Monday, December 03, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 29 - Waterside - Under My Skin

I have long harboured a love for the EP as a means for an artist or band to get early release of their work. In the last decade the format has seen a truly incredible renaissance. This is an astonishing example of what this actually means.

Waterside - Under My Skin EP (self-released, 9 November 2018).

This band and EP happened in the matter of a few months involving four musicians, all studying for music degrees full time, in Leeds. If I'm going to pledge five or ten pounds to back a recording then this is exactly the sort of thing and the only kind of betting that I am willing to countenance. This one, as far as am concerned, is a runaway winner with not a weak track on it. It comprises four tracks:
  • On The Floor
  • Crow On The Cradle
  • Indifference
  • Carved By Another II
The choice of cover song, Crow On The Cradle is bold for both its interpretation and for the fact that, in all possibility for many listening it might be their first time of hearing. The original, a Sydney Carter song, was originally recorded by The Ian Campbell Folk Group as the B-side to their 1963 single 'The Sun Is Burning'. Now here is a thing... I wasn't born in 1963.  All four members of Waterside are considerably less than half my age! A product of The Cold War it as been covered fairly often since, particularly more recently. It appears on Lady Maisery's 2013 LP 'Mayday'.
No less impressive is a new version of an Iona Lane song that first appeared on her 2017 EP 'Pockets'. It is a longer, electrified version of 'Carved by Another', which was already the stand-out original song on that release. I fully expect to hear a great deal more from these four artists, jointly and individually, sooner rather than later.

Monday, October 15, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 28 - The Willows - Through The Wild

The prospect of another rather autumnal weekend and the fact that the outdoor festival season has well and truly ended, was leavened this morning by the arrival of a CD in the post. It has been on rotation, every other listen with others, since. Awaited by me for quite some while it is the latest from folk five-piece The Willows and the first release since Prue Ward left for pastures new and was replaced on fiddle by Katriona Gilmore.

The Willows - Through The Wild (Elk Records, ELK014, 30 November 2018).

Ten songs and a tune (Ernest Durham's), which all are original except for the traditional True Lovers' Ferry that is from the waterways of London. The majority of the new songs are of the narrative variety, something at which the band excels.
One of the
 standout songs on their previous LP 'Amidst Fiery Skies' (2014) was in my opinion 'The Visitor', which is about the heroic rescue of the victims of a 19th century shipwreck of a vessel of that name. If you like that record then I imagine that this might be to your taste too.  All five members contribute vocals and harmony but the those of lead Rhiannon Jade are both instantly recognisable and soothing, something that I noticed the first time I saw The Willows playing live, at Cambridge Folk Festival 2015. Here as then the musicianship is amazing and guest John Parker adds the always-welcome upright bass on many tracks. A triumph of acoustic loveliness, in the finest sense of those words.

The Willows - Through The Wild:
  • Coda
  • Better Days
  • True Lovers' Ferry
  • Perfect Crime/Ernest Durham's
  • Honest Man
  • Pearl Hart
  • Out of Our Hands
  • False Light
  • Gog Magog
  • Dear Lilly
Gog Magog touches on a very old legend of giants - the Gog Magog Hills south east of Cambridge being the legacy of that interaction.

Somewhat similar tales infuse other UK folk songs. One that comes to mind is that in which two giants and brothers, Vincent and Goram, both fell in love with a Wiltshire lass called Avona. In a competition she instructed them to drain a lake...
Goram started from the north but, due to excessive consumption of liquor or so the tale goes, fell asleep. Vincent, spotting an opportunity to trump his brother then completed what is now the Avon Gorge, won the challenge and thus the hand of Avona. When he awoke, and
 realising his folly, Goram hurled himself into the Bristol Channel.
The side of his head and one shoulder remain above water to this day as the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm. Interestingly, both the stories possibly have Viking connections; holm is a Viking word meaning 'island' and the Vikings certainly ravaged the east of England for much of what we now call The Dark Ages before becoming more adventurous and raiding what is now the west of England, much of Wales and also the east coast of Ireland.

In whatever light you chose to listen to it this is a great release and I can't wait to see The Willows perform it live in the near future.

Monday, October 01, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 27 - Sinnober - Projection

'Projection' is the brand new release by duo Sinnober based in Frome, Somerset. It follows their 2016 release 'Little Wars'.

Sinnober - Projection (self-released,  1 October 2018).

One hundred physical albums with a full lyric booklet are available, on CD here, to those that would like such a thing and the track list is below.

Sinnober - Projection:
  • Angels of Fire and Snow 
  • No Regrets 
  • True North 
  • When A Knight Won His Spurs
  • Garbo's Song 
  • Successful
  • I Don't Wanna Read The News
  • Alexandra Leaving
Just in case you were wondering, you really do need to see Sinnober live. Here they are playing the acoustic stage at a new festival back at the start of this summer.
Sinnober, Acoustic stage, Beardy Folk Festival, 23 June 2018.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 26 - Kendel Carson - The Lost Tapes of Suzanna Hamilton & The Calgary Sessions

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde in a horrid way: To miss one new release by an artist you like might count as misfortune. To miss two in six months is just careless. I am however totally guilty as charged.
So how did I come to find about them both at once on an otherwise unremarkable Thursday evening? 

I can thank Spotify for that. I decided to listen to an album (that wasn't 'Rearview Mirror Tears') by Canadian singer and fiddle player Kendel Carson but I had forgotten the title of it for some reason - it was 'Alright Dynamite' (2009) but that is by-the-by. I was presented with two LPs that I was completely unaware of, based on music for a possible film project that never made it to the screen, or at least not so far and that changed this evening's listening completely.
I have a word of warning here and I think it only fair to mention it now. If you don't like Kendel's previous albums then this might well not change your mind, but please try if you like. I just felt like I was diving right back into familiar territory and that is sometimes a very comforting place to be. 

It seems to be available as 2-on-1, of which this is the illustration, or as two releases.

I'm writing this pretty much on the fly whilst listening to it all again, it's on repeat, so expect some updates on this! Spotify, at least in the UK, regards these as two distinct releases, as detailed below. Either way all are released on Train Wreck Records:

Kendel Carson - The Lost Tapes of Suzanna Hamilton:
  • Paint Me a Cowboy
  • The Burning of Suzanna
  • Chicago Man
  • Crazy Moon
  • Lilly
  • Make Me a Microphone
  • Paint Me a Cowboy (Ballad)
  • Yankee Boy
  • Fighting Soldier
  • That's the Way It Is About True Love
Kendel Carson - The Calgary Sessions:
  • Waiting for Dreams
  • Find a Way
  • Anyway the Wind Blows
  • Woke up Missing You so Bad
  • Mexican Standoff
  • Hot Iron Waltz
  • Find a Way (Long Version)
I suspect that, as this was still completely unknown to me 2½ hours ago, I shall be back with some more comment, if not tonight then tomorrow. On the other hand if I wasn't liking the hell out of this there would be nothing here to read as of now! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 25 - Carson Mchone - Carousel

Listening to embargoed new music, not yet available to the public for some weeks, is a privilege and somewhat scary at the same time. It feels to me like driving a vehicle that I have no previous experience with but which I feel confident about being able to handle. This is the forthcoming LP by Carson Mchone, based in Austin TX. I think this to be a particularly apt analogy given the rather oblique nature of the album artwork. Let's start with that because it's the only visual clue you get. No words; nothing but a couple of film negatives.

Carson Mchone - Carousel (Nine Mile Records, 26 October 2018).

On the face of it this might seem like deliberate alienation. On further investigation it isn't like that in my opinion. It is a case of deliberate differentiation, born out of feelings of not wishing to flow with the wider crowd. Some of the songs on this record are reworkings of those that appeared on her 2015 LP Goodluck Man. I wrote about that here. She was keeping fine company then and I have no doubt that this trend is set to continue. This is the playlist for the new LP:

Carson Mchone - Carousel:
  • Sad
  • Drugs
  • Lucky
  • Good Time Daddy Blues
  • Dram Shop Gal
  • Intro Gentle
  • Gentle
  • Maybe They're Just Really Good Friends
  • How 'Bout It
  • Spider

This is alt-country crafted on pretty much her own terms. The new versions of the songs from the earlier release, and I decided not to say which they are as you can easily find out if you wish, are sometimes rather different to the earlier ones and even slightly upbeat. There's very much a bluesy, honky tonk vibe going on in a lot of this but she is no slave to a particular trope. That said the version of Dram Shop Gal on this release is beautifully wistful in its new incarnation and a particular highlight for me. 

It's hard to tell where she might turn next, but that's really exciting and exactly why I want to see her play live at the earliest opportunity. She's something of a wild card I think; to that end I tried to retro-engineer one of the photos on the album cover. I think that it says a certain something about her approach.

What's the carousel worth if you ride to the fairground bareback on a gray steed?

She is wilfully different. I hope she stays that way, just howsoever that may work out.

Note added 30 October 2018:
Carson Mchone has signed to Loose Records for the UK and Europe. Carousel will be released on vinyl, CD and digital on 25 January 2019. She will be crossing the pond to tour it including an Americana UK festival date.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 24 - Fara - Times From Times Fall

Times From Times Fall is the second full length release by Scottish folk four-piece Fara, all of whom are from Orkney, and is the follow-up to 'Cross the Line' (2016) that I mentioned here.
All the music on this record is composed by the band, sometimes co-writing at others individually, and many are tunes. The final track 'Maxwell's Light' is a tribute to Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell, arguably most famous for his unifying theory of electromagnetic radiation published in 1861-2. A true Victorian polymath he was also a fine engineer and the inventor of light-fast colour photography.

Three of the four songs are poems by Orcadian writers set to new tunes by the band. The fourth is a tribute to a lost relative.

Fara - Times From Times Fall (Fara Music, FARA002, 19 October 2018).

Fara - Times From Times Fall
  • The Port Polka / Rognvald Ritch, The Little / The Shore
  • Speir Thoo The Wast Wind
  • At The Ebb
  • 7, 8, Nein / I'll Do It Last Friday
  • Song (Love Gathers All)
  • Miss Rosa Sermanni Holmes / Vintage Pals / Upside Down Under
  • Frances' Day
  • See It All
  • The Depliction / My Favourite Cow / Farewell To The Prid
  • Simple Dirt / The Fighter
  • The Road Home
  • Maxwell's Light
In my opinion absolutely everything on this album is well worth listening to. The lead release taken from it is 'Speir Thoo The Wast Wind', a poem by Christina Costie set to music by Fara. It is available to listen on Spotify here.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Green Man 2018 - a few thoughts and pictures.

If there is a discernible thread to this post then it is that it encapsulates why I like festivals so much. I treasure the ability to explore music I might like, a result of the one ticket for everything ethos, as much as the freedom to wander away from what it turns out I don't much care for and go in search of something else instead. As well as new music I quite purposely choose to see artists again. That even includes ones about which I was undecided on my first live acquaintance. Photography started as a basic aide-memoire when most of the acts I saw were entirely unknown to me at the time of observation.

attend festivals as a free agent and this entirely selfish approach has a corollary; I am, in so far as it is reasonably possible to be, immune to peer-group pressure or the crowd mentality and open to recommendations as to music worth hearing from anyone I meet. I shall start with three artists that I had never seen live before. I could happily have listened to any or all of these for three hours straight...

Jim Ghedi, Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2018.

Nubya Garcia, Mountain stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2018.

A Hawk and A Hacksaw, Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2018.

The three that follow are acts/artists that I have seen live before and were more than happy to see live once again. This first is one of the artists of 2017 - 2018, both recorded and live.

Courtney Marie Andrews, Mountain stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2018.

Amber Arcades, Mountain stage, Green Man Festival, 17 August 2018.

Joan As Policewoman, Mountain stage, 17 August 2018.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Catching up. Live...

Earlier this month and in this post I expressed a desire to see a quintet of US-based female indie rock acts live across a pair of UK festivals - Green Man and End Of The Road. As I am at home in the weekend between those two festivals I thought that I ought to post a mid-term report.
The first good news is that I saw all three of these artists that were performing at Green Man in South Wales last weekend and conveniently, for the sake of comparable photography if nothing else, all on the same stage. It is also my favourite stage at the festival.
Here are those three artists in the order in which they played - one artist each day as it happens - and starting with the youngest but not an artist to underestimate.

Snail Mail is the work of 20-year-old Lindsey Jordan and she is originally from Ellicott City, MD. Début album 'Lush' was released by Matador Records on 8 June 2018.

Snail Mail - Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival. 17 August 2018.

Phoebe Bridgers' album 'Stranger In The Alps' is something I have been listening to a great deal since its release by Dead Oceans Records in September of last year. For that reason alone I was delighted to see her added to the artists at Green Man this year. Then there were two duets.

Phoebe Bridgers - Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival. 18 August 2018.

Last but certainly not least, from Richmond VA, was Lucy Dacus touring her 2018 album 'Historian' that is also released by Matador Records. It is true that she started the set bespectacled as, perhaps, befits a historian...
The pretence didn't last long.

Lucy Dacus - Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival. 19 August 2018.

I was expecting a great deal from all three of these artists. To say that I was not disappointed would be a serious understatement.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 23 - Kitty Macfarlane - Namer Of Clouds

This is an album that, having seen the artist behind it live several times, I have been waiting upon for some time. It is her first full length and it follows on from the 2016 Tide and Time EP that I mentioned here

Kitty Macfarlane - Namer Of Clouds (Navigator Records, 21 September 2018).

This LP and the aforementioned EP share only one track and that is the EP's opener 'Wrecking Days'. This is the track list for the LP.

Kitty Macfarlane - Namer Of Clouds
  • Starling Song
  • Namer Of Clouds
  • Seventeen
  • Sea Silk
  • Morgan's Pantry
  • Glass Eel
  • Wrecking Days
  • Dawn & Dark
  • Frozen Charlotte
  • Man, Friendship
  • Inversnaid
One track that particularly caught my attention when first I heard it live at North Dorset Folk Festival last autumn is Glass Eel. That particular festival is sadly no more but here she is playing it at a brand new festival that I had the pleasure of attending just two months ago.

Kitty Macfarlane,  Main stage, Beardy Folk Festival, 24 June 2018.

This is acoustic folk but with a contemporary and often environmentally aware twist but it isn't overtly political. It doesn't have to be; it is too well crafted to need that crutch upon which to stand.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A musical journey by proxy...

It's been a while since I did one of these posts but I have to say it is always on my mind. The thing is that it just takes a little something to get started. In this case it is the realisation that I am spending twelve days over the next four weeks at music festivals.

For a start that means that I will be seeing one hell of a lot of live music.  Another aspect is that I need to prioritise what I wish to see and part of that is to examine the possibilities in the context of what I already know. Finally, it needs a seed to grow into an idea and at the time I was fairly sure that this might be one possibility. 
I was at the smallest stage of a festival almost four weeks ago and saw this woman live for the first time; in fact it was the first time that I had ever heard of her therefore I came to it with no preconceptions at all.
Nor indeed did I realise that Alabama blues was a thing. If I had then I would have come along with the concept that I was almost certainly gonna like this. I would have been right, too.
This turned out to be a starting point. It has still taken me almost four weeks to write about it.

Debbie Bond, Apple Garden stage, Truck Festival, 22 July 2018.

Back home she normally plays with full band backing. Here it was just her and, on keyboards or harmonica, 'Radiator' Rick Asherson. I'm actually rather glad that I first got to hear this music stripped back and in such a small and intimate setting. It was pretty much how I imagine it should be, for this is essentially down-home music. Try 'Enjoy the Ride (Shoal Sessions)' here.
What really prompted me to start writing is another artist, again new to me, who has been plying her trade for a long time.
In this case festivals or indeed live music was not involved. Based on what I have heard I would love that to change. Again not a household name --- I suspect that this applies in her home country too.

Sarah Peacock - Hot Sheet Motel EP (27 July 2018, American Roots Records).

This, her latest offering, is definitely toward the rock side of things and is what initially caught my ear. I can't actually recall how this came to be so. I suspect it was via a Spotify 'Discover Weekly' playlist. This is a more acoustic take on her craft.

Sarah Peacock - Beauty In The Ashes Unplugged Volume 1 (12 May 2017, American Roots Records).

What bearing does this have on what I might wish to see at forthcoming festivals?
I have the opportunity to see the gamut of somewhat younger female US artists live in a very short space of time.  At this time most are still playing the smaller stages and I can't imagine another circumstance in which this might be possible.
Here are five such, listed alphabetically by artist, that have come to my attention:
The respective releases that have given rise to this see-live equivalent of a play-list are also there.  That might sound like a mission. In a way I suppose it is but it is just a splash in the pool when it comes to three 3½ day festivals.
I rather suspect that some of the highlights will be acts about which I currently know absolutely nothing at all. I really hope that this is the case once again. One of the very best things about festivals is the surprise factor. Truck Festival last month only served to remind me just how important that is.

Monday, July 30, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 22 - Eliza Gilkyson - Secularia

There is a total change of tack for this post. We head over to Austin, Texas and the realm of US folk and, in passing, something of a dynasty in that regard. This is the latest from Eliza Gilkyson.

Eliza Gilkyson - Secularia (Red House Records, 13 July 2018).
  • Solitary Singer
  • Lifelines
  • Conservation
  • In The Name Of The Lord
  • Dreamtime
  • Seculare
  • Reunion
  • Sanctuary
  • Through The Looking Glass
  • Emmanuelle
  • Down By The Riverside
  • Instrument
This has certainly caught my attention. It has also led me to investigate her extensive back catalogue too. I like the fact that it is about finding meaning but that the title suggests that it is, I guess essentially, about humanism.  I know that I will be returning to comment on this further in due course. It's steadfast tone but lack of dogma is very refreshing.

Her brother is guitarist Tony Gilkyson who played almost all the guitar parts for the biopic film 'Walk The Line'. Their father Terry Gilkyson was also a folk writer, singer and musician, being of the same generation as Woodie Guthrie, who wrote songs with and for many well known artists including, amongst others, Johnny Cash. He also widely entertained commissions for other artistic outlets including writing music for cinema.

That included this: one of the most widely recognised songs from animated film that there is:

 This is the original, slightly scratchy and static inflected, version. Just the bare necessities.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 21 - Phantastic Ferniture

Just as summer in the UK seems to have gone AWOL for the weekend comes the release of this gem from Australia, where it is winter, but that's just fine!  It's almost as if it had been organised to be so.  It is perfect summer leaning, summer seeking indie garage rock.

When Julia Jacklin finally made it back to her Australian homeland in the summer (Northern hemisphere definition) of 2017, after about a year of touring her excellent but folky and somewhat downbeat début LP 'Don't Let The Kids Win' across the US and Europe, she was ready for a break and a change. I saw her live twice in that time and I certainly got that impression on the second occasion even though she provided a great show and had visibly grown in confidence from the one almost a year earlier.

The project might possibly have started as an idea, concocted over a beer or two, by Julia and home-town friends Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K. Brennan.  They are also joined by Tom Stephens.
Whatever the truth might be this feel-good garage rock album is the result. The only snag is that, if it were to be just a project for their own musical amusement, it has worked out rather too well. It's winning plaudits left, right and centre. Rightly so I think. It is light-hearted in intention but never trivial in sentiment. They might have created themselves a new problem here; this needs touring.

Phantastic Ferniture, Phantastic Ferniture (Transgressive Records, 27 July 2018).

Phantasic Ferniture:
  • Uncomfortable Teenager
  • Bad Timing
  • Fuckin 'N' Rollin
  • Gap Year
  • Take It Off
  • Parks
  • I Need It
  • Dark Corner Dance Floor
  • Mumma y Pappa

It is also a rare beast: the first half is good, plenty good enough to recommend this album. The second half is even better. Dark Corner Dance Floor is a serious statement of musical intent.

Friday, July 27, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 20 - Kick Out The Twang - Speedbuggy USA

Now this was fun! A band that I have seen before, at Truck Festival 2016, returned with a new album in tow and played two full sets within the space of 24 hours.  I saw all of both of those. That is only the sixth time that I have ever managed to do this with any artist.

Speedbuggy USA, Truck Festival,  Veterans & Virgins stage, 21 July 2018.

That new LP is this. It's a good time to be in the UK...

Kick Out The Twang - Speedbuggy USA (Wagon Wheel Records, 8 August 2018).

  • Take the Last Train to Clarksville
  • Get Around
  • Shaky Train
  • Hold My Head Up High
  • Southbound Train
  • Sorry
  • Wood Screws & Nails
  • Unchain My Heart
  • Long Gone
  • Honky Tonk Singer
  • The Devil With Me
  • Darlin' I'm Coming Home
And here is a picture from the second set.  Maybe the adults in the audience were a little jaded come Sunday lunchtime but the kids were just loving it. Great band and just lovely people too.

Speedbuggy USA, Apple Tree stage, 22 July 2018.

This was the playlist, more or less. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Festivals... Truck Festival 2018 and other things.

Two three-day festivals down and still three to go!
One of the great things about festivals is the expectation of seeing favourite artists once again. The other, perhaps more exciting still, is those complete surprises; the ones that blindside you and here is one such from last weekend.
Most festivals of any size run a competition for new artists with the prize(s) being a performance slot. Truck Festival is no exception. Once in a while this can be disappointing. This was most certainly not one of those occasions. Almost all original material and always beautifully done.

Charlotte Hackett, Market stage, Truck Festival, 21 July 2018.

This was not to be the first nor the last of such welcome surprises. There has been a big discussion in the media about the relative lack of female artists at UK festivals, especially in headline roles the last year or two. It is a valid point I think and Truck Festival isn't at all good on that count.
On the other hand it is often not the headline acts that make me want to go to a festival anyway. On that premise then Truck Festival actually hosted several very good acts that were either all-female or female-fronted. Given that writing about it seems a pretty obvious thing to do despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that I am male.

Truck has a bit of history when it comes to all female grunge/garage rock as I recall. Here is another manifestation of that.

London-based trio Hey Charlie. Market stage, Truck Festival, 22 July 2018.

Originally formed as an art college project in Brighton in 2014, Dream Wife took wing and perhaps surprisingly it is the only one of these three acts to have yet released a (self-titled)  LP 'Dream Wife' early in 2018, which arguably just goes to show just what new talent is on offer here.

Market stage, Truck Festival, 21 July 2018.
Originally from Iceland, Rakel Mjöll on lead vocals.