A round-up of recent EPs and singles

noise-of-the-watersHICKORY SIGNALS are Brighton duo Laura Ward on vocals, flute and shruti box and Adam Ronchetti in guitars and percussion, their self-released second EP, Noise Of The Waters also featuring contributions on strings, banjo and lap. Produced by Stick In The Wheel’s Ian Carter, it comprises six tracks, a 50/50 balance of traditional and self-penned. The former kicks things off with a flute-led setting of a poem by James Joyce, the others being a spare, intimate confessional account of ‘Unquiet Grave’ and a shruti and violin coloured reading of ‘Irish Ways’, its lyric about the 17th century burning of fields and stealing grain given resonance with Ward’s dark and sonorous timbre.

Led by Scott Smith’s banjo, the duo’s own ‘Here I Am’ is a far lighter and more sprightly affair, ‘Bows and Arrows’ a more traditional sounding, stripped-back cautionary tale about the knowledge needed to make the weapons and snares to catch animals birds and fish that serves as an allegory for mankind’s penchant for destruction, Ward’s renaissance-styled flute solo adding to the mood. The final number is ‘Take The Window’ which duly satisfies the requirement of any traditional influenced folk release to contain at least one revenge/murder song, here that of a woman spurning her lover whose lengthy absence has “turned me into someone I didn’t want to know”.

dont-take-no-for-an-answerED GOODALE is a young singer-songwriter from Sussex who usually appears live with his brother Ollie on cajon. Don’t Take No For An Answer is his latest EP – a precursor for his second album – and the instrumentation is expanded by the contributions of producer Jamie Evans. I heard Ed live first, with no knowledge of him or his music and enjoyed every moment which, in my book, makes him a damn fine songwriter.

The songs here cover the range of his concerns. The title track is about keeping on keeping on despite setbacks and that’s important while ‘Sunday Morning’ is about waking up with a hangover. The major work here is the ecological plea ‘Beneath The Veil’. Ed suffers from Asperger’s, although you wouldn’t know it to meet him but his condition gives him a unique point of view. ‘Coming Up For Air’ is about his first trip on the London Underground something that you might imagine would be rather disconcerting. Make of all that what you will but here is an exceptional young talent.

flyHailing from New Quay in West Wales and signed to Charlotte Church’s publishing company, DANIELLE LEWIS has been likened to Karen Carpenter for the unfettered purity of her high vocals. Singing in both English and Welsh, she’s made quite an impression in her home nation, indeed two of her songs were used for a Visit Wales campaign, and was recently invited on to the BBC Wales’ Emerging Talent Horizons Project for 2016. Fly (Folkstock FSR43) is a new six track EP that gathers together her recent summery strummed, finger-clicking folk-pop single, ‘Anywhere Is Home’ with five new numbers. These kick off with the equally upbeat shuffling ‘West Coast Sun’, followed by the slower fingerpicked ‘About This Time’, a dusk-heavy number which suggests a Sandy Denny influence, whereas, on the other hand, the choppy strum of ‘Belong’ is more early Joni. Sung unaccompanied before acoustic guitar arrives midway, ‘Hiraeth’ is the only Welsh language track, but it’s the quietly anthemic, appropriately airy title track that strikes most, a touch of echo to the yearning, soaring vocals accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar pattern before closing on drums and string arrangement wings. Gorgeous.

thoughts-of-paradiseThoughts Of Paradise is the new EP from SAM JORDAN & THE DEAD BUOYS. We’ve already featured the lead track, ‘My Nirvana’, which sounds better and better with each play. ‘Favourite Messenger’ is rather lighter but still weird with a mostly spoken lyric mixed quite a long way down that breaks out into a more conventional song about half-way through. ‘I’ve Never Seen Her Fall’ is pretty and ‘The Stars Are Angels Marooned’ returns to a more conventional rock sound. I’m not sure where Sam fits in on the musical spectrum but perhaps that doesn’t matter.

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.

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.

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.

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.