Single Review: Andrew Combs – Blood Hunters

andrew-combs

Released: 3rd March 2017
Label: Loose (Europe)

He’s become known as the ‘modern, east Nashville Troubadour’; Andrew Combs is fast becoming the new face and sound of the Country/ Americana scene in the UK and the States.

The new single Blood Hunters is the leading track from his forthcoming album Canyons Of My Mind released April 2017 and is an insight into his finely crafted brand of alternative country.

Blood Hunters is a song about losing your mind. It is subtly dark in its lyrics but melodic and catchy in its delivery; an interesting and effective juxtaposition, which makes the sentiment all the more effective.

Combs said: “It came out in a haze of post tour blues; this being the 24-72 hours after you get home from tour in which you find yourself restless and somewhat deranged. The 180 degree flip in movement, conditions, and sleep patterns does this to me every time. Anyways, I lost it during one of these episodes. I thought everyone and their mother was out to get me, including myself.”

The accompanying video is a glorious short film set to Combs’ music… a sci-fi inspired tale with echoes of Stranger Things and War Of The Worlds. Directed by Ry Cox, the beautifully shot piece has a grand cinematic feel to it and delivers a brilliant twist at the end.

You could say that it’s the full package; thought-provoking songwriting, easy to digest with gripping visuals.

Combs is due to start his US tour in April and UK tour in May. Here’s a chance to catch this burgeoning songwriter at the start of what will be a very promising career.

– Charlie Barker

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Single Review: ALA.NI – Suddenly

Released: 6th July 2015 (Physical)
Label: No Format Records

With her mesmerising, gentle voice and whimsical chord sequences London’s ALA.NI captured the hearts (and ears) of the country when she appeared on the season finale of Jools Holland’s early 2015 series.

Now following her resounding success she is set to release her forthcoming E.P. You & I: Summer in July with the single Suddenly leading the way.

Her vocals and songwriting at first listen could place her firmly in a bygone era, with a likeness to Billie Holliday or Ella Fitzgerald, with the musicality and melodies similar to Gershwin. There’s a pure and clean approach to the production, ALA.NI needs no whistles and bells and the stripped down feel to the arrangement showcases her beautiful vocal tones.

Having achieved critical success within the last 6 months, ALA.NI is set to be the stand out artist of 2015.

– Charlie Barker

EP Review: Red Trees – Spring EP4

Red Trees EP4Red Trees are Sheffield-based duo Chris Beckett and Lou Richards. These songs, which were written in the Spring of 2014, conclude their four-EP Seasons project, and what a lovely project it has been.

Both Chris and Lou sing and play guitar, and all of the songs are their own compositions. Electric guitars are delicately finger-picked, and voices are restrained, and in beautiful harmony, creating a dreamy, ethereal sound. There is simplicity and spirituality to this music, and intimacy and introspection in the lyrics.

Of the five songs on the EP, Dove is possibly the stand-out track: it is longer, and, featuring a spoken word passage, and leavened by acoustic piano, it feels like it takes the listener on a little journey.

Chris and Lou’s voices are often not high in the mix, so primarily they provide melody, yet if you listen closely there are some beautiful words and sentiments, such as “I watched as the Autumn set fire to the trees”, and “I wrote your name as if there were no other words”. There are many references to seasons in this concluding work of the project, and to the natural world (flowers, fauna, landscape, weather), and in this way, they are perhaps Romantics in the old sense of the word.

This EP is available either online, or as a limited edition 3″ mini-CD, which somehow seems to fit with the duo’s minimalist DIY ethos. You can listen to them at redtrees.bandcamp.com, or buy the EP from searecords.co.uk.

– Simon Benton

EP Review: Red Trees – Winter EP3

Winter EP3Red Trees are Sheffield-based duo Chris Beckett and Lou Richards. This EP is the third in their year-long seasons project: the songs here reflect Winter.

As usual with Red Trees, gentle, hypnotic guitar-picking, understated vocals and beautiful harmonies immerse the listener in a warm, gently-lapping ocean of sound.

These songs are not literal representations of Winter, there is no mention of Santa, nor have the duo opted for a “cold” production sound, instead the connection is that these songs were written in Winter and perhaps subtly, or even subliminally, capture something of the emotion of the season. There is a slowness and a melancholy yearning about the sound.

The five tracks on the EP are all painted from the same simple palette of delicately fingerpicked electric guitars and voices (only occasionally do other instruments add a slightly different background colour). Lou has a lovely voice, capable of soaring into the high registers, but always used in a restrained way. Lyrically, subjects include seasons, birds and a gift of wild flowers. The song Thoughts is a highlight, with its lovely, melodic guitar figure.

This is a simple, gentle EP; one to sit and listen to inside with the heating on, whilst it’s cold outside.

– Simon Benton

Album Review: Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby – Real World

Real WorldReleased: 2013
Label: Cabritunes

This is a classy folk album from an Anglo-American pairing. Cathryn Craig is a singer from Virginia, USA and Brian Willoughby is a British guitarist; together they form a strong writing and performing partnership.

Cathryn has a clear, tuneful voice, she conveys these songs emotively, many of which are seemingly written from life’s experiences. Impressively, she has worked with many people, from Bill Medley to Nanci Griffith.

Brian provides a perfect backing, always playing something intricate, interesting and complementing, but never distracting from the songs. Previously in the Strawbs, Brian has also played with Mary Hopkin, Roger Whitaker and Monty Python, amongst many. He is something of a virtuoso of the fingerpicked steel-strung acoustic guitar, mostly playing simply and delicately, but also playing some exquisite solos.

The album was recorded live in the studio, with no overdubs and that has captured some of the immediacy you get with a live performance. The simple, straightforwardness of the recording makes it impossible to date: sonically, it could date from the 1960s or last week and this is a strength.

Five of the twelve songs here are new and the other seven are re-recordings of songs as they play them in their live set.

It’s difficult to pick stand-out tracks as all of the songs are of a consistent standard. Lyrically, many of the songs tell personal stories, such as the childhood reminiscences of Eastview Lane.

Two Hearts, One Love about relationships and I Will, on taking a chance to leave somewhere to try to realise a dream.

By way of contrast, Accanoe is about the Native Americans’ treatment by white settlers, and Cumberland tells the story of the 2010 Tennessee floods.

Musically, there is a very high standard throughout but to pick out a couple of songs, Malahide Moon and Two Hearts, One Love, both feature some beautiful guitar-playing.

This is an emotional and beautiful album of crafted folk songs.

– Simon Benton

Album Review: Sunjay – One Night Only

Label: New Mountain Music
Released: November 2013

Sunjay One Night OnlySunjay Brayne is a very talented singer and acoustic guitarist and this is captured on One Night Only, a live album recorded at the Woodman Folk Club in Kingswinford last year.

Sunjay may be an Anglo-Indian from the West Midlands, but he clearly has a deep love and great affinity with acoustic blues. He won the Wath Festival Young Performers Award and was a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award Nominee when he was 18 years old in 2012, and has attracted many admirers.

Terry Reid described him as “an amazing picker, a must-see” and folk singer Vin Garbutt also said, “he’s a technical wizard on guitar”.

He is a phenomenally talented guitarist, if you watch him play live, you can see he is very comfortable and has complete confidence in his fingerpicking technique; his performances aren’t about dry technique though, they’re about songs. His voice is rich, tuneful and smooth.

Sunjay has been compared to Chris Smither and he is clearly a big influence, at least 4 of the 16 tracks here are associated with Smither, including the opener, Love You Like A Man.  All of the songs are covers, amongst them, Bob Seger’s The Fire Down Below and Buddy Holly’s It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, or reinterpretations of old blues numbers, like Scarlett Town and Sittin’ On Top Of The World.

Sunjay utilises his abilities well, on his cover of Sailing To Philadelphia. He obviously can’t duplicate the production number of the original, recorded by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor, when he’s playing live and solo. Instead it successfully becomes a piece of intricate picking with a rich and melodic vocal.

This is a great album by a great new talent.  If you’re looking for a troubadour, you came to the right place!

– Simon Benton