Based outside L.A., AIR COOL JENNY are multi-instrumentalist Americana duo Helen Rose and Kramer Sanguinetti, the self-released First Flight being their debut EP, The Lost Bayou Ramblers drummer and producer Kirkland Middleton, bassist Bryan Webre and Brenden Moore on organ bringing Cajun-influenced rhythms to the party. Inspired by an old haunt on the Mississippi River, opener ‘Pelican’ rides an easy rolling fingerpicked acoustic, gathering muscle as it goes and climaxing with Rose’s soaring, R&B vocals. Things slow down for the rhythmically pulsating love song ‘When I Rise’ before, Sangionetti on lead they hit a racing goodtime bluegrass chicken pickin’ stomp with ‘Pissin On The Moon’ before closing out with ‘The Rivers Gone’, a rhythmically undulating, brass-warmed number about experiencing some of the south’s worst storms while also settling into the New Orleans community where they spent several years.
Recorded at the same time as her debut album, Skin, ANNA RENAE releases the last of her teenage “older” songs as a 5-track EP, Speaking Her Mind. The opening title track begins gently but builds up nicely – sadly, we’re given no information about the supporting musicians – and you are given the impression that although the songs were written by a teenager, they need to be sung by a grown woman. Anna says that the second song, ‘They Say’, is about living with a dysfunctional family and it begins and ends with creepy whispering.
‘My Heaven’ and ‘The Blame’ look back on past relationships from an adult perspective and you may suspect that Anna has subjected them to some revision. The best track is possibly ‘Celebrity’. It’s sung in the first person as though Anna feared that she would suffer the same fate as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix who are still generating money long after their untimely deaths. Her level of self-awareness suggests that this won’t be her future.
Self-styled Cambridge Middle-Earth beatnik folk NAOMI RANDALL follows her Tepid On My Trippin’ Heels album with the EP Very Nearly Nocturnes And Gnomic Verse (Aaahh!!!! Real) or, more simply, The Sleepy EP, five tracks which, as the title suggests, have a dreamy quality and all relate to the process of going to sleep and each song having its own artwork. A repeated guitar pattern and circling percussion backdropped by tinkling keys with interwoven vocals provides the framework for the almost mantra-esque folksiness of ‘Loaf Of Space’, leading into the fingerpicked and piano accompanied ‘Dreaming Of Dawn’, an airy vocally interlaced number wherein the title is as much about a person as a time of day. Built around pizzicato strings, woodwind and whirligig organ, ‘Preserving The Peace ‘has a not quite waltzing feel, the set rounded off with the fingerpicked and piano dissonance of ‘Go To Sleep’, virtually an instrumental save for the wordless distant vocals, and finally the soothing, strings-shimmering and woodwind caressed ‘Laundry Lullaby’ which sounds as though it belongs in some 30s MGM pastoral fantasy.
A TALE OF TWO are Stephanie Adlington and Aaron Lessard and their eponymous debut EP has just been released. Look at the cover and note the fact that they are based in Nashville and you might expect pure country but you’ll be surprised. The first track, ‘The Letter’, opens with a cello figure and Stephanie’s London connection (she studied at the Royal Academy of Music) comes out in her voice. ‘Blood Or Wine’ describes their association and their determination to stick together and succeed despite the difficulties and then they switch to southern blues for ‘Ain’t Nothin’ But A Fool’ which starts thin and spacey before building into quite a production number.
The waltz, ‘Waiting For Ever After’, is inspired by French cinema, of all things, while ‘Chicago Lightning’ draws its inspiration from prohibition-era Chicago with lyrics that could have come from a 40s noir movie – and probably did. ‘Stay With Me’ is the first song Stephanie and Aaron wrote together and, for all its southern vibe, is really timeless. Stephanie’s gorgeous voice and the versatility of Aaron’s guitar playing make for an excellent match.
Based in California with Scottish roots, RACHEL GARLIN, a singer-songwriter in the San Francisco queer scene, plays folksy Americana with a vocal slightly reminiscent of Suzanne Vega, The State That We Are In (self-released), a summery 5-song set that opens with the social commentary title track, though, coloured by David Ralicke’s flute and with a sixties veneer, written in the run up to the recent election the lyrics are more political than pandemic fuelled (“I’ve been reeling from the backlash/Of our crash course in chagrin”).
Riding a syncopated drum rhythm, the midtempo loping ‘Late To Bloom’ was inspired by reunions with people from her past, the lyrics recalling a ninth grade crush (“I really want to stare/Repair you like Jerusalem/And see you in the high school dark room/Where we developed our film”) now “an orthopedic surgeon (whose) wife had to discontinue/ Her prestigious law career/Trying guys for homicide /A mother must decide/How much litigiousness will bring her”.
Taking on a Latin American boss nova-ish sway ‘Some Weights Are Hard To Bear’ with its tenor acoustic guitar and horns is a melancholic snapshot of a life stagnated (“She washes all the linens/Hangs them up in rows/Tries to shake the image of when/The garden sundial froze”) while the fingerpicked ‘Seashells’ has gentle sway and tumbling structure with the intriguing line “When you scramble up boulders/You loosen the rebel below/Flying rocks become stardust /Or pebbles in somebody’s shoe”. It ends with just vocal and acoustic guitar in a stripped back, bluesy lazing cover of Clapton’s ‘Layla’ that totally reinvents the song. www.rachelgarlin.com
With a new album on the horizon, SASKIA releases a single, ‘You And I’. It’s a sophisticated, slightly bluesy number with just a hint of funk and Saskia’s voice riding easily over a piano driven arrangement. Nice.
Dusty-voiced Texas singer-songwriter KEEGAN McINROE gets romantically dreamy on ‘To The Moon And Back’ (self-released), a simple fingerpicked lullaby love song from a parent to their child, coloured with accordion, glockenspiel and pedal steel. Sentimental but sweet.
From the Merry Hell stable comes ‘Don’t Walk On Me’, written and sung by BOB KETTLE and recorded with help from brother John. It’s the story of a disabled friend of the band, John Melia, who also performs on the track and is a plea for consideration for those people considered “different” for whatever reason. Its status is uncertain at the moment – it may be a single, it may not – but check things out at:
Taken from upcoming album A Matter Of Life & Love, SKINNY LISTER join forces with The Longest Johns to ‘Damn The Amsterdam’ (Xtra Mile), a drum thumping, foot stamping shanty about the 1749 shipwreck when, returning from its maiden voyage to the East Indies, the Dutch Republic cargo ship ran aground on Bulverhythe beach near Hastings, the submerged wreck still perfectly preserved in the sand and visible during the lowest tides.
‘Here Comes The Storm’ isn’t a sequel to the much-loved George Harrison song but the new single from HENRY SPARKS, once of Bootfare, taken from his upcoming solo album. Its apocalyptic message is sweetened by a rocking country-folk melody with backing from a number of Oysterband alumni but remember “you’ll never leave this world alive”.
Veterans of the late 60s progressive rock Canterbury scene and still featuring vocalist founder Pye Hastings alongside long serving viola and mandolin player Geoffrey Richardson, CARAVAN make their first appearance in eight years with the jaunty folk whimsy of ‘If I Was To Fly’ taken from the forthcoming pandemic-influenced It’s None Of Your Business (Madfish).
IONA FYFE always comes up with something new and her new single is no exception. ‘The Cauld’ is written in Lowland Scots which means that you’ll think you understand it but probably won’t. The bright poppy melody is built on Michael Biggins’ piano with Graham Rorie of Gnoss also guesting.
‘Nobody Blues’ is the new single from Glasgow’s ROBIN ADAMS and is the first track taken from his forthcoming album, Wrong Road Home. Robin dives into the deep end of Americana with a tribute to the ordinary man who isn’t keen on working too hard: “I wake up in the afternoon/Brush my teeth/Stretch out yonder and have a cup of tea”.
Kildare singer-songwriter LISA GORRY releases a new single, ‘It Was You (And Me)’ from her forthcoming EP of the same name. It’s a complex, sophisticated song benefitting from a rich arrangement, tackling the subject of self-reliance and determination in the face of difficulties.
Katie and Aoife Lynch are twin sisters from County Meath who now perform as WATERS EDGE and have released their first single, ‘Call It Fate’, under their new name. They cut their teeth busking in Dublin, which has to be a tough crowd, but have come through with a confidence that belies their tender years.