SINGLES BAR 93 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 93GAVIN MARWICK releases the third of his Quarterdays series, Lammas, this time in the company of his partner, nyckelharpa player RUTH MORRIS. The nyckelharpa, for those who have never seen one, looks like a fiendishly complicated instrument and it actually is. It’s easy to discern how it works but much more difficult to make it do so.

Lammas is either a Christian holiday or a pagan festival depending on which faith you adhere. It’s celebrated on August 1st,, traditionally the first day of harvest. In the early church calendar it was harvest festival, on which bread from the first new grain was baked, and Gavin’s compositions reflect that. But enough of history, what about the music?

The opening set, ‘Lammastide/Hats And Ribbons’ begins almost as a processional with Ruth maintaining a solid rhythmic foundation before it slips into a jolly skipping tune – reverently into church and relishing the freedom of a holiday afterwards, perhaps. ‘Those Who Seek The High Places/The Love Of The Land’ is for the labourers who will bring the harvest in – slow and stately as they climb the hills, contemplative as they survey their surroundings – while ‘Earth’s Sorrowing In Autum/Time Of Plenty’ turns our attention to the land itself.

We return to the inspiration of history with ‘Lammas Towers/The Tannel/Juniper Smoke’. The first refers to the traditional building of turf towers by the young men; the second to the bonfires burnt on July 31st while juniper smoke is said to have psychotropic properties. The set gets faster and freer as it progresses, you can probably guess why. Things remain in the realm of folklore with ‘St Fillan’s Spring/The Lammas Market/Lùnastal’. St Fillan was a monk who reputedly could heal the sick and had a glowing left arm; the Lammas market was a mediaeval street fair. and Lùnastal is an old Gaelic word for August and also for Lammas itself. Finally, we have ‘August Breeze’, a beautiful tune which seems to sum up the fading of summer into autumn. This is another lovely suite of original music.

Gearing up for the release of their debut album, Birmingham’s Sally Rea Morris and Stephen Mark, aka two time British CMA Duo of the Year GASOLINE & MATCHES, offer up a taster with ‘Patient Wolves’. Produced by Gavin Monaghan, it’s a dramatic cinematic number with scorching guitar and Emma Miller providing a Mariachi style horn section on French horn and Cornet that takes its title and cue from silver screen legend Lana Turner who, speaking of her Hollywood experiences, declared that “A gentleman is simply a patient wolf” and, nodding to Red Riding Hood has Mark questioning whether he’s both protector and hunter (“I try my damned hardest not to see/You’re my prey, looking good enough to eat/Temptation dressed in red”). The duo recently found themselves gaining national attention as the band ironically advertised to perform (the gig was cancelled) at the iconic Black Country pub The Crooked House on the night it burned down, which, as they represent the Americana Music Association UK on Friday Night at The Long Road Festival (Aug 25-27) in Lutterworth, should hopefully ignite increased interest in their music.

RÉALTA, in the company of Myles McCormack and Cathy Jordan, release a version of the classic Irish ballad, ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’. The song is rather melodramatic piece set against the background of the 1798 rebellion and this version opens with voice over a pulsing acoustic guitar which forms a continuo throughout. As the story builds we hear Uilleann pipes and whistle with Dermot Moynagh on bodhran. ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ is the first single to be taken from Réalta’s forthcoming album.

Ahead of her eagerly anticipated new album, Home, LEWIS BARFOOT has released the jazzy folk ‘Dublin City Bells’ which, like last year’s ‘Tongan Town’ about her time in living in Tonga as a teenager, and featuring rippling drums, double bass, and dancing clarinet and violin, is a jubilant uplifting summery celebration, here inspired by the bells ringing as the streets of Dublin overflowed as lockdown was lifted.

Big doomy chords and solemn “late night” drums introduce ‘Sure As The Rain’ by GLEN HANSARD taken from his forthcoming album, All That Was East Is West Of Me Now. If you’re looking for a new Leonard Cohen Glen could be your man. He has the voice, sometimes lugubrious but capable of lightness, and the poetry and he sings part of the song in French. “Come dance with me” is an invitation that could be hard to resist.

Born in Doncaster of Irish-Ukrainian parentage, PEET JACKSON is a rising figure on the folk-country scene. With a debut album released last year, he’s working on a self-released follow-up, the first taster of which comes with the rousing ‘The Ghost Ship Of Myanmar’. The title relates to an abandoned cargo vessel found by local fishermen off the coast of Yangon in 2018, having been caught in bad weather and broken free from the cables towing it to a ship-breaking factory in Bangladesh. As such, his fingers dancing across the guitar strings, the song references the boat’s fall from grace story (“I was at my most beautiful in the bays of Indonesia/Where I knew my loved ones where there/With a loyal crew and captain at nearly 200 metres/Even gods would stop and stare”) while using it for a metaphor of being lost, abandoned and cut adrift (“my friends may have left me, say I travelled too far/And I lost myself on the way”), but building to a call to stay strong as, his voice gathering intensity, he sings “I may have been drifting for years all alone/Some days the sun still comes around/And no matter how lost you may feel today/Tomorrow you’re sure to be found/So please keep the faith we’re all on our way/Some destinations stay unknown/Please keep the beat and the kind company/If not now then love you’ll know!”.

Pulsing bass and drums herald ‘Choosing To Stay’, the debut single taken from The Name, the new EP by CLAIRE HAWKINS. Claire is a much travelled singer and songwriter with a big following and this song exudes confidence as she looks forward. “It feels a little bit heavy but I’m told it should” is the cracking opening line and her band powers on. Like this a lot.

A thank you note to fans who funded her trip to Ireland and its “shamrock hills” for an official showcase in a new folk music conference at Monaghan called “Your Roots Are Showing”, NINA RICCI is self-releasing ‘Old Emerald Shore’, a lively strummed (and naturally Irish-flavoured) warbled celebration of her experience of  “rowdy pubs, the sessions last all night/Musicians bray their honest songs till the edge of morning light” and  where “Down country roads there are signs that say: “dinner’s in the barn”/And everything’s made farm-to-plate with a Southern Irish charm”. It’s enough to bring tears to the eye of any passing leprechaun.

‘Corruption’ is the third single to be released off Northeast based singer/songwriter JOHN REED’s long-awaited album – Elevation – which will be available on October 23rd, 2023, and is John’s first self-produced work, although long-time producer Ali Karim will be helping with mastering.

As the title suggests ‘Corruption’ is about just that. With a sublime electric guitar intro the track that pulls no punches. We live in a globally troubled world which touches on most categories. Politics, business, sport and whatever else has all been touched by ‘Corruption’. John lyrics include “put a tenner in my hand and I didn’t see your face” and “Deals” – highlight basically you are selling your soul.

In John’s words “When an Iraqi buyer (circa 2004) asked if John would add “something for the birds” when agreeing a deal for a number of machines, the request was refused. But what is corruption?  We are good at calling out other nations for ‘corrupt practice’. Yet we are led by a serially corrupt government in a climate where wealthy people can hide billions in tax havens and live a life of luxury in other countries. while supporting the destruction of their own.

That’s ‘Corruption’.

‘Corruption’ was digitally released at 8pm on Wednesday 23rd August only from John’s website and the album at live gigs.

‘Dublin Girl’ is the excellent new single by BRENDAN MELIA, a song that combines the feel of old Irish music, which he also performs, with a modern story about how Brendan met his wife. He’s accompanied on guitar, banjo and harmonica – and is that an accordion there in the background? – and the song rolls along sweetly. As a precursor to Brendan’s upcoming live album it should garner a great deal of interest.

Formerly lead singer with We Are The Ocean,  LIAM CROMBY lays the ground for his forthcoming album with ‘At This Table’ (Time Is Tonic), a co-write with Australian Sue McMillan that plays as a keeningly sung gentle countrified jog  with strummed acoustic and twanged guitar and background keys  about seeing the good in people even when they don’t see it in themselves (“well there’s danger in losing faith/When your self and your worth are misplaced Another life in the garden grows/Like a flower you don’t know your beautiful”) and the often difficult conversations this entails.

There is a delightfully ethereal feel to ‘I Went Outside’ taken from a forthcoming EP by Icelandic singer ARNY MARGRET. It begins with her fingerpicked guitar and a voice slightly reminiscent of the young Joni Mitchell in its clarity. Then a lead instrument is added. It sounds like a cross between a theremin and a pedal steel and is almost certainly neither but your guess is as good as ours. The point is that it makes a gorgeous echoey, gliding sound as the accompaniment builds up to the song’s finish.

The first international signing for Oh Boy Records, the label founded by late John Prine, ‘Morning Rain’, a song of appreciation for a partner, the moments and sentiments shared and reciprocated, is the second single from ‘Goodtime Charlie’, the new album by Irish singer-songwriter MICK FLANNERY and featuring his signature piano, steady rolling rhythm and warmly soulful emotive delivery.

In advance of the release of his second album, Steady Away, CHRIS BRAIN releases the title track as a single. Chris made a big impression with his debut album and his follow-up should do just as well. The song starts out with a solemn bass drone joined by what sounds like treated strings before Chris’ gently rolling acoustic guitar takes the lead. It builds up towards the climax thanks to Mary-Jane Walker’s powerful violin.

The second single from the new album by KATHRYN TICKELL & THE DARKENING is ‘Clogstravaganza’, featuring the feet of Amy Thatcher and a powerful, driving melody which gives Kathryn the chance to cut loose. While the clogs may be traditional in the north-east the tune has its roots somewhere in the Balkans as wild as Kathryn’s flowing red hair in the accompanying video.

‘Fragments’ is another preview of the forthcoming album by ROSIE H SULLIVAN. Opening with two acoustic guitars before the string section arrives, it’s a song about undying love except there is a line about taking her love with her in a Mason jar which appears to be full of sand. Is Rosie having a premonition of death – which might happen if she goes into the sea dressed like that?

FRANKIE ARCHER releases a quite extraordinary version of ‘Oxford City’ given a modern semi-electronic setting as her new single. The story of a spurned lover can sound very modern if you look at it, as Frankie does, in terms of Incel culture and the use of Rohypnol. The murderer’s suicide is somewhat out-dated now – that only happens on cop shows – but, hey, it’s a fine song brilliantly performed.