Scottish quartet GNOSS mark their first appearance of the year with ‘Dirt & Bone’ (Blackfly Records), an upbeat strummed and melodically catchy rolling rhythm number with Connor Sinclair’s woodwind prominent, inspired by street photographer Mike Brodie’s Tones Of Dirt And Bone collection of polaroids of the people he met whilst hopping trains on the North American railway throughout his teens and early twenties.

Sung over a hypnotic guitar figure, ‘Rough Edges’ is the new single from Belfast singer-songwriter JOSHUA BURNSIDE. It’s a painful story of a relationship in ruins and like that relationship it eventually dissolves in a mess of strings and overlaid voices. Joshua’s delivery is almost menacing in its initial matter-of-factness. Quite chilling, in fact.

‘Ella’ is the new single by Cork-born, New York-based singer-songwriter, DARREN KIELY. It’s a powerful song building up from acoustic guitar and voice to a big finish about facing up to feelings and emotions tied up in the story of a woman who left him.

The final EP taken from ELIZA CARTHY’s forthcoming retrospective album, The Queen Of The Whirl, is Accordion Song and the title track is released as a single. Originally from the Red Rice album, which pushed the envelope for its time, this new version is rich and powerful with a lolloping, reggae-ish beat. As a taster for the new album it’s hard to beat.

From his new album, Future ForeverJONATHAN OGDEN releases a single, ‘When I’m Home’, a restful finger-picked song with a distinctly spiritual vibe. It features ethereal backing vocals by Molly Pardon.

‘It Goes’ is the new single by KEREN MARA, a New Zealand singer-songwriter with an interesting take on the world if this song is any guide. It tells of life through the eyes of a witch – the video is something else entirely – and the noise made by fingers sliding on guitar strings acts as an instrument in its own right, adding to the spooky nature of the song.