L.A. Salami
EP:JJianni's From Australia (She'll Get By Fine)
Label:Self Released
If L.A. Salami wasn't a musician I think he'd make a pretty good close up magician. For his second single he takes a simple little riff and the song title then proceeds to create a four and a half minute song which he seemingly suspends time. Salami's greatest skill, even great than his ability to build a melody that stays with you long after the song finishes, is the construction of a story that leaves you feeling that you intimately know the subject. Not only do I now know Jianni's nationality, but also her ethnicity, her hair colour, her home town and who she reads. (The Jacket)
Album:Can't Keep Still
Label:Corner Block
Some music needs to be danced to, other music needs to be listened to and some music needs to be listened to in company, part of that communal experience. Porter definitely fall into that last category. Ideally you want to listen to Porter in a sophisticated night club, probably run by a gangster, in 1950s Clubs. Now if you haven't got a time machine, kick off the shoes, pour a glass of red wine and lose yourself in that experience with a little imagination and let the jazz/blues/ska beats and crooning of Gary Porter take you away from the humdrum of the daily grind.
Gary Stewart
Albu:Year And A Day EP
Gary Stewart is nothing if not versatile, when he's not performing in his own right, he can be found playing drums for Hope+Social or bass for Ellen & The Escapades, but he's here in singer-songwriter mode with his new EP, "Year And A Day" and I'd say it's the role that suits this Leeds based Scot best. The titles on the EP maybe short, but the release is long on variety and intensity. There is beautiful directness about the performance, a definite let's do this attitude that got a real ballsy feel to it. Pick this up and let it do the same for you. It's a real honest performance, no mistake.
Matt Keating
Album:Wrong Way Home
"Wrong Way Home" is US based singer/songwriter Matt Keating's tenth release, his sixth full length album, taking up the torch from "Between Customers". Clocking in at some sixteen tracks the album is more of a band album than the slightly more minimist approach of the previous cut. It keeps the music sounding fresh, you can feel a number of common focuses, but the approach allows him to mix things up a lot more, even allowing the introduction of strings and horns on a number of tracks. There's no mistaking this is a sharp album, you can feel a definite edge.
Jimmy Lee And The Edge Of Chaos Orchestra
Album:The Ragamuffin
Label:Self Released
Okay. this one's been out a while, no apologies for that. Jimmy Lee And The Edge Of Chaos Orchestra have been back in the studio recording a new album and been out on the road playing tracks from this and giving songs from the forthcoming album a test. "The Ragamuffin" is an album that draws it's sounds from lots of different stops along the acoustic spectrum, delivering the songs in a style best suited to them. The songs themselves are a mixture of shrewed observation and sentimentality. Most of the time it's on the mark, but occasionally strays across the line.
Lee's Company
Album:White Mansions
Label:Self Released
Musical theater is notoriously dfficult and expensive to stage, particularly if it's got an American Civil War theme. "White Mansions" is a folk opera based on aforementioned conflict and though it has been staged, most people will come to know it through the album. Lee's Company are the cast that took part in the original performance and the album its self a live recording of the fifteen narrative song, two act play. It's hard and gritty, there's no attempt to romanticise the conflict, slavery and brutality get an airing, but ultimately this is about the impact of war on people.
Dave Bowe
EP:Japanese Writing
Dave Bowe's almost namesake, is a good place to start with this review, because like him and Bono, Dave Bowe, has got that delightful half singing half talking style to his voice, the think white duke of folk if you like. It gives his debut EP, "Japanese Writing" an instant hit, especially in the racous opener, "Feelin The Music" a song made all the more pertient when you realise that Bowe had to relearn his music, particularly his guitar following a stroke at just 24. He's done a damned fine job of it, he's found a sound that's easily accessible whilst retaining attitude. Well worth a punt.
Slow Life
Label:Self Released
I'm never sure if 6 tracks is a mini-album or a maxed out EP, it matters not, the contents are what counts and on "Bear", that counts for a lot. Slow Life is the stage name of Colchester based singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Dan Bowen, who though building the songs in layers, infuses them with a real band sound, aided and abetted by drummer Andy Lincoln. There's a real passion across the tracks, which have been inspired by subjects as diverse as German football and mixing ukelele with slavic language for an album that challenges as well as entertains. Different and original.
Kate Doubleday
Ep:Ticket Of Life
This EP has actually been out a little while, but once I'd heard it I just knew I had to give it some space. Black and white birds tend to have an interesting place in lore, so I was expecting "Pied Flycatcher" to be an EP of myth and metaphore so I was both surprised and delighted to find that the three tracks on the release all celebrate different aspects of nature and the countryside, a subject well worth celebrating for its own sake and a big thanks to Kate Doubleday for reminding of that. Sometimes we spend so much time looking for hidden agendas we forget what's in front of us.
Danny Sherwood
EP:When My Ship Comes In
Label:Self Released
With guitar the weapon of choice for most singer/songwriters, it's good to hear an EP where the focus is on the piano, particularly when it's mixed with a rich baritone voice. It gives Danny Sherwood's songs an almost operatic feel that gives him an unusual take on the folk blues sound. "When My Ship Comes In" is a highly dramatic EP in which a gamut of emotions gets a full run. At times light and poppy with the ivories really twinkling then counterpointed with a harder, slower, darker more menacing feel, though sometimes I did find it a little too theatrical. A worthy debut.
EP:Where Once Were Roads
Label:Self Released
Sugardrum is a flexible collaboration built around the works of singer/songwriter Nigel Brunner and his predominently story songs. In the live arena Sugardrum are as likely to be unplugged playing a forest glade as sharing a stage. "Where Once Were Roads" may not be able to catch that spontiety but it does showcase a band that have a real sense of freedom around their music, single voices, harmonies, subtle instrumentation all help create and EP that has a very natural rhythm that feels as much a narrative as the poetic composition of the lyrics.
Fifteen Days
EP:These Ghosts
Label:Self Released
Darren Plant is a songwriter that I've always been impressed with, even though he doesn't seem to get the reach he deserves. Fifteen Days is his latest recording project with "These Ghosts" the debut release in that guise. The five tracks here, a masterclass in understatement. These are songs that hit home as much for what's not said as what is. The volume held deliberately low to make you have to listen, it emphasises every note and every silence. I'm reminded of a very definitely English Galaxie 500, reflective like a hall of mirrors never quite revealing a true picture.

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