Country/folk group Magpie Diaries have released their long-awaited 11-track debut album ‘Sanctuary’ via Dashville. Originating in Hunter Valley, Australia, singer-songwriter Matt “Magpie” Johnston unassumingly founded Magpie Diaries as a coping mechanism for the loss of a dear friend, channeling his grief into the band’s signature brand of smooth alternative country music, bolstered by a tinge of folk and psychedelic rock straight out of the 70s. Motivated to continue this musical journey, Johnston set to work on the songs, recording Sanctuary with producer Matt Sherrod (Crowded House, Beck, William Crighton), over the next 3 years. Alongside his own musical endeavours, Magpie hosts a festival in his family property once a year. The festival titled The Gum Ball started over 10 years ago and today brings in crowds from around the world.
‘Sanctuary’ is a laid back mellow collection of tracks that melt gloriously into the ears creating a rich easy listening experience. The tracks swoon and glide about melancholic tones and dreamy vibes. Opening track ‘Beat Myself Up’ creates the swaying calm atmosphere with warm raspy vocals, lush harmonies and bittersweet guitar twangs. The guitar melodies in the tracks creates a sweet euphoric tone throughout the album from pining laments to steamy whines in ‘Irresistable Pie’ – the guitars flood each track with rich and varied characters. The album ranges from the upbeat soulful folky tones of ‘When Love Comes, ’10 Honey’ and ‘Beetroot’ to the tender ‘Strawberries & Cream’ and ‘If You’re Hurting’.When Magpie Diaries wants to lull you into a dreamy melancholic country toned stupor they do it superbly with sweet lyrics, beautiful melodies and soft passionate instrumentation and when they want to add a dash of shimmying vibrancy the shift is seamless and joyous without ruining the easy going mood of the album. The foot tapping infectious ‘Mumma’s Right’ and the delicate emotional ‘This Spring’ show this perfectly. The shift in tone is refreshing yet subtle. ‘Wastin’ Time’ thuds in on a darker tone as a stomping beat backs a sultry bluesy guitar and luring mysterious atmosphere. The brass elements through the album are simply sublime and lace each track with a juicy sultry persona. The raw ‘Don’t Give Up’ closes the album on an emotional vibe as glistening keys twinkle softly between strong guitar chords and lush vocals. It’s a passionate bruised end to the album that hits you hard in the chest and pulls at those heart strings. It’s a comforting track that gives hope and motivation in difficult times.
‘Sanctuary’ blends, churns and glides through a multitude of emotions from sensual, melancholic to cheery effortlessly while creating the perfect relaxed atmosphere to submerge yourself in.
Magpie Diaries will support the release of Sanctuary with 4 shows at the prestigious Woodford Folk Festival over New Years, along with an Australian East Coast tour throughout January – March. More information can be found on their socials here https://www.facebook.com/magpiediaries/
Stream ‘Sanctuary’ below
Dublin-based Dutch folk musician Jane Willow has released her new single ‘Onward Still’. Willow is a Dutch singer-songwriter who moved to Ireland at age twenty-one to pursue music after a stint of studying songwriting at a Dutch Music College. In her music she experiments with folk, jazz and classical elements, whilst keeping her rich, soft and velvet-like voice at center stage.In recent years she has played an incredible amount of gigs, frequenting venues like Vicar Street, Whelan’s, The Workman’s Club and Galway’s Roisin Dubh. In August 2017 she opened for Glen Hansard in Vicar Street. She followed this gig with a full band show in the Grand Social. In November Willow successfully raised over 4000 euro on fundit.ie for her first EP and has been featured on RTE Radio 1, BBC Radio Ulster and was the finalist in many songwriting/performance competitions and ‘Ones To Watch’ showcases. On her debut EP she collaborates with Dave Hingerty (drums: Kila, The Frames), Vyvienne Long (cello: Damien Rice) and regular band members Joanna Marie Burke (backing vocals), Eoin Healy (bass), Derek Copley (mandolin) and Scott Flanigan (keys). Her EP is due for release November 15th and ‘Onward Still’ is the second single from the EP.
‘Onward Still’ is a delicate wholesome number that radiates with simple glowing tones and delightful sun kissed melodies. The lush harmonies soothe and caress the sweet cosy melody while Willows warm vocals ease your mind and coo throughout this vibrant little gem. With soft guitar twangs injecting sparkling luminosity and bursts of zesty refreshing flavours this track is a golden ray of sunshine on a mild summers evening. Soft rhythms cushion and tranquilise you into a blissful swaying state of elation as the track flurries along in a graceful elegant manner. This track warms the cockles of your heart with purity and goodness as elastic bass and buoyant drums wrap you in a comfy cover while the beautiful melody melts upon the moving musical backdrop.Its a snug well crafted little ditty.
You can catch Jane Willow live at her single launch gig on Thursday Aug 30th in The Cobblestone, Dublin.
Watch the video for ‘Onward Still’ below
Hull band Little Blue Thula have released their new single ‘River and a Creek’. The single is taken from the duo’s (Niall Tennison -Vocals, Guitar and Toby Needler -Guitar) upcoming debut album ‘Things You Hear Down the Road’ which will be released on the 8th June. ‘River and a Creek’ is a passionate twanging number with wholesome melodies doused in warm Americana elements. The sweet toned guitar twinkles and whines longingly throughout the bluesy hued melancholic melody while Tennison broods and pines flooding the track with emotion. The lush backing vocals provided by Sarah Shiels add a heavenly sweetness to the track while the tapping beat provides a steady foundation for the mournful guitar to weave between. This track holds a purity that is quite gripping as light instrumentation glides and wisps about building in intensity to the the passionate fist pumping your chest crescendo. A solid new single for this duo.
Stream ‘River and a Creek’ below
Brand new Irish band Billow Wood (formerly known as Flat Out) are a male/female four-piece who fuse their unique brand of instrumentation with multi-vocals and harmonies. Billow Wood are influenced by Irish and mainstream music and are now moving in a new direction often accompanied by a bass and drums, creating their own unique brand of folk, indie, pop and rock.The band have had a whirlwind of success with outstanding performances across the globe including Ireland, Europe and Africa as well as residency in Raglan Road, Orlando. They have also already performed in Indianapolis and the Irish Heritage Centre in Cincinnati as well as the ” Sláinte Asso” festival in France. The band consisting of Mark O’Donnell on fiddle and guitar, Harry Lawlor on Harp and guitar, Ciara O’Donnell on Bodhrán, flute and whistles and Bríd O’Donnell on accordion recently released their debut EP ‘Can You See Me’ to a sold out EP launch in Whelan’s Dublin.
‘Can You See Me’ is a five track collection brimming with warm, hearty melodies and glorious harmonies wrapped in a tight bow of rich vibrant instrumentation. From the magical twinkling harp opening of ‘Turn out the Light’ it fast becomes apparent this four piece know exactly where to place each instrument to fill out and lushly layer their tracks. The songs flood and surge with affluent textures and heart warming glows while maintaining a folky bounce and energy. The elegant ‘Two Doves’ uses tender harp glitters between cosy fiddle injections while the shift between female and male vocals adds a refreshing contrast throughout.The sweet harmonies blend flawlessly and so perfectly creating a sublime melodious quality that makes their tracks easy to listen to. ‘Hello Hello’ once again buoyantly springs with pure heartfelt passion and joy while filling you with homely vibes.The tracks are filled with that proud to be Irish charisma that is home baked, wholesome and authentic without becoming too cliche. Their tender songs such as ‘The Game’ are sweet, delicate and graceful as strings swoon and glide while guitar sways and the gentle drum taps create a sturdy backdrop for the immaculate vocals to float above. It’s twinkling starlit beauty and waltz ready which showcases a more fragile and sweet side to Billow Wood. ‘Dreamland’ closes the EP with an upbeat rhythmic hop while a pop drizzled melody sprinkles a bright infectiousness onto the folky traditional backdrop.
Billow Wood have created a collection of tracks that warm the cockles of your heart. They surge richly diverse soundscapes into each aspect of their songs to create a wholly satisfying listen. Admittedly folky, traditional flavoured tunes are not my usual cup of tea but this EP was so richly flavoured it was a delightful listen.
Stream ‘Can You See Me’ below
Singer/ songwriter and guitarist Brendan McMahon has released his newest album ‘On This Fine Occasion’. His incisive and insightful song writing combined with his eclectic vibe blends a variety of genres. Ranging from rock, pop, country, celtic, folk and blues he says he is not trying to fit to one particular genre; his new album is a fusion of them all. Hailing from Melbourne, Brendan McMahon discovered his love for music at the early age of ten. With the intentions of starting a band, he released his first album ‘Falling To Earth’ under the moniker ‘Satellite Gods’. Discovering his creative nature and natural flare for recording, a second release immediately followed before completing his recent third album ‘On This Fine Occasion’. With influences like Harry Manx, Richard Thompson, Queensryche and John Mellencamp, his style offers an uplifting blend of rock through to folk. The lyricism of the tracks portray a narrative with inspirations taken from simple objects through to his extensive travel experiences. So far in his career, the Aussie musician has worked with artists such as Bob Spencer (Angels), Peter Maslen (Boom Crash Opera), Wilbur Wilde (Ol’55), Dave Leslie (Baby Animals), Danny Spencer (Jimmy Barnes), Brett Kingman (James Reyne) and more.
‘On This Fine Occasion’ is a collection of tracks which blends a variety of multi genres seamlessly to create a sublime absorbing listen. From the anthemic folky tinged tracks like ‘Alive’ with its soaring powerful arena ready choruses and the whistle friendly cheery ‘Hotel Hemmingway’ with its warm vibrant instrumentation to the rock and roll doused darkly hued ‘Doctor’ McMahon keeps each track fresh and enjoyable.The jingly tunes bounce along with a good wholesome feel and a purity which the folk elements provide. ‘Marker 7-58’ is an utterly beautiful track packing oodles of emotion while guitar twangs lament over a sweet delicate melody and subtle percussion.It’s stripped back and tender. The story telling and lyrical development in the album is superb and thought provoking. The tender moments in tracks such as ‘Mother’ are passionate and embracing and the vibrant peppy moments in tracks like ‘Esmeralda’s Eyes‘ are warm motivating and mighty. ‘Gentleman Joe’ is another tender little gem. It’s raw and intimate with spaced out components that make each fragment an emotional moment you feel and experience as the track progresses into a powerful anthem. However it’s ‘Beat’ that really stands out for me. This track marks a shift in the album with a steamy guitar whine and funky groove. It’s ready for the strutters with its dance floor swag. The guitar solos shred with a glossy sleekness while funky keys add a jazzy element to this panache soaked track. ‘Home’ is a glorious way to finish the album. Lush backing vocals introduce this elegant number with a choir like soothing quality. When the main vocals kick in this track just calms and soothes the soul with its comforting wholesome melody and light bright instrumentation. A soft beat taps behind zesty sprinkles of guitar and velvety vocals creating the perfect summers evening backdrop. The sharp guitar injections add a sun speckled positivity through the sweet lamenting of the melody. It’s a beautiful cosy end to an album which takes you on a journey of genres in the most charming heartwarming way.
Stream ‘On This Fine Occasion’ below
Luna Tides have released their new single ‘Young Laws’. Established in early 2016, Luna Tides is the creation of lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist Thomas James, and drummer and backing vocalist Sion Walsh. With the flip of a coin, the band’s name was decided whilst demoing their first EP, Open Woods, taking influence from the bewitching Welsh coastline. Later in the year, the trio was completed by electric guitarist and bassist, Rhys Plaister. Celebrating the release of the Open Woods EP in November 2016, the band held a packed out release show at the renown Clwb Ifor Bach in their home city, Cardiff. Encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response from national media, the band set out onto the road in January 2017, supporting the likes of Toploader & Hunter and the Bear as well as playing a multitude of festivals across the country.
‘Young Laws’ is a highly passionate emotive track, this trio are ready to paralyze listeners with their dramatic and intense folk-rock/ pop. It’s one for the chanting crowd as they pound their chests with the blood pumping beat and adrenaline rushing rhythm. With warm guitar jingles throughout, dynamic vocals, lush harmonies and a meticulously layered sound Luna Tides have created a track that is rich, snappy, earthy and wholesome. With a chorus that is powerful and anthemic they pack oodles of energy and might into a short spirited few minutes, its impressive. It’s an invigorating wholly satisfying listen.
Stream ‘Young Laws’ below
Folk singer-songwriter George Simpson has announced the release of his highly anticipated new single ‘Finding Myself’. The single comes after a short break from the music scene after releasing his first 2 successful albums, which received support from BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine, Graham Norton and Clair Bolding. Surprisingly, music came late for Simpson who picked up a guitar at the age of 17 and didn’t begin performing as a solo artist until the age of 27 after performing as part of a couple of different bands in the meantime. After experimenting with different genres, he soon settled on a country folk style after being inspired stylistically by Sky’s ‘Nashville’ series. The male-female duets heard in the series specifically sparked an interest for Simpson, which lead to his newest release ‘Finding Myself’. Influenced by the likes of James Bay and Jason Mraz, ‘Finding Myself’ is a story of Simpson’s first ever relationship with specific lines throughout the track reminding him of particular moments. The song reflects on the point in a relationship when you begin to feel that things are no longer working and its time to decide exactly what you want and which direction to take. Recorded as part of a collaborative process, George described the writing and recording as a fairly straightforward process in which all parties involved creatively contributed to the single.
‘Finding Myself’ is a beautifully melodic track filled with warm guitar beaming through a foot tapping beat, swayable melody and glorious harmonies. It’s sweetly delicate yet oozing passion and heart warming emotion. The melody is supple and deliciously sing along sweet. With melancholic tones filling the track with tenderness it’s a charming little ditty. Though the sombre tones and elegant piano twinkles add a sweet sorrow to this track the luscious vocals and peppy guitar strums supply a warm almost cheery luminosity and positivity. It’s a sweet little pick me up that adds a nice bit of sunshine into your day.
The accompanying video reflects the simplicity and the meaning of the song. The location, pointed out by featuring female vocalist Kezia, used to be a buzzing business and is now left a shadow of what it used to be, with the original wildlife dying around it. ‘Finding Myself’ is set to be released on 23rd February and will be available to stream and download via all major media providers. The release will be supported by a number of live shows, to stay up to date follow George Simpson on social media here https://www.facebook.com/georgesimpsonmusic/
Stream ‘Finding Myself’ below
PAPER CRANES are an Indie Folk duo hailing from the South of the Lake District. Consisting of Jon Dawes providing vocals, guitar as well as percussion alongside Beckah Lloyd lending her melodies and harmonies and acoustic bass. Their delicate, yet powerfully formed vocals are accompanied with a percussively played guitar which is dynamically reinforced by Kieran Day’s layering electric guitar, percussion and an array of sympathetically crafted sounds. Paper Cranes have released their long awaited second single ‘Lights’ to coincide with their next EP due for release early 2018.
‘Lights’ is a soft flurry of nourishing indie folk. Delicate and gentle this track is rich unadulterated purity oozing warmth and honesty from its very core. With soft guitar weaving gracefully between Dawes and Lloyd’s immaculate wholesome harmonies it’s a sincere beautiful display. With a playful rhythm adding a rich texture and danceable beat this track is a flickering thought -provoking charmer. It is so sweet and gently soothing yet lavishly layered creating a sophisticated refined sound that is luscious and delicious to the ears. The track glides with fine elegance and a feathery lightness. It’s a beautiful tender treasure.
Stream ‘Lights’ below
Harpeth Rising have released their new album ‘Against All Tides’. The classically trained trio of Jordana Greenberg, Maria Di Meglio and Michelle Younger recorded between May 2016 and February 2017 in the eye of the political storm that was taking hold of America. Against All Tides is therefore unsurprisingly heavily influenced by the atmosphere of social unrest that surrounded them. Many of the songs are protests and direct indictments of the political system while others take inspiration from personal suffering and hardships. Two of the songs The Highwayman and I Did Not Make the World were written by David Greenberg, Jordana’s father. David’s songs have appeared on each of Harpeth Risings albums and Jordana – the primary songwriter for the band – states how her father “continues to be a source of inspiration” to her and her music. Over the past 5 years Harpeth Rising have recorded 5 albums, toured 9 different countries on 3 continents and performed more than 600 gigs.
‘Against All Tides’ is an intricate tightly weaved 11 track album filled with organic pure blends of baroque and folk. From the first track ‘Love Child’ the trio slap straight into their meticulously weaved sound. The twanging banjo bounces and playfully hops between an eerie dark soundscape of crawly strides on violin and building depth of urgency on cello. The three-part vocal harmonies give a warmth yet striking hair-raising effect to the track. The tracks that follow maintain this darkened mysterious tone emphasised by the trio’s organic stunning use of instrumentation. ‘Drink of Reddest Wine’ brings a melancholic tone with winding hazy strings dragging back and forth while a sombre vocal melody pines and sobs the mournful lyrics. It’s tender and emotional with a hidden mystical tone. ‘3. 535 (Are You Even Alive?)’ throws a bouncy and theatrically spooky tone into the mix. Tracks like ‘The Highwayman’ display the trios braided weaving instrumentation perfectly. Strings sway, glide and pierce through the track adding soft swoons and dire urgency while the woeful cello builds with chilling depths. The light banjo adds a rush of panic while the vocals narrate through this frantic instrumentation. It’s quite heart stopping. ‘Prison Trilogy’ showcases their knack for story telling and heart wrenching emotion through melody. The accompaniment is simple for this track which leaves the attention all on the beautiful melody and passionate vocal delivery. That sweet string feature is just sublime and delicate lulling you into a beautiful soft stupor. ‘Lucid Dreaming Sheep’ closes the album with a unique sound for the trio. It’s richly rhythmic and boppy with a shimmy and shake like swagger and attitude. This track ends the album showing there’s a little more to their sound than perhaps you would think at first.
‘Against All Tides’ is a well-balanced album filled with hair raising stunning tracks to evoke all your senses. With dance ready beats magnificent storytelling and dazzling richly intertwined instrumentation it’s the perfect organic blend.
Stream ‘Against All Tides’ below
After forming back in 2014 and since releasing both a debut album and EP, The Small Change Diaries are all set to release their second album ‘Lullabies for Cynics’, which will be available from 3rd November. The release will be celebrated with a launch gig set to take place at Sunny Bank Mills on its release date. Their debut album ‘Adam Blames Eve’ received critical acclaim from the likes of BBC Introducing and thus far, the tracks ‘Huggie Crying Thing’ and ‘I Know What You’re Saying’ from the new album have been played on BBC Introducing Leeds, giving them a promising start. With a rich variation of instruments, The Small Change Diaries create poetic, acoustic songs with thought provoking lyrics and a heartfelt delivery. Similar to their previous EP ‘Protest Songs’, their latest album ‘Lullabies for Cynics’ was inspired by world events in the past 18 months. Described by the collective themselves as ‘music for the head and heart’, various tracks touch on specific affairs such as the Paris attack and changes in US politics, leaving the listener with a lot to think about. The album also features some stellar international musicians, including Laurent Zeller from France, and Phil Doleman, both who have decades of musical experience. It was recorded over a 12 month period and has been a labour of love for the 4-piece.
At first glance ‘Lullabies for Cynics’ has a warm fuzzy glow that maybe we all need sometimes. From the title track ‘Hold On’ this four piece sweep us with a deluge of lush rich instrumentation emitting bright radiant vibes and warm tones. Opulent sweet melodies teamed with beautiful harmonies and bouncy light rhythms create a boppy sound that wraps you up in a cosy blanket shielding you from the harshness of the world. I don’t think you can get a more glowing peppy track than ‘Huggy Cryin’ Thing’. It’s light, catchy, warm and soothing. Oozing oodles of cheery vibes. I’m usually the cynical person and for sure not a morning person but I think if I was a morning person i’d wake up singing this song while the sun shone on me and the birds tweeted. It sets the scene for cheery perfect idealism. It has a sweet quality to cheer anyone up. ‘I Know What Your’re Saying’ with its foot tapping tone and ‘Kicking Down Doors’ with its guitar twangs, jagged tempo and waltz injections take a slower melancholic tone. They are a little more sombre and honest. With tracks like the sparkling ‘Not One Of Us’ and the darker swing of ‘Voodood Doll (feat.Phil Doleman)’ it’s like this four piece create their own little world which has a soft positive first impression but dig a little deeper and it’s a little more dark. Gently shaking percussion and snug strings create a cosy atmosphere though the lyrics are a lot more striking and harsh than the dreamy instrumental illusion. The four piece take their hand to blues with ‘Slow News Day’. Drenched in lazy hazy vibes with sublime bluesy drizzled horns and stroke tap beat it has a classy curvy easy going tempo with a murky story behind it. ‘Lullaby’ closes the album on a soothing note. Basically they sing us a lullaby before adding a bright refreshing little wake up burst about 1 minute and 30 seconds in. It sparkles and glows with pacifying gentleness and hopefulness.
‘Lullabies for Cynics’ is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. The Small Change Diaries create a peppy fantasy world with folk, blues, gospel-style arrangements all while conveying the candied truth through their politically challenging lyrics. At a first listen it’s just camp fire sway ready lollipops and rainbows tunes but at the root there is depth there. Perhaps candy coating the harshness for us a little.
After performing at both UK and overseas festivals over the duration of the summer, The Small Change Diaries are now ready to settle back in the UK to promote their album, starting with their album launch gig on 3rd November 2017 at Sunny Bank Mills. Information about further upcoming live dates can be found on their social media pages here
Watch the video for the track ‘Birdman’ below