CHRIS FOX – From The Shadows (own label)

From The ShadowsChris Fox sent me a link for the lead single from From The Shadows and I thought it was little gem of songwriting. ‘I’m In Love With You’ doesn’t have the typical backstory of an artist with a leaning towards Americana – very few have to start shopping in Morrison’s in order to avoid meeting someone in Tesco. If that story appeals to you then Chris is your man. Principal support comes from multi-instrumentalist producer Dan Wilde with Jamie Welsted on drums, John Parker on double bass and Zoe Wren on backing vocals and it’s all delightfully restrained – mostly.

Chris doesn’t restrict himself to just one style. He describes ‘Little Brown Sparrow’ as a minimal blues in which the bird is a metaphor for the broken and homeless. I’d love to think that it will emerge as a major song of social conscience when From The Shadows hits the streets. In contrast, ‘The Motivator Blues’ is foot-stomping electric rocker with just a hint of T.Rex about the pain of pub gigs – “I don’t need nobody to tell me I’m wrong” he sings. But plenty of people will. There’s a good deal of loneliness and loss in these songs: ‘You Helped Me Through’, ‘Anabelle’ and ‘Castaway’ all have their share of misery.

It’s not all grim. ‘Who Really Loves You’ is about home and family; the people who offer you support when you need it but even that is hedged around with questions and regrets. The album really is full of shadows.

Before all that we have the splendid ‘Tinseltown’, a murder ballad with a Tex-mex shuffle inspired by Brad Pitt (that’s another story) and, indeed, it does have the feeling of being a pitch for a TV series along the lines of The Fugitive. It would need some work, of course, because the man on the run is actually guilty – or would even that run in Trump’s America?

From The Shadows is Chris’ third album and, such is the music business, this is the first I’ve heard of him. I sincerely hope it won’t be the last.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: https://www.chrisfoxmusic.org/

‘Bird Of Paradise’ – live:

SINGLES BAR 43 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 43Formed in response to an RSC songwriting competition, Coventry-based THE MECHANICALS BAND are fronted by Wes Finch and feature Nizlopi double bassist John Parker, drummer Ban Haines and Jools Street and Katrin Gilbert on violin and viola, respectively. Following on from their Shakespare-themed debut, Exit, Pursued by Bear they broaden their literary horizons with Miscellany #1 (Silvery) which features settings of poems by W. B. Yeats (‘Meditation of the Old Fisherman’), Edna St Vincent Millay (‘Recuerdo’), Ralph Hodgson (the rousingly jaunty ‘Time You Old Gypsy Man’), and Robert Browning (the traditional flavoured spare guitar and strings ‘Along The Road’). Dating back to 1873, it ends with Arthur O’Shaugnessy’s celebration of the world’s creative artists ‘Ode’ (from which the phrase movers and shakers originated) on which, set to a military beat and anthemic melody, they declare “We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams”. Seems appropriate.
https://www.facebook.com/WeAreTheMechanicals/

Lonny ZiblatThe new EP by Argentina-born LONNY ZIBLAT consists of five songs from his new album, Dream Hunting, and, as such, has a description rather than a title on its cover. The songs are all acoustic but that doesn’t mean pared back to nothing. The arrangements are satisfyingly full with Lonny playing all the instruments – the only guest is Magdalena Golebiowska, who sings lead on ‘Days Of Peace’ – and he constructs a particularly nice instrumental break on the opening track, ‘Healing’. ‘A Little Secret’ was written for his late father and ‘Stuck’ is a simple ukulele strum. The only weak point is ‘Phony Baits’ on which he seems to be straining for some notes.
www.lionelziblat.com

Singles Bar 43A bluegrass family five piece from West Texas, comprising siblings Arlen, Jessica, Jenna and Galen Ivey alongside Jessica’s husband Sammy Carr THE IVEYS self-release Colors Of Honey, which, at six tracks is either an extended EP or mini-album, but whatever tag you give it comprises some fine Americana that variously draws on influences that range from The Beatles to The Lumineers. It’s a generally musically upbeat set, setting the mood from the start with the choppy country pop bounce of ‘You Got Something’ and the pedal steel keening ‘Whatever Comes’ with Arlen and Jessica duetting before slowing things down with the sisters harmonising on piano ballad ‘Running Wild’. The title track’s another hushed offering, cello and acoustic guitar building to a fuller sound midway before ebbing away again at the end. Again backed by piano, ‘King And Marie’ has Arlen on lead recounting the story of their grandparents’ romance, the set closing with the multiple unaccompanied close harmonies of ‘The Dream’ before a final piano outro. The collection’s title nicely sums up their sound, give them a listen, they’ve got something.
https://theiveysmusic.com/

Singles Bar 43Choose My Company is the second EP by singer-songwriter BETH MALCOLM. The opening track, ‘People Make Glasgow’, tells you where she lives and I reckon that anyone who knows the city will find it raising a smile. It starts gently with just voice and acoustic guitar but then the line “a bloody freezing basement flat on Kelvingrove Street” grabs your attention. It crosses Sauchiehall Street, if you’re interested, and it’s where she found love so she likes it really. Kelvin Grove turns up again in ‘Ghost Tour’ and the title track is a tale of separation, heartbreak and reunion set across the span of a Glasgow winter. Beth plays keys and is accompanied by guitarist Dorian Cloudsley, and jazz-man by preference but, oddly, I keep hearing hints of old pop lyrics.
www.bethmalcolm.com

Siingles Bar 43For her new EP, Inspired (Folkstock), ZOE WREN has covered six female artists who have influenced and inspired her music over the years. First up, perhaps inevitably, is Joni Mitchell, the choice being a beautifully simple voice and piano reading of ‘Both Sides Now’ that stands as one of the finest cover versions of the song. Though it’s been recorded by any number of folk artists, it’s Pentangle and in particular Jacqui McShee who are celebrated with ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’, steering away from echoing their jazz colours in favour of of melancholic, reflective traditional folk reading that changes the chords, adds pedal effects and even introduces a new lively guitar and percussion instrumental bridge section.

Her third selection comes as something of a surprise since it moves away from the film field to cover ‘Joanne’, a song by Lady Gaga. The original was uptempo with acoustic guitars and percussion, but Wren’s is folksier, slower and accompanied by piano to bring an end of evening melancholia. Tracy Chapman’s ‘Talking ‘Bout A Revolution’ hews closely to the original as does a reverential strummed vocally double-tracked take on Sandy Denny classic ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ though it takes Denny’s 1973 Peel session rather than the Fairport recording as its template. It ends with another non-folk artist, Wren digging out her synth cello to add an extra tone to her magnificent piano-led interpretation of the iconic Kate Bush’s ‘The Man With A Child In His Eyes’.
http://www.zoewren.com/zxa8tg7kh95vb4iqoi62jdoo2laias

Singles Bar 43JON WILKS has been mentioned in these pages before in the context of his album, Midlife. Now he follows that up with an EP, The Trial Of Bill Burn Under Martin’s Act. The title track comes from an old broadside which satirised The Cruel Treatment Of Cattle Act 1822 – “a man can’t chastise his own ass” is an unsubtle double entendre. The second track, ‘Holly Ho’, sounds old and mentions chainmakers but was collected as recently as 1958 from a pub where the regulars apparently added new verses every week. Jon recruited Nick Hart and Mikey Kenney to play on this one.

The third track, ‘Who Hung The Monkey?’ comes from Hartlepool and is based on the famous story of the monkey who was washed up on shore and hanged as a French spy although the song would appear to be music-hall piece. Finally we have a gentle, weary reading of ‘Leave Her, Johnny’. Jon is an accomplished finger-picker but doesn’t show off and allows the songs to tell their own stories which is how things should be.
https://jonwilks.online/

Singles Bar 43A painter, poet, songwriter and storyteller, Lancashire’s TORIA WOOFF releases Badlands (Sloe Flower Records), her second EP of “gothic literature and pained Americana telling tales of love and malevolence”. Comprising four tracks, she describes them in terms of synaesthesia, sounds evoking colours which, in turn, represent feelings. Hence the EP being described as ‘browner and orange’ with ‘oaky guitar tones’. In more prosaic terms, that translates to an autumnal 70s folk rock feel of open skies and falling leaves, etched with acoustic guitar and strings on the likes of  the gradually gathering ‘Cases’, the echoingly sung, widescreen ‘Collision Course’ with its Spanish guitar and rocky canyons ambience or the rhythmically curling, martial beat ‘Smoke’. Clocking at just over five minutes, accompanied by cello, ‘For Liam (Souhja)’ is the longest track and also the one most redolent of dreamy Americana shades, the ‘smoky topaz’ of the press release. She can sing a rainbow.
https://www.facebook.com/toriawooff/

Siingles Bar 43In Arden is an EP of four instrumental pieces by STEVE GARRETT AND PETER LOWIT WITH JAMES EDGE. Guitarist Garrett wrote all the music, Lowit plays double-bass and Edge arranged and directed the string quartet on the title track. If you’re wondering about the title, you’re right, it does refer to Tamworth-in-Arden, family home of Nick Drake. Garrett has been honoured to play at the annual Nick Drake Gathering there and this tune reflects Danny Thompson’s bass playing, Robert Kirby’s arrangements and, of course, Nick’s guitar playing. ‘You Called Me’ is a pure jazz tune which gives Lowit the opportunity to stretch out a bit and ‘Mr CC’ is essentially a renaissance jig with a jazz flourish in the middle. Finally, ‘Braw Day’ is a pastoral piece to send you drifting away.
www.stevegarrettguitar.com

TraitorsAvailable from Bandcamp and featuring Cathryn Craig on backing vocals, Brian Willoughby on lead guitar and e-bow and Mark Jolley providing bass and violin, MARINA FLORANCE is in protest mode for ‘Traitors’, a number co-penned with author Richard Pierce Saunderson, a song he describes as about the personal cost of the political situation in the UK with the media-fuelled xenophobia and discrimination against legal immigrants and their descendants as the song asks “Is this still our haven, a place for those in need or are we a country broken, driven by hate and greed?”.
https://www.marinaflorance.com/

If I tell you that brother and sister duo GALLILEO’S FAN are Fi and Martin Vass you might begin to speculate and, of course, you’d be right. Their single, ‘I Won’t Be Found’, is the title track of their new album on which brother Mike appears along such luminaries as Louis Abbott, whose distinctive drumming underpins this track, Graeme Smillie and Euan Burton.  Their sound is indie but capable of great delicacy.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/galileos-fan

Singles Bar 43SJ DENNEY releases the third single in his current bi-monthly series. ‘A Fond Farewell’ is an up-tempo song of hope for the future: “every day we’ve got to chase the demons all away”. The arrangement is big and punchy with nice piano and brass and solid drumming. Are you working up to an album SJ?
http://www.sjsongs.co.uk/

Jm ChorleyJIM CHORLEY has been around for a while but his new single, ‘There’s Nothing Like Your Love’, ups the production values and features a host of guest musicians. This is an old-fashioned love song and although there is some fine playing in evidence the arrangement goes a bit over the top at times but it’s the style he seems to favour.
https://www.jimchorley.com/

The Slow KnifeManchester singer-songwriter LIAM FROST is set to release his first album for ten years in September. ‘The Slow Knife’ is the second single to be taken from The Latchkey Kid – a song about growing apart within a relationship. Liam is still young but pessimistic and although it’s a fine song it may mean more in the album context.
https://www.liamfrost.co.uk/

Eye On YouA nice chunky guitar introduces ‘Eye On You’, the first single by Australian singer/songwriter FENN WILSON to be taken from his debut full-length album Ghost Heroin.  His slightly husky voice complements the bluesy, vaguely country feel of the song although the backing vocals at the end are rather distracting.
https://www.facebook.com/fennwilsonmusic

VARIOUS ARTISTS Downtown Compilation (Folkstock FSR 22)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Downtown Compilation (Folkstock FSR 22)Downtown is a compilation released to coincide with two concerts curated by Folkstock Records at the London Folk & Blues Festival. It’s a limited edition with several tracks recorded specifically for the project so you may want to make your purchase with due alacrity.

The set opens with ‘Miles To Tralee’, about to be a single for Kelly Oliver and slated for her second album. It was produced by Stu Hanna and just exudes style and confidence. Kelly has come a long way in a very short time and deservedly so. Next come Fred’s House and their digital single ‘Shut Up And Dance’. On first hearing I thought that they’d discovered it on some obscure album of Americana but, no, it’s all their own work and a thumping good track. Minnie Birch’s ‘Dustbowl’ is taken from her debut album and ‘Little Black Cloud’ is a taster for Marina Florence’s forthcoming album and is already receiving radio plays. Mariana has a smoky, sultry voice that demands your attention, possibly on pain of a cane across the knuckles.

There is something of middle-period Joan Baez about Zoe Wren’s singing and ‘Nothing To See’ is a particularly powerful performance and one of the collection’s unique tracks as is Kaity Rae’s ‘When You Go’. ‘The Moon And The Pilot’ can only be by Daria Kulesh. Kate Rouse’s hammered dulcimer is an obvious clue and the allegorical lyrics and a hint of the 1940s about the vocal delivery remove any doubt – the mention of Stalin seals it. This is another original recording for this compilation.

‘Nashville’ is the second selection from Minnie Birch’s debut album, Floundering, and then comes Ben Smith with ‘Let Me Down Easy’. Ben is a superb guitarist and the song has the feel of the sixties troubadours with a laid-back band and little electric fills that build up as the track progresses. Finally, we return to Kelly Oliver and ‘Rio’, a song co-written with Nigel Stonier and her most recent single. It’s a happy, uplifting song with which to end an excellent set. “Thanks for having me” indeed.

Dai Jeffries

Label website: http://www.folkstockartsfoundation.com/

Fred’s House – ‘Shut Up And Dance’:

The F Spot Femmes Fatales

Femmes

Strong, sensuous, fascinating and feminine, this compilation of ten compelling self penned songs from women is being released on Folkstock Records on International Womens’ Day on March 8th. Performed by some of the talented female singers we have had the pleasure of working with in the past year and spanning four generations, this distinctive selection hopes to enlighten and inspire with its diversity and be distinguishable from other compilations by its raw honesty and emotion. We thank all the singers for laying bare their soul in this stripped back showcase of their undeniable talent.
This is not just any album full to the brim with female singer songwriting talent.

The F Spot Femmes Fatales has been lovingly conceived, curated and produced to show many different aspects of the feminine psyche.

Lose yourself in the songs and let this album challenge your assumptions about women, whether as musicians, producers of music or consumers of music.

Have you considered how sultry a singer in her 80th year can sound ? track one on this stunning selection will make your jaw drop. Delivered with panache and humour this track was the one which stood out for us on Peggy Seeger’s recent album Everything Changes, and it was our mission to entice Peggy to let us use it to open this compilation ! so you can imagine how thrilled we are to have ‘You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are’ as the first track on the album. Lyrics such as “I am not just any woman, looking for any man, and I don’t intend to change me to fit into your plans. I’m a hell of an angel and you’d better give a damn, you don’t know how lucky you are

Have you ever heard the story of the Mississippi woman ? this strong and wryly observed alternative creation story by Maz O’Connor is the penultimate track on the album and delivered with purity which belies the message, Maz’s beautiful voice captures your heart and lyrics such as these capture your mind.

“She made clothes from the rushes and a bed down by the willow
And when darkness came the riverbank made for her a pillow
Then the angel of the lord came down and said “now you are free”
And she said “lord, make a man out of me, lord, make a man out of me”.

WHO IS ON THE ALBUM ?

Here are the contributors in order. With the information which is presented in the 4 page booklet of the jewel cased CD.

Peggy Seeger – A free thinking pioneer, Peggy Seeger has paved the way for generations of female singer songwriters the world over. Peggy was awarded ‘Most Inspirational Female’ by Music Week in 2014 and we are honoured to have permission to release a song from her recent much acclaimed album Everything Changes thanks to Red Grape Music Ltd.

Roxanne de Bastion tours throughout the UK, Europe and the US, all on trains and busses. The young troubadour self-released her debut album in 2013 and has since then been championed by Tom Robinson on BBC6, John Kennedy on XFM, Ruth Barnes on Amazing Radio. Roxanne’s compositions are routed in the 1960’s, but the tone of voice is very much her own.

Zoe Wren is studying music at Cambridge University and having released her debut EP Pandora’s Box with us in the middle of last year is now working on her debut album. Picked to perform on Stage  2 at Cambridge Folk Festival last year, Zoe is certainly attracting attention and we hope you enjoy this track which is also available on her EP, which can be found on Folkstock Records bandcamp.

Marina Florance is a prolific and revered singer songwriter based in Norfolk. A darling of the East Anglian BBC Stations, Marina has also had her music chosen by Soundcloud as Track of the Day ! Coming to performance of her own material later in life than most, Marina’s sultry ‘chocolate’ voice wins hearts the world over and captivates from the first note.

Minnie Birch  has been played on BBC Radio 1 and has caught the eye of that legend that is Joan Armatrading, supporting her on four gigs over the last two years. Her debut album is due for release this year and will no doubt build on the success of her beautiful EP Settled and consolidate her reputation and take her career to the next level.

Kaity Rae is our youngest contributor and is studying songwriting at The Institute in N. London. Recently awarded ‘Student of the year’, Kaity is on the prestigious resident artist RoundHouse programme, was a finalist in the GIGS: Big Busk song awards, won her category of Love Folk Live & has released her debut EP Spark Nov 2014. This is an acoustic version of one of her EP tracks.

Kelly Oliver  gained a 4* review from The Telegraph for her debut album This Land, which was funded by an Emerging Excellence Award from Help Musicians UK. It also won best female album from FolkWords and was shortlisted by FATEA. With BBC Radio 2 airplay and a video session with Whispering Bob Harris helping to sell out headline gigs, the future is looking bright.

Daria Kulesh’s cut glass vocals conjure an exotic elegance which is prevalent in her songs. Aided by her Russian heritage and ruthless lyrics, her dramatic delivery excites and entices you to carry on listening. This track is from her debut album Eternal Child which is gaining exultant reviews and looks set to provide her with the showcase needed to establish her musical career on a firm footing.

Maz O’Connor is one of Folk’s rising stars and attracted a BBC Radio2 Folk Award nomination as well as a Creative Fellowship from the BBC Performing Arts Fund. 2014 brought a rapturous reception for her acclaimed second album This Willowed Light and we are thrilled that Wild Sound Recordings kindly gave permission for us to re-record a stripped back version of this stunning ‘alternative creation’ story.

Fay Brotherhood  is an enigmatic artist in many senses of the word. Her creative outpourings are at their most visceral in her live performance and her distinctive voice and almost paganistic delivery has attracted much interest and acclaim. Her music transports to the heady, trippy days of the 60’s and brings you bang up to date with a modern twist in the tale.

Label website:  http://www.folkstockartsfoundation.com/