The Magpie Arc – EP1
EP1 is the debut release from this cross-Border Folk/Americana band with BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning solo artists Nancy Kerr and Martin Simpson, Adam Holmes, and producer Tom A Wright (previously with The Albion Band) and bass player/manager, Alex Hunter. Recorded at Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield and produced by Tom A Wright, additional work was completed with John Wood, the legendary producer/engineer of John Martyn’s Solid Air, all Nick Drake’s albums and classic recordings from Pink Floyd/ Fairport Convention/ Sandy Denny and Richard & Linda Thompson. Good provenance!
Echoing the classic UK and US folk/rock era of the late 1960s and early 1970’s, the songs have all the hallmarks of that genre, beautiful melodies with multi-voice harmony singing, intricate electric guitars, gorgeous fiddle lines and rock solid bass and drums. I’m told rehearsals and writing sessions referenced influences such as traditional British folk, US blues, country music and rock and roll, and also artists as wide-ranging as Little Feat, Jackson Browne, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Joni Mitchell, Townes Van Zandt and The Band, which fed into the resulting four tracks of this EP1, with the equally diverse EP’s 2 and 3 to be released shortly. Impressive.
The Teacups – In Which
Celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band The Teacups, Alex Cumming, Kate Locksley, Rosie Calvert and Will Finn, release their third and final album entitled “In Which”. The Acappella quartet met in 2010 on the Folk and traditional music degree course at Newcastle University (no, I didn’t know either). Recorded as a start to finish album at the Sunbeams studio in the Lake District this was recorded as a final journey. Previous albums 2013’s ‘One For The Pot’ explored traditional and contemporary songs from across the British Isles, while 2015’s ‘Of Labour and Love’ combined new and original compositions as well as murder ballads, exotic shanties, and traditional songs of love and loss.
This release harks back to their debut, songs of tradition interspersed with vignettes and modern day tales of humanity. “In Which” has seafaring and hunting songs aplenty, with drinking songs to suit the abstainer ‘Celestial Tea’ and quaffer alike ‘The Harvest Jug’. Well-known songs surface in the form of when the boat comes in on ‘My Little Man’; ‘Sugar Wassail’ has a hint of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen as part of its seasonal celebration, while ‘Morris Set’ is an acapella take on traditional tunes. It is a delightful album joyful in parts, yet thoughtful in others, happy and yet equally maudlin moments, both reflective of the year it was recorded and the mixed emotions they will feel as they cease to exist as a band. Powerful.
Thee Holy Brothers – My Name is Sparkle
Marvin Etzioni (aka “Buddy Holy”) and singer/multi-instrumentalist Willie Aron (aka “Johnny B.Holy”) have crafted a deeply compelling debut album. Marvin elaborates…“My Name Is Sparkle is about an androgynous character named Sparkle who is “looking for God.” Sparkle travels to Jerusalem, the spiritual capital of the world, only to find Elvis. Sparkle contemplates suicide,but ultimately keeps on his search. At the end of the play, Sparkle is at peace knowing”the end of suffering is in your heart.”
Accompanied by drummer James Gadson (Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Beck), co-produced by Jeff Peters (BeachBoys) and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, it is an impressive,ambitious album that echoes devotional touchstones like George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Pete Townshend’s Who Came First. There is a power and intimacy in the two voices that suits the album’s yearning nature. Interesting.
Rupert Wates – Lamentations
London born but US based, Wates has released 10 albums previously, and this one is recorded in a single evening, no overdubs, just him and his guitar – essentially a lockdown live performance. A prolific live artist, his material that has won awards, been performed by other artists and yet he’s under the radar.
The carousel of birth and death through the eyes of a child; the heartbreak of love. Just some of the themes of this songwriter in a totally organic setting. I’m minded of Gordon Lightfoot. It’s a warm, intense, personal album – almost as if he’s in your front room, or you are front seat at an intimate venue. Lyrically deep, melodically heartfelt and musically adept, he pulls the seemingly impossible off – a flawless and timeless album. Personal.
The Pawn Shop Saints – Ordinary Folks
Fronted by singer-songwriter Jeb Barry, The Pawn Shop Saints are known for their sparse, hard dirt Americana, often exploring the darker side of life, and have been compared to the likes of Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt. Rounding out the Pawn Shop Saints are Mike O’Neill on guitars and backing vocals, Josh Pisano on drums and Chris Samson on bass.
An album of portraits and scenarios of ordinary and unique individuals, intentionally atmospheric and story-driven. It’s gritty, it’s bleak, it’s totally Americana, and it’s an acquired taste, predominately because of the vocal drawl that is as much about emotion as it is about tune. There are no frills, no airs or graces, just a realism and rawness to the music. Rough and ready.
Steve Mayone pays homage to Paul McCartney’s 1970 album McCartney with his new release Mayone. As he explains: @“In 1993 Liz Phair released Exile In Guyville, her song-by-song reply to The Rolling Stones’ 1972 album Exile On Main Street. Phair sequenced her songs in an attempt to match the pacing of the Stones album. In a similar way I made my own response/tribute to a personal favorite – Paul McCartney’s 1970 album McCartney. The McCartney album was a source of inspiration and a springboard for new ideas. Like his approach, I embraced the haphazard alchemy of painting with sound.
Paul’s first solo release was an escape for him, a way to reconnect to his
creativity. He recorded it (mostly) at home, playing all of the instruments.”
His refuge from the chaos of the outside world, he approached the making of the album as an experiment. He said the making of the album was “very necessary at that time, cause otherwise, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go to get away from the turmoil.” Recorded in Brooklyn during the initial months of the worldwide pandemic, Steve follows the arc of that original to create his own album. Switching easily from roots Americana to well crafted power pop to country ballads, whatever the snapshot style, it’s a tuneful, personal album. A form of therapy in an uncertain world, he’s left a legacy. Personable.