Haarts are a Carlisle based indie rock four=piece who since 2013 have been making waves with a series of releases and a great deal of media interest from the likes of Ally McRae (Radio One Introducing), Breakthru Radio and numerous other radio shows and websites.
Haarts were also asked to support The Boomtown Rats at the opening of a brand new home town venue, as well as taking part at a special Radio One event on the eve of the stations big weekend back in 2011.
Seasons Change is the quartet’s latest single, produced by the renowned Gavin Monaghan, the band are look set to break into the bib league and with epic broody indie anthems such as their new release, they could find themselves firm favourites sooner rather than later. The track is a builder complete with chiming guitars, rumbling rhythms and a towering vocal courtesy of Phil Hampson, the feel and style are reminiscent of the likes of The Doves, clever indie with plenty of drama and passion.
If Haarts continue this ascent they could well become one of the must see bands this summer, lets hope they bag a few festival slots so they can receive the exposure they richly deserve.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
In recent times “folk music” has had something of revival in both commercial and critical terms, folk light bands such as Mumford And Sons, The Lumineers and the likes of singer-songwriter Laura Marling, have perhaps helped fuel the resurgent interest in a more stripped down, rootsy sound and the success of the likes of (the all-conquering) Bellowhead and Oysterband’s collaboration with the legendary June Tabor (the critically acclaimed Ragged Kingdom), have both consolidated and widened the appeal of folk as a genre of genuine interest.
The aforementioned Ragged Kingdom received numerous plaudits from everyone from Radio 2 (winning three R2 Folk awards) to mainstream music press such as Mojo, whilst an appearance on Jools Holland propelled the veteran band’s profile even further, enhancing an already impressive fanbase.
Diamonds On The Water is The Oysterband’s follow-up to Ragged Kingdom and where that album was something of a re-immersion of traditional song, the new album see’s the band flex their songwriting muscles, their first set of originals in seven years and perhaps the band’s finest to date.
The album opens with A Clown’s Heart and instantly showcases the band’s close harmonies with a gorgeous, short acapella introduction before a combination of shuffling drums and acoustic guitars join the mix, to create a subtle, rock tinged folk complete with instantly infectious vocal hooks and a beautiful burst of mournful violin. As opening numbers go, A Clown’s Heart grabs the attention from the of and entices the listener to embrace the album further.
The aforementioned violin opens the second track and an early album highlight, A River Runs, the track opens in an almost stripped down Levellers manner before developing into a stunning, melody infused rocker, with frontman John Jones delivering a warm croon that urges repeat spins.
Highlights come thick and fast during the duration of the twelve track affair, from Spirit Of Dust with it’s soulful, soaring female vocal harmonies to the stripped down, country tinged hushed beauty of Lay Your Dreams Down Gently to the fuller, rockier sound of Palace Of Memory, with it’s galloping rhythm and powerful guitar riff laden verses and the upbeat No Ordinary Girl that once again features an instant punchy riff and a big hum-a-long chorus.
Diamonds On The Water is a fabulous album from start to finish, showcasing a band very much on the top of their form in both songwriting and performance, if you find kinship with anything on the rockier side of folk you owe to yourself to purchase the latest by Oysterband.
Rhythm & Booze 9
Emily Smith is a Scottish based singer-songwriter and traditional folk interrupter of the highest standard, since her formative years she was highly regarded, named as BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician Of The Year back in 2002 as well as winning and being nominated for numerous other awards throughout her career to date.
Emily’s previous four albums have all been critically acclaimed and on the back of those successes, see has been seen gracing stages across the world taking in prestigious slots at the likes of Cambridge Folk Festival along the way.
In recent times Emily has also been seen on television for her part in the esteemed Transatlantic Sessions, BBC’s songs of praise and on a sky arts program dedicated to Emily.
After releasing a best of compilation last year, Ten Years, she returns with a brand new album that also see’s Emily returning to her love of traditional song. The album also see’s a number of high profile collaborators join to help realize Emily’s vision, with the likes of Jerry Douglas, Kris Drever and Aoife O’Donovan complimenting the gorgeous tones of Emily. Together they’ve helped form an album that weaves a majestic rootsy album that hints at both Emily’s obvious Scottish roots and perhaps more surprisingly a Nashville country twist.
The album opens with the stunning, understated Reres Hill, a beautiful yet somewhat dark ballad that instantly showcases Emily’s mesmeric vocals over a sparse, stripped down mix of plucked and sawed strings, all complimented by a distinctive country flavoured twang and half-murmered male vocals. As opening gambits go, Reres Hill is a simply jaw-dropping, intoxicating track that sends tingles down the spine and urges the listener to fully embrace the full depth of Echoes.
From such glorious beginnings, the album continues in the same rich vein with The Sower’s Song which sees delicate acoustic guitar blend effortlessly with tender heart felt vocal harmonies to bewitch the listener further. King Orfeo showcases that traditional folk/country crossover further with Emily taking a traditional song and giving it an original twist with shuffling drums and lap steel twangs creating a dustbowl Nashville feel.
The album continues on the roots trail with a murder ballad of sorts in the shape of Twa Sisters, that despite the subject matter, has quite an uplifting feel, with it’s hum along melody and effortless vocal refrain. Whilst The Open Door and the piano led, Clerk Saunders are both gorgeous slices of stripped majestic beauty, both showcasing Emily’s heart-wrenching and passionate vocal to full effect, over the spellbinding yet never obtrusive musical arrangements.
Emily Smith’s fifth album, Echoes is a bewitching album from start to finish that should become a firm favourite of roots lovers the world over, whether it’s folk, country or just a love of stripped down acoustic music there’s a great deal to embrace here.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
There is something to be said about a short sharp two and half minute acoustic led folky pop ditty, firstly it never overstays it’s welcome, secondly if it has a hook it’ll have you reaching for the repeat button and thirdly if it does have that aforementioned hook and it it does have you scrambling to hear the track again, you know you have a real songwriting craftsman on your hands.
Singer-songwriter Ivor Game is something of a master when it comes to writing these sub three minute odes, they are always engaging, sometimes upbeat, sometimes reflective and others even manage to weave a little humour into the mix, but each track I’ve heard by the London based songsmith always has me coming back for more.
Latest single The Life You Know again follows Ivor’s rich tradition of infectious hook-laden acoustic pop, it’s a lovely short tale of reflection complete with a contagious vocal refrain and an effortless hum along melody that’ll remain reverberating around your head long after the song’s duration.
Ivor Game can always be counted on to deliver a short, yet instantly memorable acoustic lament that’ll leave a smile on your face and a warm fuzzy glow inside.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 8
There’s not too much I can tell you about singer-songwriter David Phoenix, other than this, his debut single, Can You Feel How Much I Love You, is being deliberately released on Valentines Day in a bid to captivate all those loving couples out there with it’s combination of strings, smooth crooned vocals and overly romantic, dare I say sickly lyrics.
David, himself apparently claims the song bubbled out him “the melody and lyrics came to me literally in a matter of seconds and I sang the song right away without thinking. It felt like singing a song that I’ve known for years” well that kind of explains the generic feel and the somewhat slushy and the rather obvious lyrical nature of the song. At some point or another I’m sure we’ve all hummed a pretty tune and made up lovey dovey, slushy words dedicated to that special someone, but the majority of us wouldn’t even sing it to our betrothed let alone record it, soak it in strings and release into the public domain.
From this outpouring of emotion we can all hear that David Phoenix is in love and not afraid to sing it from the rooftops, but to be honest the only person who’ll really get something out of this release is his other half, now please pass the sick bucket.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 3
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