SINGLES BAR 36 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 36Following her debut album, Away From My Window, Aberdeenshire singer IONA FYFE looks across the Atlantic for her EP, Dark Turn Of Mind. Aside from Gillian Welch’s title track and Gregory Alan Isakov’s ‘If I Go, I’m Goin’, all the songs are traditional and have roots in the Ozarks and the Appalachians. ‘Swing And Turn’ comes from Jean Ritchie and uses the tune often associated with ‘Gypsy Davy’ and is a typical southern mountain song.

‘The Golden Vanity’ is found in variations all across the English-speaking world including Scotland of course. Iona’s version combines Child’s version with Cecil Sharp’s and she notes that it was recorded by Jean Ritchie more than fifty years ago. ‘Little Musgrave’ comes from Sharp and Jeannie Robertson in this version although it was known in print in the 17th century. Between these is ‘Let Him Sink’, an Ozark variant of ‘Farewell He.”

The EP is built on Rory Matheson’s piano which gives Iona scope for some powerful singing. Aidan Moodie plays guitar and adds perfectly judged harmony vocals while Graham Rorie adds more decoration on mandolin.
https://ionafyfe.com/

Singles Bar 36THE MARRIAGE is a new Americana union formed by singer Kirsten Adamson, the daughter of Skids and Big Country founder Stuart Adamson, and former ahab member Dave Burn on guitar and harmonies, making their debut with the self-released folksy strum of ‘Live, Love, Cry’, a rather fine taster for an EP and full album in 2019.
https://www.wethemarriage.com/home

Singles Bar 36She Wynds On was commissioned to promote a new tourist route through the Cairngorms – a project called SnowRoads. The music was composed by CALUM WOOD and he is supported by Robert Black, Ross Ainslie, Stuart Spence, Charlie McKerron, Tom Oakes, Brigid Mhairi and Julia Dignan. It opens with the title song, a sort of overview of the four sections of the route from Blairgowrie to Grantown-On-Spey via Braemar, Ballater and Tomintoul. I suppose there was a contractual obligation to include the line “the heart of the Cairngorms” but that’s the only jarring moment. The four instrumental tracks are dramatic without being overblown and Scottish at their very heart.
www.callumwood.com

Singles Bar 36Black country Americana singer-songwriter Joseph Hicklin, aka DEATH BY STAMPEDE, has released Contemporary Depressive, a 5-track download/stream EP from his Soundcloud site that, exploring the contemporary nature of depression (“this great big, looming Monster/ That holds you near and calls itself your home”), serves as an acoustic introduction to his music. With a dusty, slightly gravelly vocal reminiscent of the Handsome Family, Rod Picott or Willard Grant Conspiracy, it opens with ‘Daydream 27’, a mid-tempo fingerpicked chug musing on how “we all die on our own”. It’s followed by the choppier, early Dylan-like strum of ‘Neon (Reflecting)’ with its urban paranoia, the notion that reflecting on the past can be pointless and a chorus about “going to where the neon glows. where angels dance without halos.” ‘Songs of Love & Truth’ takes the pacing down again before building to an urgent climax, lines like “the moon is a thumbprint on a dirty widow” and the future being “just a fat man with a bird upon his shoulder singing songs of death, but also love and truth” underscoring his way with words and imagery.

‘Fool’ is another aching, world weary, introspective fingerpicked ballad (about being stuck in a rut and a sense of impotency how, since “life isn’t real and death is a joke” you may as well make the most even if “it seems so brave and it seems so cruel to live like a god and die like a fool.”

It ends with the slow melancholic gradually building sway of ‘My Morning Pill’, a feeling of helplessness and ennui where “nothing but smoke came out of my mouth” and “my whole life is like a train past my window sill” mingled with a desire to crawl out of the black hole “and get through the year and get through the day.” Closing with the line “I was an addict, just after one taste, it’s not too bad, I know now darling”, this is a breathtaking debut and unquestionably among the finest Americana releases of the year, you really should seek him out, he has the potential to be one of the greats.
https://www.facebook.com/deathbystampede/

Singles Bar 36‘Shooter On The Mound’ is the second single from country-folk duo HENGISTBURY and is also the opening track on their debut album, Add Another Minute. Jessica Mary and Pete Briley produce a big sound and this song reverberates with earthy guitar, banjo and lap steel. Both single and album are available in digital format and physical copies of the album are available from the band’s website:
www.hengistburymusic.com

Singles Bar 36An early taster for their forthcoming self-released album, Rivers That Flow in Circles, Birmingham’s BOAT TO ROW release ‘Spanish Moss’, a musically variegated, tempo-shifting affair that layers African percussion and electric guitars over a persistent bass line, before the instrumental playout with a wash of guitars, synths and violins. The album promises to be a more expansive and explorative musical palette than their debut.
https://www.boattorow.com/

Singles Bar 36Familiar Strangers is a fine debut by NEW TOWN JACK, a singer-songwriter out of Southampton. The theme of the EP is, reasonably enough, strangers but it isn’t that simple. Friends can become strangers in ‘Change The Rules’ – something we’ve all experienced – and people can deliberately isolate themselves as explained in ‘Let Me Be’, although the story is rather fanciful. Deeper down, it’s also about people looking for people in both the physical and metaphorical meanings.
www.newtownjack.co.uk

Singles Bar 36Also from Birmingham, RED SHOES contribute to the festive singles list with their download only ‘Time Stands Still’, Mark Evans providing the cascading strummed acoustic chords while Carolyn sings a moving lyric that draws attention to the homeless at this time of year, 50% of all profits being donated to Crisis UK. Available from their website:
www.redshoes-music.com/charity

Singles Bar 36CARA DILLON has also been into the tinsel cupboard and, in response to the reaction performing it on her last couple of Christmas tours, emerged with her cover of Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed ‘River’ from her classic Blue album. Featuring John Smith on acoustic guitar and John Garrison on keys, it’s a beautiful version that conjures the feeling of snow falling on a silent night. To complement it, she’s also covered The Pretenders’ festive hit ‘2000 Miles’, giving it a folksy serenade with cascading guitar notes and fiddle. Both are downloadable from the usual platforms.
http://www.caradillon.co.uk/

Singles BarRICK FOOT’s Christmas song isn’t terribly Christmassy, nor is it very long. In fact ‘A Message To The Future’ weighs in at just 39 seconds! It can be argued that this is quite long enough to tell the future to get its shit together and Rick sums up the current situation in seven words and double-tracked double bass.
http://www.rickfoot.com/

Singles Bar 36Back on a Christmas note, YVONNE LYON offers up the twinkling ‘I Believe In Christmas ‘(Self-released) with its silvery rippling keys and bells backdropping the strummed acoustic guitar as it builds to a choral finale. It’s backed with the ringing guitars of the more folk rock ‘Dear December’ with its hints of Amy Macdonald.
www.yvonnelyonmusic.com

Canadian singer-songwriter ALLISON LUPTON joins forces with BBC Radio 2 Folk Music award winning trio The Young’uns and guitarist Craig Werth for the self-released ‘The Eve Of Christmas Day’, a more carol-like affair that also features a warm silver brass quintet arrangement by Tom Leighton.
http://allisonlupton.com/

 

STEWART HENDERSON, YVONNE LYON and CAROL HENDERSON – Vesper Sky (own label SL045)

Vesper SkyWell now, this is something different. Scottish singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon has joined forces with Liverpool poet Stewart Henderson (who, as a songwriter, has provided the lyrics to several Martyn Joseph numbers, including ‘Working Mother’ and ‘Proud Valley Boy’) and his storyteller wife Carol for Vesper Sky, an album of songs and poems, the backing musicians including Wet Wet Wet’s Graeme Duffin and slide guitar maestro Bryn Haworth.

Described as a ‘journal for our time’, it opens with two Henderson and Lyon collaborations, uptempo social protest number ‘After The Fall’ (“For those deprived of everything all is stark and small/The place where Cinderella didn’t make it to the ball”) and the more reflective and intimate fingerpicked title track with its nature imagery as she sings “I choose grace” in the face of “the pantomime and circus of pretend.”

Written by Henderson, Lyon and co-producer Sandy Jones, and spoken by Carol, ‘How Clatter Is The World’ is a poem with piano, sparse percussion and programming backing, the title pretty much summing up its concerns. Two poems follow, ‘Eyes Down’ (a comment on our obsession with apps, tablets and icons) and ‘Considering The Hours Since’ (reflections on a military father’s death), the post-war and loss backdrop continuing over into ‘The Avenue’, the lyrics first spoken by Stewart before, accompanied by piano and cello, being sung in wistful tones by Yvonne.

There are seven other poems, Carol reading the thematically opposed ‘Burrowing’ (the anchor of love) and ‘Breakages’ (the things that break us apart), and joining her husband on ‘The Mind’s Not What It Was’, about the faltering of memory with age. Stewart reads the others, among them ‘Somewhere In The Library’ with its celebration of the power of books to spark children’s imaginations with its references to works by the likes of Walliams, Dahl, Grahame and Rowling and the images of loss and memories of a loved one in ‘Consideration’.

There’s three further poems with music, Perfect Fit’ a waltzing slide guitar backed shuffle about the places where he’s proud to be a misfit (Henley, nouveau bars, stretch limousines) that turns out to be a love song to the one to whom even Moira Stuart (a celebrated Scottish broadcaster for those not within the cultural context) cannot hold a rose.

Lines shared by Stewart and Carol, ‘Everything In Heaven’ is a cosmically atmospheric setting of a things fall apart poem they first published 21 years ago while, accompanied by spare piano notes and spoken by Carol, ‘Living This Long’ segues into ‘Dip Me Deep’, the two linked by a theme of listening to those that have gone before and to the power of nature or whatever divinity you hold to be true.

Returning to the songs, the gently fingerpicked ‘Under A Wolf Moon’ with Seonaid Aitken on fiddle treats on a similar spiritual theme of finding calm and freedom through submission to the design of the heavens. By contrast, featuring a brass section and with a march-like beat, the anthemic inspiring ‘Children Mind Your Language’, written by Stewart and David Lyon, has a Thea Gilmore air, the final song reeling in the tone and mood for the dreamier, piano and cello-backed open night skies feel of the photograph in words that is ‘December Coast of Galloway’ with its hymn to the enduring power and beauty of nature.

It all ends with the piano and fiddle arrangement of the Lyon-penned ‘Enjoy Not Endure’, all three voices coming together in spoken word and song as it closes with a return to the theme of the need to embrace and accept loss, but to also move on in recognition that “you were made for greater things than living with regret.”

Its title a reference to evening prayer, this is an album about life, love, loss and, as Reinhold Neibuhr put it, having the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Mike Davies

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‘Enjoy Not Endure’ – live:

Yvonne Lyon announces new album with Stewart and Carol Henderson

Yvonne Lyon

Vesper Sky is a stunning and unique collection of songs and poems, written and performed by Stewart Henderson, Yvonne Lyon and Carol Henderson.

Singer/songwriter Yvonne Lyon has been significantly influenced by Stewart Henderson’s poems and songs over many years. This new collaboration has allowed her the opportunity to develop her own craft with material co-written with Stewart and also to respond to various poems with improvised piano accompaniment. Having supported Eddi Reader, performed with Beth Nielsen Chapman and co-written with Boo Hewerdine, Yvonne continues to establish herself as an artist of considerable significance.

Stewart Henderson is a poet, broadcaster and songwriter. Radio critic of The Sunday Times, Gillian Reynolds says that Stewart ‘understands the packed power of words, the importance of their use and measure’, whilst Bob Harris of BBC Radio 2 has praised Stewart’s ‘lyrical intelligence’. Vesper Sky also features poems from his new poetry collection for adults, ‘A Poet’s Notebook…with new poems, obviously’, published by Lion Hudson.

Carol Henderson is a storyteller, broadcaster and practicing iconographer with a varied and distinguished background in publishing, theatre and film. She has performed at such venues as The Royal Albert Hall, London; The University of Toronto; Stanford University, California and The Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, New York. Carol’s extensive radio work includes drama readings on various BBC Radio 4 historical documentaries.

The 20 track playlist with its wide-ranging, contemporary topics and tempos is an engrossing and plaintive ‘journal of our times’. Among the additional guest musicians is legendary slide guitarist and premier session player Bryn Haworth, a long term friend of the Hendersons.

“just stunning music” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

“the consistently high quality of songwriting invariably shines through… she’s a gem” Fatea

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SINGLES BAR 34 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 34Tablelands is the third of the trilogy of EPs by INDIA ELECTRIC CO. that began in the city with EC1M and ends somewhere hot, red and swampy. The format is much the same as before: Cole Stacey on vocals and percussion and Joseph O’Keefe on everything else. The difference is in the sophistication and confidence shown by the duo. The songs are rich and mysterious with lines that lodge in your brain. “There’s something in the water, we all know” comes from ‘Mareeba’, which is a town in Australia, although that knowledge doesn’t really help. ‘In Absence’ is particularly good with more intriguing lines that don’t quite make sense unless you have the context. The closing ‘Gold In The North’ sums up, in a wave of nostalgia, the city/country dichotomy that has threaded its way through the trilogy. “There’s gold in the North”, they admit, “but it’s hard to leave here”.
http://indiaelectricco.com/

MerrymakerRisen from the ashes of Merrymouth, the folk project by Ocean Colour Scene’s Simon Fowler, MERRYMAKER comprises Dan Sealey, who was a member of both (and now, alongside his dad, also part of the revived Cosmotheka which featured his last uncle) alongside Adam Barry (also ex-Merrymouth and the third Cosmotheka member), Paul McCormack and Hannah Lawson. Sealey has a similar Bee Gees-like warble to Fowler, providing a vocal continuity between the bands, and also happens to be an equally excellent songwriter.

Following on from three singles, including 2016’s ‘We Don’t Want A War’ protest against the bombing of Syria, ‘Unnatural Progression’ (self-released) is their debut EP, a five-track collection of four originals and a version of the traditional ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’. Orchestrally arranged opener ‘Evergreen’ is a majestic, soaring anthem that sets the nature theme that runs through the Harvest Moon-like Neil Young trot of ‘Rainclouds’, fiddle-driven midtempo catchy chorus stomp ‘Midst of Summertime’ and the brass-tinged and jazzy woodwind eco-warning ‘The Future Looks Back’. Can we have a whole album’s worth soon, please?
https://www.merrymakermusic.co.uk/

The Girl With The Cloak is a beautiful little bundle of songs by Ayrshire based musician, EMMA DURKAN. At just 25, she already has an impressive array of accolades and honours to her name, not to mention an undeniable talent. Performing on the fiddle and clarsach, the EP is made up of six tracks which are written, arranged and sung by Durkan, creating a tangible fusion between traditional and contemporary.

A majestic, fiddle-led number, titled, ‘The Truth’ kicks off the record, and flows into the equally pretty, if comparatively more stripped back ‘Green Light’. For me, it is ‘Trying’ which steals the show, dealing with the monotonies, expectations, struggles and challenges of daily life in its relatable lyrics, which sit nicely alongside Durkan’s musical arrangement. The title track is perhaps the most mournful of the EP, with its “Girl With The Cloak” protagonist being revisited and referenced in final number, ‘Stepping Stones’ creating a sense of closure, as the record bows out on a truly beautiful note.
www.emmadurkanmusic.co.uk

Available from her website, DARIA KULESH offers up Autumn Delights, the final of her four seasonal EPs (available in a limited handmade sleeve edition) and a prelude to next year’s Earthly Delights album. A four track selection, it again affords an eclectic and geographically wide-ranging mix, opening with a cover of Kara’s ‘Union Street’, a waltztime song celebrating the harvest, here given a gorgeous Quartet arrangement featuring Tristan Seume on guitar, Marina Osman’s descending piano chords and, bookending the number, Kate Rouse providing shimmering hammered dulcimer.

Osman’s also on hand for ‘Boston Waltz’ which, despite the title, is actually of Russian origin, where it’s known as ‘Vals-Boston’. An autumnal vision of a young dancer whirling through the neighbourhood leaves written by Leningrad-born songwriter Alexander Rosenbaum (or, to be accurate, Aleksandr Jakovlevič Rozyenbaum), a highly significant and influential figure on the Soviet cultural scene, it’s his biggest hit though little known outside of Russia. Kulesh (who, at 16, apparently performed it at an Italian beauty pageant, winning the Miss Mystery title), naturally, sings it in her native tongue. There’s a touch of Piaf about the song, so it’s surely no accident that, backed by Jonny Dyer on guitar, she ends singing (in full smoking torch mode) in French, her choice being ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’, a song of longing, loss and decay written in 1945 by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert and, more commonly known in its translated version as‘Autumn Leaves’, first popularised by Yves Montand from whose 1951 recording Kulesh learned it, complete with the original spoken intro.

Again featuring Dyer, the remaining track, by popular request, is her achingly tender and highly emotional reading of the sad and angry ‘No Man’s Land’ (aka ‘Green Fields of France’), Eric Bogle’s classic anti-war song and as fine a recording as you could wish to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary Remembrance Day.
http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

PILGRIM ST release The EP in advance of their debut album. Although Irish in origin their influences come from the other side of the Atlantic – bluegrass and mountain music are to the fore. ‘My Little Blackbird’ is a banjo driven foot-stomper to open the set and you might be suckered into thinking that you’re in for four tracks of rousing “yee-hah”. But…’Givin’ It Up This Time’ is entirely different. It’s slow and sad, talking about “the insomnia train” and “polluting your system”. It’s a bit grim, actually. ‘Emerald’ possibly comes from ancient Irish history but it also speaks to every invasion of one country by another that has ever happened and finally ‘Hurt People Hurt People’ goes back to Americana but without the swagger of the first track. It leaves us wondering.
www.pilgrimst.com

Based in London, CATTY PEARSON trades in folk, country and blues on her October released debut streaming/download EP Time Tells Me (AWAL), recorded with the legendary Chris Kimsey, on which she’s joined by Ollie Clarke on the guitar, drummer Evan Jenkins, Flora Curzon on violin, and folk luminary Lukas Drinkwater on bass with Nichol Thompson and Jansen Santana providing trombone and percussion, respectively playing percussion. Likened to a folksier Norah Jones, she describes five tracks as an enquiry into materialism and the insidious creeping of technology into all areas our lives, opening with the fiddle adorned, steady rhythmic pulse of lead single ‘Electricity’, while ‘Time Tells Me This’ has a smoky late night soul feel reminiscent of Wendy Waldman and ‘Smothered Love’ steeped in prowling jazzy blues flavours. Another breathily sung ballad, this time more acoustic in nature, ‘Northern Sky’ has a suitably clear night air tone, the EP rounded off with the softly sung, circular fingerpicked patterns of ‘Moment Too’. Definitely a name to watch.
https://www.cattypearson.com/

Sunlight is the debut EP from Leicester sing-songwriter TIMOTHY HOAD and it’s a delight. The title track, which opens proceedings, is an up-tempo and, indeed, uplifting song built on a drum and handclap rhythm. Timothy has a gift for both melody and lyrics and the second track, ‘The Ghost I Loved’, has a nicely twisty story and is perversely optimistic given that the singer is about to be executed – or was that his plan all along? The third track is ‘Shapeshifter’ and it just leaves us wanting a whole album.
https://www.facebook.com/timothyhoadmusic/

O&O are a London-based American-Israeli duo consisting of Obadiah Jones and Orian Peled, both graduates of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Truth Comes Out being their self-released debut EP. Described as Fleetwood Mac meets the Civil Wars, they bolster the claim with the steady rolling rhythm of the blues tinged title track and the country-rock chug ‘Saturday Morning’, showing a softer side duetting on the rippling missing-you ballad ‘Tears In The Rain’ (a former single) and the slow burn, pedal-steel stained waltz ‘Rolling On’. A very fine addition to the burgeoning UK Americana scene.
https://www.oandoduo.com/

Some musicians make an EP on a shoestring to get their name out there while they save up to make an album. Not so DAVID LEASK, whose Six In ›6/8 was recorded with nineteen musicians in Toronto, Montreal, Nashville and Muscle Shoals. Scottish-born David lets his native country peep through with some lovely whistle on ‘Red Balloon’ but ‘Caught In The Tide’ quickly crosses the Atlantic to Canada where he now lives and grows in the crossing. Six wants to be an album when it grows up but at six regular-length tracks it doesn’t really make the cut while, at the same time, it’s too heavy duty for an EP. ‘Can’t Make It Back Home’ is probably the best song in the set but it’s swamped by the arrangement.
www.davidleask.com

Another duo with Mac-influences, this time from Birmingham, GASOLINE & MATCHES are Sally Rea Morris and Steve Marks who, aside from regularly hosting local Nashville Sounds in the Round sessions for upcoming UK country names, are establishing their own solid momentum having been nominated alongside The Shires and Ward Thomas for Duo of the Year at the 2018 British CMA Awards. Produced by Gavin Monaghan, their third single is the mid-tempo but full-blooded ‘Not Into Country’, a musical differences break-up number with Morris on lead and Marks providing the muscular guitar breaks.
https://www.gasolineandmatchesmusic.com/

Everything’s Fine is the latest three-track by YVONNE LYON and, like many musicians it seems, she has chosen to be upbeat and optimistic in face of the chaos that is taking over the world. It’s a fine song but ‘Where The Poor Find Gold’ may be even better although not such an obvious lead track while ‘Hope’ rounds out the set with soulful vocals over an electronica backing.
www.yvonnelyonmusic.com

RUSTY SHACKLE provide a taster for their upcoming new Passion, Death & Joy album with ‘Sam Hall’ (own label), a typically driving slice of folk-rock, emphasis on drums and fiddle, telling the story of the 18th century highwayman, here reflecting on his life as chimney sweep to thief to the gallows.
http://www.rustyshackle.com/

LICKING THE MOOSE are a Norwegian Americana band and their single ‘Murder Ballad’ is the audio equivalent of Scandi-noir television. Pained, whisky-soaked vocals sit on a rather ponderous piano-led accompaniment. It’s a strange song, probably something to do with the voice that the singer is hearing. Not a lot of laughs.
https://www.facebook.com/Licking-The-Moose-46368089157/

JOEY COSTELLO has previously featured in these pages and is back with a new single, ‘So High We Lose Our Minds’. Nicely simple with ringing guitar chords and backing vocals and Joey’s all-but-impossible falsetto.
https://joeycostello.com/

 

 

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YVONNE LYON – Metanoia (own label)

MetanoiaMetanoia is Yvonne Lyon’s eighth album and is a mixture old tracks revisited and brand new tracks. The collection opens with an Americana track laced with a helping of bluegrass: ‘Where The Poor Find Gold’. It is a good opener with a moderately lively tempo, and my pick of the tracks, but don’t expect the rest of the album to follow that path.

This a body of work filled with winsome songs. A feeling of melancholia dominates and yet there is an underlying hopefulness in a lot of the lyrics. The only track to kick off its boots is ’Everything’s Fine’, an up tempo dancing song with a positive message.

Yvonne’s voice carries the listener along through the reflective stories. A voice that is melodic and ideally suited to the subject matter of the songs.

The album as a whole is best described as a pleasurable listen. Nothing is going to shake any foundations here. There is nothing stunningly original on offer, but what you do get is quality music accompanied by meaningful words and delivered with Yvonne’s accomplished performances.

Any fan of Americana and American folk won’t be disappointed in this collection of songs that reflects Yvonne’s musical journey.

Ron D Bowes

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SINGLES BAR 20

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 20The first of three self-released themed EPs set for 2017 from Devon duo INDIA ELECTRIC CO., pianist/violinist and accordionist Joseph O’Keefe and Cole Stacey vocals/ percussion, EC1M (Shoelay) offers five tracks variously coloured by influences drawn diversely from Ireland, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America. Named for the building in which they lived when they moved to London(the EP title its postcode), ‘Farmiloe’ makes for an intoxicating opener, keys, violin and squeezebox conjuring a sort of mutant Gallic atmosphere (it features found sound recorded in Paris) filtered through Eastern vibes while the chorus references both the traditional ‘Farewell He’ and e e cummings.

Another American poet, Barbara Guest, feeds into ‘Parachutes’ which, with its pulsing fiddle and prepared piano, quotes the title of her poem Parachutes My Love Could Carry Us Higher while also enfolding in midway the traditional tune ‘The Green Gowned Lass’. Tempo shifting ballad ‘Camelot’ is a heavily percussive piano number with plucked violin notes while, named for a champion 1913 racing pigeon to underscore its theme of endurance, ‘The King Of Rome’ takes off into avant-jazz territory, the musical backdrop designed to conjure nonstop traffic. All of which climaxes with the swirling crescendos of the pizzicato ‘Castles In Spain’, inspired by a passage in the celebrated French medieval poem The Romance of the Rose. Impressively inventive and eclectic, I can’t wait to hear that the other two EPs will have to offer.
www.indiaelectricco.com

Robert Jackson and Isaac Collier are two buskers who met in Bristol and became local stars as A DIFFERENT THREAD since when their name has spread nationwide. Their debut EP, Home From Home, produced by Luke Cawthra, might best be described as Anglo-Americana. Jackson writes the songs, sings them and plays guitar and harmonica and Collier plays cello and arranges parts for the half-dozen guest musicians including singer/songwriter Ruth Royall. The opening track, ‘Big Crane’, has a lazy bluesy feel and ‘The Same Cloth’ uses Jonny Bruce’s trumpet to add a touch of classic swing. ‘A Wayward Sun’ is the sort of complex song that you would expect from much older writer and this debut bodes well for a very bright future.
http://www.adifferentthread.com/

Championed by Bob Harris, Scotland’s YVONNE LYON is building a name for herself in the folk Americana field, her latest bid for the spotlight being the self-released Till We Meet Again, a piano backed swayalong song of loss co-written with a friend whose young son died from septicaemia and forming part of her Masters degree on the connection between songwriting and grief. It comes with two extra cuts, the quietly acoustic Celtic-tinged love song ‘Already Made’ and, again musically nodding to her heritage, the eight and a half minute ‘Spike Road Gardens’, a spare piano and fiddle instrumental suite with a brief passage of spoken but not clearly decipherable lyrics.
http://yvonnelyonmusic.com/

MIKE WEST makes his recording debut with Rusted. He plays acoustic guitar influenced by blues and rock but you can tell that he used to play electric and these five tracks were recorded off the floor for authenticity. Mike’s voice frequently strays into Tom Waits’ territory, notably on the opening track, ‘Work On’, but it is probably more effective when he lightens the tone a little. ‘Rock Ferry’ is possibly the best track but ‘Keep Going’ runs it close.
https://mikewest333.bandcamp.com/releases

A quick follow up to his recent album, PAUL McCLURE and the LOCAL HEROES is the self-titled EP (Clubhouse) result of getting a band together to record five of the songs he’s had hanging round but which never quite fitted on his past two albums. The first of a planned shelf-clearing series, it opens on wailing harmonica with ‘Million Dollar Smile’, a number that should chime well with fans of labelmates The Dreaming Spires and the Redlands Palomino Company, members of which also happen to feature on the EP. Rhiannon Payne who can be heard to good effect providing harmonies on the waltz time, brushed drums ‘Weight In Time’, a fine country gospel drinking away my hurt honky tonk number.

Elsewhere ‘Baby That’s You’ is firmly in the tradition of 60s pop n roll, ‘The Good And The Bad Of It’ is a melancholic strung out and moping lost love piano ballad, while, conjuring Dylan by way of The Byrds, the strummed closer ‘Troubadour’s Lament’ was born of listening to a bunch if CDs while stuck in traffic on the way to a gig, musing on pop star billboards, the family, service stations and radio-phone ins among other things. Let’s hope he does his housekeeping on a regular basis.
http://www.paulmccluremusic.com/

In anticipation of their debut album later in the year THE BLACK GUARDS release their first EP, Drawn In, which opens with the full length version of the title track, their first single. Next up is ‘The Ballad Of Mrs O’ which is scheduled to be their second single. The Black Guards are a six-piece from Cumbria and Dublin who mix folk and roots-rock and anything else they can get their hands on. ‘Karma’ has an old-fashioned mittel-European feel built around Anne Marie McStraw’s fiddle and the final ‘Boat Cuts A Water’ begins as a languid, bluesy acoustic guitar piece before everyone sweeps in for the big finish. We’re looking forward to the album already.
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