Born in Salford and initially embarking on a career as a professional footballer until injury forced a change of career plan, Danny McGaw’s first forays into the world of music began in the pubs of Greater Manchester before eventually leaving the UK for the US.
Swapping Salford to Santa Monica, McGaw relocated to California – busking at the Santa Monica Pier and building up a reputation as both a writer and performer. Back in 2013 McGaw formed a band Wells the Traveller, who recorded two albums before McGaw relocated back to the West Coast.
His latest single ‘On The Outside’ was released on 19th April. A brooding, smouldering intro builds up in a striking guitar anthem that acts as a showcase for McGaw’s powerful lyrics. He tells Darren’s Music Blog:
“On the outside is about knowing when to move on. To have the courage to break it apart so that it can be rebuilt.”
“There are a lot of stories in my songs,” he adds.
A prolific journal his entries provide inspiration for his lyrics:
“It’s somewhat the diary of a soul. I’ve written every day for a long time. I’ve always been able to attach the emotion to the sound of the melody; I learned that pretty young. It was always about learning enough guitar to be able to support a song…that’s somewhat the rhythm of my life now.”
“My music—if I may—is timeless. It spans all genres, really, and It spans all feelings. And it’s always rooted in the story of my soul, our soul.”
McGaw previously released ‘Eccles Road’ in 2012 and ‘Lion Street’ in 2015. After forging a friendship through Danny Hutton, Three Dog Night’s vocalist, McGaw frequently tours with Three Dog Night.
Matt Steady is a singer-songwriter from Leicester. His music is most closely identified with blues and folk but he pulls in a wide range of influences. Even within the confines of those two genres, however, he traverses a refreshingly broad spectrum: on the blues front going from the blistering electric variety to the mournful acoustic type and on the folk side there’s everything from contemporary singer-songwriter to Celtic soundscapes to traditional balladry. Classically-trained, Matt Steady is a highly talented and naturally expressive player, whether that’s guitar or violin, and he’s an evocative lyricist, too.
Steady has a brand new album out New Buryin’ Ground on 27th April. Prior to that though, he released a compilation album featuring highlights from his previous six albums which he launched with a very generous and fairly unique offer. If you fancy the album, you can order it online and he’ll send out the CD to you direct to your door absolutely free of charge.
The Echoes Remain is a very fine compendium of Matt Steady’s work – eleven tracks in all – and something I’m very pleased to now have in my CD collection.
What on earth possessed him to make it completely free of charge, though, I asked him:
MS:“I’m all about the win/win. This compilation album is a win for listeners and a win for me too! Firstly, as an independent artist, the main challenge I have is getting people to listen to my music. Our attention spans on social media are so short that posting up songs, no matter how good they are, is not a strategy that works particularly well. People are unlikely to stop scrolling to listen to a whole song from someone they’ve never heard of for sure! However the people who enjoy my eclectic style of music often still have CDs player, and often love listening to music in their cars or while working. It costs me very little to have CDs made these days, and with the postage paid for I’m not generally out of pocket on them. And actually any shortfall is made up by some generous folks who either leave a tip or buy an extra CD with it. So the win for the listener is obvious – a free CD delivered to their door; a menu of tracks from my other albums to introduce them to my music. And the win for me is that more people are listening to my music, more people are messaging me and having conversations with me, more people are discovering my other albums and enjoying those too. It’s a win/win for everyone!”
“And for those evolved people who don’t have CDs … it’s available as a free download as well. I don’t want to stop anyone from listening from lack of a piece of equipment. And for streamers, this compilation isn’t up on Spotify etc., but all my albums that the tracks come from are, so that’s a way of listening too.”
I also asked Matt to tell us a little more about the new album that’s due to be released next week:
MS: “My new album is called New Buryin’ Ground, and this time rather than releasing it under my own name, it’s being released under the band name “The Grace Machine”. Alongside my vocals and guitar work, I am frankly astounded to have playing with me two very sought-after musicians – Terl Bryant on percussion and Matt Weeks on bass. I’ve been listening to their work since I was a teen (ahem that’s quite a long time ago now), and I’m still in shock that they wanted to form this band! The music itself is rocky gospel blues. Many of the tracks are interpreting old spirituals and slave songs, bringing them up to date for a modern audience. We owe so much of our musical lives and heritage to black music, crafted under such dire circumstances, and this album is a homage to those often unknown musicians. The album is full of joy and angst in equal measure, and I can only hope that we’ve done the songs justice.”
New Buryin’ Ground available from Matt Steady’s website here
Manchester-based duo O’Neill & Jones have just released their second single. ‘Broken Shoes’ released on April 2nd follows debut single ‘No Excuse’ which secured airplay in both the UK and US when it was released back in February. The duo are Mat O’Neill and Sophie Jones.
Relatively new to the singer-songwriter scene they had previously been building up a rapport with audiences as an acoustic covers duo. Their own songs soak up folk, Americana and rock influences with a strong emphasis on sweeping harmonies and strong melodies.
Announcing the release of ‘Broken Shoes’ they say:
“This one is a gently upbeat, folky song about coming to the end of a long journey, The trails we take while we’re able, and the relationships that remain once we settle down. We had such a great time writing and recording her last month and couldn’t be happier to be releasing our second single!”
The years spent performing covers proved to be a useful primer in song arrangement, catchy hooks, they tell us, and not least lessons in how to grab the attention of the listener.
And if you’re impressed with their productions skills in putting together the video for ‘Broken Shoes’ they’ve also given us a sneak glimpse behind the scenes showing us how it all came about.
With an ear for catchy melodies, lovely harmonies and beautifully-crafted lyrics I suspect we’ll be hearing quite a bit more from O’Neill and Jones.
Where The Wind Blows is the second album from Elana Pira. Not unusually for a Scottish folk release it features a number of traditional Scottish and Gaelic melodies alongside familiar favourites like Francis McPeake’s ‘Wild Mountain’s Thyme’ and Tom Paxton’s ‘The Last Thing on My Mind’. It’s an album of Scottish folk with a twist, however. Hailing from Sardinia, Piras inherited her father’s love of singing from an early age and began performing professionally in Italy when young.
“I think when you begin on a path so young, it just becomes an unquestionable part of the fabric of your life and your whole being. Making music is as natural as breathing for me,” she says.
Piras moved to the UK aged 18, where she co-founded and toured with the London Bulgarian choir. It was in 2006, however, following a move to Scotland and a position at the Royal Scottish Academy of Art that her love of Scottish music really began to make itself felt. Immersing herself in the local music scene Piras became a popular fixture at festivals and released her debut album in 2010. Journey was predominantly an album of traditional Scottish music but also included songs from Ireland, Sardinia and Bulgaria.
Being visually impaired since birth, Elena believes it has enabled her to impart a very special meaning to her folk music. She also feels a particular affinity to Scots, Irish and Gaelic folk and maintains that nothing can compare to it in terms of being able to convey the beauty and hardship of a land and its people and its ability to transport both performer and audience into its melodies and narrative.
Where The Wind Blows is Elena Pira’s second album and very much continues the journey she embarked upon with her debut release – exploring and interpreting traditional Scottish music. Recorded in a shed that was repurposed as a recording studio, the project has drawn in a number of talented musicians. As the pandemic threw up the now familiar range of logistical challenges, some of the album’s collaborators also contributed their parts from similarly unconventional locations. Perseverance has its rewards, however, and we are left with an exceptional album.
With a pure clear voice, a self-evident love for the Gaelic language and an instinctive feel for interpreting the material in her own unique way, Elena Pira brings something that’s both precious and meaningful to the Scottish folk scene.
Where The Wind Blows was released 20th November 2020