mike daviesoctober 2019

maggie de monde

SCARLET FANTASTIC return to the scene with Maggie in fine form on the krautrock coloured groove of To Hell (Hottwerk), rippling synths and handclap percussion driving the dance groove along on a swirling melody on a defiant screw you lyric while Grace Jones, Eurythmics and New Order influences all put in an appearance.

ed geater

ED GEATER release his first new material of the year with Four Sides and a Pointed Top (Brox Records), a taster for next month’s new EP, In, an introspective hip-hop based number about finding self-worth by looking within rather than blaming external forces for your problems and pain that features a homegrown rap contribution from Vital.

ivory wave

Next month also sees the release of Dream Nights, the debut EP from Birmingham indie five piece IVORY WAVE, preceded by current single Uptown which, featuring lead singer George Johnson, musically recalls the Madchester baggy scene on a song about growing tired of the emptiness of living for the weekend, just to end up hungover and broke.


BOAT TO ROW emerge bloodied but unbowed from the Pledge Music debacle with Static Caravan providing a safe haven for Rivers That Flow In Circles, an album that finds them flexing the musical muscles on things like the Pentangle folk jazz shades of Stranger of Mine, the CS&N influences of On Your Own and the 60s English progressive folk colours to be found with Moth To The Light and Fairest Flaws. Augmented by horns and viola, elsewhere the swing from the pastoral dreaminess of Lift Your Head to the African infused Spanish Moss and the Dave Brubeck sounds of The Leaving, part of the four-part Fledgling suite reverie of leaving, loss and acceptance.

chris c

Another rising Birmingham star on the contemporary folk scene, CHRIS CLEVERLEY releases his sophomore album We Sat Back and Watched It Unfold (Opiate) in the company of such impressive names as cellist Graham Coe, bassist Luke Drinkwater, co-producer Sam Kelly, Evan Carson on drums, violinist Hannah Martin and, from his new trio, Kim Lowings and Kathy Pikington.

Lyrically informed by considerations of mental health, it’s a decidedly different approach to his debut, more immediate and musically accessible, launching with the folksy waltzing The Arrows And the Armour and moving through the fingerpicked Scarlet Letter, a take on the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, the banjo accompanied quick fix medication themed I Can’t Take It, the dismantling of NHS mental health services that fuel the jaunty title track, the gender constructs underpinning the troubadour feel of Happy and Proud and the reflective, candid slow waltz A Voice For Those Who Don’t Have One which, reminiscent of his work with The Company of Players, turns the spotlight on the symptoms of those growing with anxiety.

Managing to be both sharply contemporary but also at times capture the lyrical nature of Shakespeare, this is a major musical leap forward, an album of catchy hooks and musical nuances with lyrics that illuminate an increasingly problematic issue with compassion, hope and honesty, elevating from young hopeful to one of the most vital voices of today’s folk generation.

roots-and-branches.com 2020