SINGLES BAR 94 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 94Following on from their debut EP, Animals which featured songs about Dian Fosse, a colony of bees painted gold by a tropical forest tribe as a superstitious ritual, and Big Mary, the incredible true story of how, in the late 19th century, a huge circus elephant was lynched by a Tennessee mob, the end of the month sees punningly named Birmingham alt-folk duo THE MISSED TREES (Joe Peacock and Louisa Davies-Foley) release the protest themed Resist. The sparsely strummed ‘Guilty Bystanders’ tells the story of Jamaican-born Olive Morris who became a Marxist activist and feminist after being brutally beaten and sexually humiliated by the Metropolitan Police officers in 1969 when she intervened to stop them harassing Nigerian diplomat Clement Gomwalk under the stop and search laws. As the song says, “We need to be more like Olive Morris/When they’re trampling on our rights”. The fingerpicked ‘Little Boats’ addresses refuges and the inevitable tendency to look for scapegoats when things get tough, sagely noting that “bad guys come in private jets not little boats”. And, partly sung in Russian, with violin accompanying the guitar, ‘Bunkernyy ded’ translates as bunker grandpa, a nickname given Putin, here “Sitting in his golden bunker permanently scared/That someone’s going to assassinate him”. Suffice to say, they’re not empathising.

Released in connection with the 100th anniversary of his birth, Sweden’s NILSEN’S SOUTHERN HARMONY offer up Hank 100 (Revolution Records / Coastal Sounds), a four track EP covering some of his lesser known songs.  It kicks off with a twangy stomp through ‘Pan American’, a train song with a tune reminiscent of Guthrie’s ‘Grand Coulee Dam’ that was his last single release for Sterling Records in 1947.  Stephen Ackles shares the vocals for ‘Sing Sing Sing’, a leg-slapping, harmonica wailing rockabilly hymn he wrote in 1950 and released by MGM as a posthumous single in 1954. Dating back to 1946 when it was titled ‘I Loved No One But You’, ‘May You Never Be Alone’ was finally recorded in 1950 and released as the B side to ‘I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Living’, here given a slower train time chugging rhythm, ditching the fiddle (the solo now by harmonica) and replacing the mandolin solo (the only one in his entire repertoire) with twangy guitar. Finally, originally a talking blues on 1954’s ‘Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter’, here the look on the bright side ‘Everything’s Okay’ is reconceived as a twanging guitar, barrel house piano, wailing harmonica Stonesy swagger rock n roller with a liberal revision and reordering of the verses.

From Wales, but now living in the Black Country, following a clutch of singles SUSY WALL now self-releases her debut EP, Home Is The Colour, a four track acoustic collection that opens with the ‘Say You’re Home’ which, featuring guitar, fiddle and piano, is a poignant song of loss (“You will always be my compass/And our maps will never sever”) she played at her father’s memorial service. The second, piano ballad ‘Love at First Sight’, keeps the family connection in a love song to her young daughter, the fiddle building the emotion.  The other two are love songs to Wales,  the piano and lilting fiddle title track declaring “Beneath my feet/Under my skin/You soothe my soul/You are the blood that flows within/You lie in wait/You’re there from the start/Home is the colour of my heart”, closing with ‘Mountains’ where “She’s a fish out of water”  and, amid the city,  mentally returning to her roots (“Looks for treetops/Where the scaffold climbs/Rivers where there’s road/Farms there’s factories/Listening to the noise/Thinking of the birds and bees”). She’s recently been raising her profile with a series of festival performances; this should go a long way to building on those audiences.

While we wait expectantly for The Toothpaste And The Tube, this year’s album by BEANS ON TOAST, he releases a new single, ‘AI’ in which he takes a comically jaundiced view of the wonder of our age. There is a serious message in the song, however, particularly when Beans raises the spectre of AI pornography.

Founder of From The Whitehouse, a music management, artist development, booking and promotion agency, KATIE WHITEHOUSE marks her 60th with the self-release of her own debut single, ‘Spaces’. Produced by (no relation) Dan Whitehouse, with herself on piano and Gustaf Ljunggren on pedal steel, it’s a dreamy unconditional love song ballad where she evokes thoughts of Judie Tzuke and serves as a tantalising taster to what promises to be a rather fine forthcoming album,

DANESHEVSKAYA, the professional name of Anna Daneshevskaya Beckerman, releases a single, ‘Challenger Deep’, in advance of her new album, Long Is The Tunnel. It’s a lovely song with Daneshevskaya’s voice, dressed with a fair bit of echo, riding on a simple acoustic guitar figure before the big production kicks in. The title refers to the deepest known point on the Earth’s seabed – something of a metaphor.

During WWI, to help soldiers tell time in the dark without having to strike a match and giving away their position in the trenches, watch faces were coated a luminous paint containing radium called Undark. Following the war, the idea quickly transferred to the civilian market and companies hired young women as factory workers to meet demand, following a “lip, dip, paint” technique to keep the brush tips pointed. What the employers knew and the girls didn’t, was that the radium was toxic, leading to hundreds of cases of radium poisoning, seeking to discredit women who spoke out by blaming illnesses and deaths on sexually transmitted infections. Eventually, after years of legal battles, the women’s cases led to landmark labour laws and standards, their story and fates (“As each timepiece passed through nimble fingers, painters dreamed and planned/But they had, in fact, so very little time left on their hands”) now being told by RACHEL SUMNER in her self-released and cleverly subtitled piano, woodwinds and guitar-based ‘Radium Girls (Curie Elieson)’, concluding with the pointed barb “You may claim women have been long-since elevated in this world—/But how can that be? Our ashes still speak louder than our words”.

‘Somebody’ is the upbeat new single from THE GLEEMAN, another taster for his forthcoming album, Something To Say. A conflicted but optimistic lyric is built on piano and decorated with sparkling brass and if the video is any guide it all works out fine in the end. Nice one.

Following on from their debut album, HOWAY THE LASSES return with a new single championing another pioneering woman from the north. Set to a jaunty accordion, mandolin, cello, flute and guitar arrangement with Bronwen Davies-Jones singing lead and written by her dad, Gareth, ‘Mary Astell’ (HTL002) recounts the story of the feminist writer, born in Newcastle in 1666, and centres around a quite taken directly from her book ‘A Serious Proposal to the Ladies’, “If all men are born free, how is that all women are born slaves?”, which also features on her commemorative plaque. Not just a commemoration of Astell, the song serves a timely reminder of issues faced by women in Afghanistan and in regard to trafficking and slavery.

Australian troubadour CARUS THOMPSON will be back in Britain in January with a new album, Neon Folk and a tour. Meanwhile, here’s a single, ‘London Coffee’, a song about remembering and longing in memory of fellow Aussie singer, Mick Hart. Sixty years ago it would be described as a having “a good beat” and indeed it does, with chunky bass and sweet lead guitar breaks.

‘Evergreen’ is the new single from Australian quartet THE HEART COLLECTORS. They look like a band of old hippies, and they may be, but they make beautiful music and lead vocalist Kymrie Henge has a lot of Kate Bush in her style. The song is described as a reflection of the band’s state of being and their development over the last few years.

As a taster for next year’s new album, HARBOTTLE & JONAS self-release the quietly anthemic ‘Wild Goose’, which, opening with drone and Freya’s voice before David’s voice joins in, was written as a poem/lullaby prayer their now one-year old daughter Rosalie and, featuring piano, harmonium, banjo, guitar and takes the form of a musing on keeping the wild places with us wherever we are, in reality and through dreams and imagination.

‘Rossignol (සිප ගන්නා විට)’, a blend of English and Sri Lankan lyrics, is a single from folk-rock band SLEEP WALKING ANIMALS taken from their forthcoming EP. The song blends electronics with an initially dreamy melody sung by Tom Glynn-Carney but builds up irresistibly to an anguished cry of “Leave me my sadness”. It’s already garnering a great deal of attention.

From his forthcoming album, All That Was East Is West Of Me Now, GLEN HANSARD releases a new single, ‘There’s No Mountain’. It begins acoustically but builds up with pounding drums and sweeping strings. “There’s no quick fix or easy answers” he sings but at the end he’s declaring triumphantly that there is nothing you can’t do with determination and guts.

George and Holly Brandon, otherwise PAINTED SKY, made quite an impression with their debut EP, Dawn, and are now gearing up for the release of their debut album. Their new single, ‘The Key’, is a reworking of such songs as ‘The Keys Of Canterbury’ – uptempo with a mixture of English, Irish and American styles with Holly’s violin leading the way. Looking forward to the album.

Up and coming country duo CASH & CARTER release their debut EP early next year but before that they release a single ‘Americana (Letting Her Go)’. Cash and Carter are actually Shaun Smith and Ross O’Reilly and their pseudonym wears their heart on their sleeve. The beautifully fragile song is about loss and acceptance following the suicide of a friend.

EDD DONOVAN releases a second single from his album Anchovy. ‘What You Know’ is a slightly dreamy but deeply philosophical song as much about what we don’t know as what we do – “7.8 billion people calling Earth their home” is a simple fact but where they all come from is a rather more difficult question to answer.

Canadian singer/songwriter ALEX NICOL has an EP, Been A Long Year Vol.1 & Vol.2, coming in December and has released a single from it, ‘Working On My Tan’. It’s a spacey piece of Americana (Canadiana?), gentle but solid and nicely arranged with the big sounds that Alex seems to favour.