AUK’s EP Round-Up – December 2023

Here we are at the end of another year – who knows where the time goes? So it being December, it is of course the last EP round up of 2023 and as usual there’s an eclectic mix of music that goes under the all-encompassing americana umbrella for you to enjoy.

We starting off with the New Hampshire born but now New Orleans based Tom Anders and his sophomore (or second for those of you who prefer the King’s English) EP ‘Those LA Nights’. Recorded at C.O.G Secret Lab in Harahan LA, the five tracks are a mixture of styles ranging from country to Cajun to pop rock. Andes is an old school storyteller whose voice and songwriting has distinct Warren Zevon overtones. Backed by some superb local musicians, there are also some delightful backing vocals from Emily Neustrom especially when she and Anders duet on the jaunty ‘That Yellow Cajun Moon’.

Next is the first of two EPs this month from Australian singer songwriters. ‘The Way That I Was Meant To Be’ is from Adelaide based Matt Ward. Recorded in that city at Twin Earth Studios, Ward is backed by his band The Rising Sons. Also in what is a bit of theme this month, Ward duets with Tasha Coates on ‘Two To Tango’. The other four tracks are the title track, the rocky, pedal steel heavy ‘Nobody Told Me’, another rocky song ‘Secret Is Out’ and as a bonus there’s an extended version of ‘Nobody Told Me’.

The second of this month’s Australian performers is Sydney based Pete Campbell with his five track EP‘Parley’. Produced by Marc Scully at Studio 57 Recording, Campbell’s voice alternates between rough and lived in to sweet and tender and he’s aided and abetted and complemented by the dulcet tones of Emily Soffe especially on ‘Silence’. The other four tracks are ‘Bottom Of The Lake’ featuring some fine harmonica and percussion, the more poppy sounding ‘Away’, the countryish ‘Nest For You’ featuring some lovely fiddle and the last track the pure americana of ‘My Door’.  

Moving from far off Australia, we come nearer home with a live recording from Italian singer Simone Carugati who records as Cavallo55 and after a lot of travelling has settled in Portugal as “the ticket to Lisbon was the cheapest”! The EP is called ‘Live Harvest’ and is the live version of his previous EP ‘Late Harvest’. Recorded at two different venues in Portugal, the three tracks start with ‘Hi’s & Lo’s’ which features Carugati on guitar and vocals as well as a girl backing vocalist (definitely this month’s theme). That’s followed by ‘acdc’ and‘Dumb’ both of which are solo efforts from Carugati.

If traditional folk songs played on a long-neck banjo is your thing, then the latest release from Jason Baker‘10000 Miles From Home’ is definitely worth a listen.  The five tracks start with the title track, a sea shanty recorded by many artists including Bellowhead. This is followed by ‘Old Rosin The Beau’, ‘The Leatherwing Bat’, an old English folk song, an American traditional song ‘Deep Elm Blues’ and finally ‘Ally (The Ballad Of Lauri Carlton)’ using the tune from ‘Red River Valley’ with new lyrics from Baker all beautifully recorded in Baker’s home studio.

Bob Hillman has been around for quite a while starting out in the 1990s before taking a bit of a sabbatical in the early 2000s before making a comeback in recent years culminating in his latest release ‘Downtown In The Rain’ a five track, mainly acoustic EP featuring Greg Liesz on guitar and Gabe Witcher on violin. Also heavily featured on the album is vocalist Maria Taylor (female backing singers – definitely this month’s theme). Hillman has a unique voice – sometimes breathy, sometimes husky but always interesting and along with his unusual guitar tunings ‘Downtown In The Rain’ makes for an appealing listen.

Last but not least this month is the quirky and off-beat offering from Furniture Talkback with their eponymous four track debut EP.  Formed in Walthamstow, the band consist of the songwriting duo, Mariana Bogdanova and Marcus Kirby backed by Julia Doyle on bass and Peter Udall on drums. Bogdanova and Kirby both have distinctive voices which make for an unusual and idiosyncratic blend. The songs vary from the country rock of ‘Rocking Chair’ to the gospel tinged ‘The Highest Thing’ as well as the poppy ‘Everything Wil Be Just Fine’. The other track is a slightly odd song about the problems of getting old, ‘My Back Is Killing Me’!

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