Now on to their third album as a duo, Tom Faia & Kate Miller have been building up a reputation for their live shows along California’s Central Coast for some four years.
Originally from the Monterey Bay Area, Tom Faia has an illustrious musical CV which, early in his career, included work with the much-celebrated rock and roll sideman, James Burton, along with the Wrecking Crew. After leaving LA, where he was signed to A&M Records as a solo artist, Faia then headed down to Nashville to hone his skills as a songwriter. As a Nashville-based songsmith, his songs were recorded by the likes of Barbara Mandrell and Dobie Gray, prior to heading back to Monterey where he continued to write. After spending several years performing solo, he teamed up with Kate Miller in 2018.
Kate Miller, herself, is a veteran of several local bands in the Monterey area and as the Monterey Herald put it: “When Kate Miller joined Tom Faia to make music things got a lot more interesting, not only in live performance but on the new album, Stay Away From The Flame.
One of Tom Faia’s songs, ‘Whole Lotta Trouble’, was used in award-winning film, A Girl, Two Guys and a Gun, seen here performed live with Kate Miller.
Released in July, the new album, Stay Away From The Flame, showcases Faia’s talents as a songwriter and his ear for a laid-back but instantly-memorable melody. With a sound based around acoustic guitar and harmony vocals, the interplay between Faia’s seasoned drawl and Miller’s warm, emotive voice is a delight, as is Faia’s harmonica-playing. Jese Diaz on bass and Vince Sanchez on percussion complete the line-up.
With musical influences that span the early rock and roll years of the ’50s and the classic era of the great singer-songwriter albums of the early ’70s, there’s a richness to this album which should find fans across the folk/Americana/singer-songwriter genres.
Art Club of Paintings is the debut album of The Electric Flea Show. Rather than a band, The Electric Flee Show is actually the pseudonym of an otherwise un-named singer-songwriter. “Unidentified, in the spirit of Banksy perhaps – or maybe just some anonymous bloke,” he writes in the accompanying press blurb.
As an album it’s got a slightly indie/experimental, lo-fi acoustic vibe to it but the songs are accessible, the melodies hummable and the lyrics thought-provoking. It’s another of those albums that was seemingly conceived during the lockdown. However, the lyrical themes were “informed but not constrained by lockdown” according to their author: thoughts of love, heartbreak, life, death and dreams for the future fill the album’s ten tracks.
The vocals have that melancholy edge in the best of that ‘sensitive singer-song-writer’ tradition but he’s got a likeable and highly engaging voice that gently draws you in. The vocals and acoustic guitar are occasionally punctuated by some slightly other-worldly special effects, vintage keyboard sounds and drum samples.
A really interesting album. I enjoyed this one. Thanks Electric Flea Show, whoever you are.
Drawing inspiration from spirituality, history, folk tales, nature and the complexities of “being human”, India Blue is a folk musician and singer-songwriter based here in St. Leonards, East Sussex.
Introduced to the piano aged five, India says she began writing songs about faeries from those very first lessons, with help from her teacher Carla Smith. Aged eleven she began performing her first ever gigs as her support act, at places like Revelation in Ashford and the Sinden Theatre in Tenterden. Then came opportunities on the festival circuit, playing at small eco, pagan and hippie festivals in 2015. Prior to lockdown she was playing around eleven festivals each summer. She was awarded winner of the Equator Music Contest in 2014, was shortlisted for Young Songwriter of the Year in 2015 and was area finalist of Open Mic UK in 2016. As well as festivals, she’s supported Jo Beth Young for her ‘Strangers’ album launch and Guy Chambers on his ‘Into The Light’ tour.
India Blue’s debut studio album, The Circus Came And Left, released earlier this Spring features thirteen self-composed songs written over a two-year period.
“The Circus Came and Left is titled from the final single, which I toyed with actually including on the album or not. It’s a very personal song, about the transience of life. But I felt in some way whilst structuring the album: this is the journey I wanted the listener to go through, as it’s the one cycle every living this also goes through (in some way or another) It was also a major reason I wanted my first solo release to be an album, rather than a single: to walk the listener through a landscape.”
“I recorded the album in the home studio of my producer and fellow musician Tom Clarkson. Recording was a heart opening experience, intertwined with cavalo nero pasta, deep yogic breaths and dances with his two-year-old daughter.”
“My favourite part of the process was recording the piano on a magnificent old Steinway in an old original Burton manor (the man who built St Leonards!) ‘We’re Free’ was the only song fully recorded in this space, it was my rendition of a Mantra, and we got it in maybe one or two takes. I feel that songs are capsules, containing the energy of their words, the time when they were written, and also recorded. I feel this album truly holds support, insight and creative power for all who listen to receive.”
While she’s mainly self-accompanied, playing piano, harp and other instruments, the album also features some talented local musicians including Bev Lee Harling (violin), Tom Clarkson (bass/electric guitar), Tom Uragallo (bodhran) and Sarah Vincent (trombone).
The Circus Came And Left is a delightful album. India Blue’s delicate yet expressive and slightly other-worldly vocal is the perfect fit for her song-writing and there’s plenty of lovely mournful piano and beautifully evocative harp to really bring these songs to life. Both Vashti Bunyan and Joanna Newsome are cited as key inspirations and there’s lots for fans of both of those artists to enjoy here.
Led by songwriter and performer Virginie Lacour-Puiboube , Laughing With The Raindrops bring the highly-acclaimed new album, Voice On Shellac, to a live setting with two dates announced for a stunning multi-media show: Impact Community Arts, Perivale, Ealing – Friday 10th June
“Modern jazz that crackles with the vintage vinyl tones of and vivid vintage imagery summoned in the sepia tones of the soulful story of Virginie Lacour-Puiboube.” – Yack Magazine
“Laughing with the Raindrops’ music never ceases to amaze me. What I noticed about their latest work is that it is very cerebral, yet vulnerable and relatable. If you are in London (UK) area, make sure to catch Laughing with the Raindrops at one, or all, of these upcoming live dates:”-Lakisha Skinner, Klef Notes
“And what a fine storyteller Virginie Lacour-Puiboube is.” – Jane Mann – London Jazz News
The Voice on Shellac show is a live performance of the album’s songs, synchronised to a black and white silent movie: Faded Prints. Inspired by Virginie Lacour-Puiboube’s family photo album, the songs evoke the lives and true stories of those displayed in the album. With the film’s cast made up entirely of children, the show can be enjoyed by people of all ages and makes for captivating family entertainment.
The silent movie’s narrative develops in tandem with the songs: Two young girls discover memorabilia in their attic. They rummage through suitcases and play games related to their findings. Starting with a “peculiar” camera that “captures memories in colour”, the girls investigate the song characters’ past, through photos, letters and a record collection that contains a recording of Virginie’s grandmother’s voice on a shellac disc.
The girls also ponder about how they will use a large sum of money they have discovered in one of the suitcases. This fortune takes them on a long journey in search of the girl in the black and white dress, from the photo album. The storyline takes the audience back and forth in time, as the girls refer to the time when they first found the memorabilia two years earlier, and to how their new, now more mature understanding sheds light on the song characters’ past through decades of love, betrayal, divorce, war, travel, life…
Support comes from Lutfia, a 21-year-old BIMM student and her all-girl band promoting their recently-released EP, So Much For Summer. The EP which has been described as a ‘sophisticated collection of pop songs’ incorporates a variety of different styles, including alternative pop, pop-rock, funk and dance. Each song is unique and different from the rest but her powerful mezzo-soprano voice and deeply personal lyrics make the project seamlessly cohesive. Lutfia tells stories of teenage love, mental health struggles and nostalgia, each song recounting an impactful emotion, person or place in her life.
The evening also features Little Lore, a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds. Following acclaimed work with her previous dup, Little Lore’s debut solo EP was released in 2021 to glowing reviews
About Virginie Lacour-Puiboube:
Virginie founded Laughing with The Raindrops in 2013, and their eponymous debut album was released in 2016. More recently, as she studied for an MMus in Music performance at London College of Music, Virginie focussed on the creation of narratives in song and explored the use of visual art as a combined story-telling device. Voice On Shellac was the resulting album (released on vinyl this year) and live show.
Hailing from Paris, Virginie has contributed to music projects in the UK since the late 1980s, from playing guitar in all-girl Reggae band Just Desserts and a Serge Gainsbourg tribute trio to being active on the London Jazz scene in the 90s, alongside bassist Alexander Keen and pianist Gabriel Keen, co-leading 13-piece experimental Jazz group Piano Di Lavoro, performing in London venues such as the Barbican Foyer, The Bull’s Head (Barnes), former jazz club The Bass Clef. In the mid-90s, Virginie also founded Baton Rouge, a vocal-led septet showcasing her song writing.
Laughing with The Raindrops have played at Toulouse Lautrec Jazz bar (Kennington), Map Cafe (Kentish Town), Kentish Town Arts Club, Babel Art House (Stoke Newington), London festivals, and recently premiered the show at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.
“I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love”
London-based Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore, won many, many plaudits, bags of airplay and glowing reviews for her debut EP as a solo artist last December.
“It is clear every word and every note is well thought out. The pedal steel swoons beneath Duffy’s vocals” – Maverick magazine on the Little Lore EP
The eponymously-titled Little Lore EP followed two well-received releases as part of her previous musical outfit – the duo, Duffy & Bird.
Now, Little Lore, (aka Tricia Duffy) returns with a brand-new single. ‘Shallow’ channels the spirit of Kurt Cobain, throws in some classic Neil Young influences and marries them up with Little Lore’s trademark vocals and thought-provoking lyrics to produce an exhilarating slice of Americana that really swings.
Little Lore:“I wrote this song during that big news week when it was all coming out about how Boris had attended parties at Downing Street while people were dying alone, and also that Prince Andrew was trying to avoid his day in court with Virginia Giuffre. I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love. So I decided to juxtapose the idea of being let down by people in power with heartbreak and this song is the result. It is probably a bit on the opaque side from a political point of view… but there are a few lines that give us some clues. When I talk about eating lies with dinner, I’m really thinking about the Six O’Clock news when so many people sit down to watch the headlines over their evening meal – we ate Bojo’s lies with our dinner. “There’s no truth, no-one remembers who said what to the man on the yacht” – we know that only a very small subsection of society can afford even a day on a yacht so that was directly inspired by Andrew (formerly known as Prince).”
“Finally, I had been reading a lot of Jeanette Winterson. In Sexing The Cherry she wrote about the impact it has on society when the King is executed. In her story, Charles II is beheaded and she describes how the entire country goes into freefall. Everything they could predict and understand is derailed in one instant – life becomes very unpredictable. The same thing has been happening in this country for a while now, with Brexit, the pandemic, the uncertainty of political power, it is impossible to predict so many things, to see the future clearly. I write: “The King is dead, and with his head futures altered, wounds are salted.” The whole song is designed to make use of a subtext style with the use of triplets where the last line is the realisation comment.”
Once again, Little Lore’s emotive vocals and compelling storytelling is complemented by stunning production and beautiful instrumentation from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Oli Deakin.
Little Lore:“Musically, I had a swing vibe in my head when I came to record the guide track for Oli to work with. He really enjoyed that idea and built on it. I hadn’t realised it at the time, but the song has no minor chords in it at all, so we discussed allowing ourselves to be influenced by Kurt Cobain as he famously rarely used any minor chords in his writing. Couple that grit with my Americana style and a bit of Neil Young influence thrown in, too, and I think we have a driving, swinging song that tells a story of the shallow coward that let everyone down.”
Little Lore is a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. You’ll want to listen twice. When you combine British wit and wordplay with cherished Americana roots, musical magic starts to happen.
Based in Chiswick, west London and originally hailing from Portsmouth, Tricia Duffy started her singing career in a live covers band performing popular rock classics. Over time, however, a strong desire emerged to begin writing and performing her own material and she formed an acoustic Americana duo with fellow musician, Al Bird. Duffy & Bird released a well-received album ‘5 Lines’ in 2017 and a follow-up EP ‘Spirit Level’ in 2019. While Al subsequently decided to take a back seat from recording and performing, Tricia was keen to take things a step further. Little Lore was born. Her debut solo EP, Little Lore, was released in 2021 to glowing reviews. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds.
Produced by Oli Deakin (Lowpines), vocals recorded in his home studio in Ealing London. Artwork created by Afiya Paice a West London-based artist and designer.
Following his 2020 album Highfield (reviewed here), Canandian singer-songwriter, Garnett Betts, has a new album out. Like its predecessor, this latest offering Moonlight Door is another pleasingly eclectic selection of original songs rounded off with a couple of instrumentals.
“The thread of story is always central to my love of songwriting, and often the twill is spun from my observance of a friend, the village that surrounds us, or a personal event,” says Betts. “Gone Like The Wind is my telling of a friend’s life with his band-mates, who would throw their gear and a generator in the van and head out to the Joshua Tree Forest, from their regular house gig at the Starwood in L.A., to play in the desert for a day or two. Though his recounting of those days was richly detailed, I found that I could only ‘speak’ of it from the point of view of my imagined and mystified listeners in the desert.
With his laid-back country-tinged, bluesy vocal delivery and influences that take in rock, jazz and blues, Betts makes for a compelling storyteller. He’s also a fine guitarist, too. Top-notch musical back-up courtesy of acclaimed jazz pianist Karel Roessingh (piano and keyboards), Rick May (bass) and Sascha Enns (hand percussion) makes for a highly listenable package. Beautiful original cover art is provided by Lorraine Thorarinson Betts. Once again, another fine album from Mr Betts and well worth checking out.
Acoustic alt-folk duo The Daughters is a recent collaboration between two Scottish singer-songwriters Martha Middlemiss and Mary Moira McKay. Although the two had been singing together informally for a number of years, the quirks of lockdown and the arrival of socially-distanced walks into our day to day vocabulary led to things being taken a step further.
Songs began to materialise as the two shared their regular walks along Scotland’s Tyne River. An initial single ‘The Mountains’ was released in Spring 2021, which celebrated the beauty of Scotland’s landscape and the determination of those who sought solace, inspiration and escapism from conquering its peaks during the unsettling times as the pandemic took hold.
Soon enough songs began to materialise and Golden Shore is the result: twelve delightful original songs exploring themes around the great outdoors, love, faith and life dilemmas.
The duo’s charmingly quirky harmonised vocals are a real delight and Middlemiss and McKay have turned out to be the perfect fit for one another. Indeed, the pair’s voices are so alike that at times during the sessions even they found themselves struggling to tell one from the other.
The pair are backed by a talented collection of guest musicians each of whom deliver both charm and empathy to the collection of songs. These are Alice Allen (cello), Calum McIntyre (percussion), Chris Amer (acoustic and electric guitar), Duncan Lyall (acoustic and electric bass) and Martin Lee Thompson (euphonium).
An uplifting album and a new creative partnership borne out of the adversity of the pandemic Golden Shore has certainly helped put a spring in my step.
Ed Blunt is a singer-songwriter with a debut album out in February 2022. London-based Blunt, whose family home is in Graffham, Sussex, is a jazz and classically trained pianist, who earned his stripes on the London scene, and is in demand as a performer, arranger and choir leader (he is Musical Director and founder of the ensemble, Camden Voices).
As a foretaste of his coming album he has recently released a Christmas single, a heart-warming Christmas song inspired by the last big blizzard in the City of London.
‘The Dome of St Paul’s’ was written during lockdown and recounts a night in 2009 when the capital saw its biggest snowfall for several decades. The song is accompanied by a magical animated video created by London’s Chicken Fruit Studio and set on Christmas Eve.
At the time, Ed was a student at Guildhall School of Music and Drama living in its hall of residence close to The Barbican.
Blunt:“One freezing Sunday night it started to snow, at first just a few flakes, then soon enough a proper whiteout. As we walked the streets the city that was usually loud and frenetic stood perfectly still and quiet in the snow like a dreamland – it was one of those nights you will never forget.”
But it took 12 years before Ed’s memory of that snowstorm triggered a song. He started writing the melody and lyrics during a lockdown Zoom workshop with Chris Difford, of legendary band Squeeze, who describes the song as “brilliant”.
“The challenge Chris set was to write a song about London and, for some reason, the day the snow transformed the city into a winter wonderland came vividly to mind.”
Besides the city cathedral, it namechecks a number of other London landmarks – Finsbury Square, London Wall and Chancery Lane.
Recorded and mixed by David Simpson at the Crypt Studio, London it features James Nall on drums and percussion, Charlie Laffer on guitars and Tom Farmer on bass.
Ed Blunt’s debut album, Over the Moon is due out in February 2022, and serves up a rich mix of folk, rock, blues and gospel – original songs inspired by subjects as diverse as cinematic stories of men on the moon to the folklore of his home city — often cut through with a touch of humour.
The Dome of St Paul’s is out now on all digital platforms.
Scott Murray has been a notable figure on the Scottish music scene for decades. Initially starting out playing jazz and R&B in the 1960s, he did not turn his attention to folk until the 1980s.
“In the 80s I heard Jim Reid and Rod Paterson on the radio one afternoon and my life changed. ‘Shy Geordie’ sung by Jim Reid, and ‘My Nanie O’ sung by Rod Paterson. I met Anne Combe and Fiona Forbes, and we formed Sangsters. We made a couple of Greentrax CDs, sang all over Scotland at clubs and festivals, got to go to Germany and Canada.”
Murray started tutoring with the Scots Music Group in the late 90s, and in 2010 started working with an Edinburgh-based project called Inspire which was set up to offer people affected by issues such as homelessness, mental health problems, poverty and addiction the chance to participate in music.
“It was oneof the highlights of my working life,” says Murray, “and led me to make a recording of my own songs, Evenin’s Fa, in 2012.”
Now, almost a decade on Scott has released a follow-up. Recorded a few days after Murray’s 75th birthday, There Was A Love takes a less folky approach than its predecessor and, with its strong jazz leanings, casts a nod back to Scott’s earlier musical life.
“I had a notion to record songs and tunes composed since then, some since lockdown, and decided to acknowledge both the days before I became a folky and our step mother, who was a fine pianist. Someone asked if I’d given up folk for jazz, and I replied that I identify as bi-musical.”
A fine collection of songs, instrumental pieces and poems set to music, eight are newly composed by Murray while the remaining two see him set the work of two of Scotland’s early twentieth century female poets to music: namely Marion Angus and Helen Cruikshank.
While the sensitive and highly evocative piano-playing of Dave Milligan is the dominant instrument throughout and while an instrumental piece (dedicated to Murray’s stepmother) opens the album, there’s also a heavy slice of brass adding texture and a warm jazz groove to several tracks and a mournful, melancholy brass band feel on another: ‘George Sanders & Gypsy Caravans’.
The album features: Scott Murray – voice; Dave Milligan – piano; Corrina Hewat – harp & voice; Tom Lyne – bass; Stuart Brown – drums; Mikey Owers – brass; Phil Bancroft – saxophones; and Martin Green – accordion.
A gentle, contemplative and in many ways, highly introspective album (save for the audaciously irresistible swagger of the New Orleans-style ‘Glenwhappen Rig’) Murray has given us a peek into his inner world that’s proved to be both thought-provoking and musically satisfying.
Owen Moore is an Irish-born singer songwriter based in Dorset. Over the past ten years or so he’s put out a staggering ten solo albums of original songs, not to mention a handful live albums too. In fact, my delay in reviewing Fireside Songs since he kindly sent it to me back in the summer has meant he’s had time to put another album since – albeit a compilation of highlights from his previous ten albums.
While Owen tells me he’s had a lifetime of playing countless small gigs behind him, he’s keen to stress that his driving passion in recent years has been his song-writing.
There’s certainly plenty of evidence of quality writing on Fireside Songs. Owen Moore’s lyrics are highly personal, his warm and gentle vocals are consistently engaging and he has a real ear for a catchy melody that will leave you humming along, long after the album has finished.
His style falls into that well-trodden path between folk and Americana, and his songs are captivating and original enough to have plenty of appeal for fans of both. From the Byrds-like ‘Every Once In a While’ to the irresistibly catchy ‘It’s All About You’ to the more traditional big country ballad feel of ‘Diamond Ring’ the album is packed full of songs you want to play again and again. The album ends with ‘The Town of Tralee’, originally released as a single at the back end of 2020,which is the Limerick-born singer’s affectionate paean to the Kerry town of Tralee where he spent time as a young man.
An engaging singer-songwriter and a fine guitarist if you enjoy the folky-ish and the country-ish it’s well worth checking out Owen Moore’s Fireside Songs as well as other albums in his prolific back catalogue.