AUK’s EP Round-Up – March 2024

The Vintage Yell EP 'Set 1'

Well here we are, nearing the end of March already, and still it rains. In fact I fear if it keeps on raining… well you know how the song goes. Anyway, my turn to pick up the baton after Fred’s excellent run through of last month’s EP releases and turn the spotlight on the array of musical delights that has landed in this months inbox.

First up are The Vintage Yell, a Texas-based duo consisting of Chris Raspante & Jesse Spradlin, whose newly released EP on Mesquite St Records, is entitled ‘Set 1’. Made up of no less than six tracks it constitutes the first half of their debut album due to be released later this year and includes the recently released singles ‘Wrong Direction’, a rootsy rocker which sees Raspante on lead vocals that has plenty of edgy electric guitar along with some fine ghostly harmonica playing, and ‘Time Of Death (On This Love)’, with it more commercial sensibilities that sees Spradlin taking the lead. Elsewhere, opener ‘Go Down Swingin’, rocks with plenty of attitude and “While The Gettin’s Good’, with its bluesy based riff draws comparison to legendary Texas trio ZZ Top. Somewhat less convincing is their cover of the Beatles classic ‘She Loves You’, here stripped right back and performed as a ballad that denies the song of its original energy and excitement and instead exposes its rather simplistic lyrical narrative.

Next up is Caitlin Cannon with her new four-track EP ‘Beggar’. Cannon initially garnered attention back in 2020 with her first solo release ‘The TrashCannon Album’, before forming a duo with Alice Wallace entitled Side Pony. Two of the tracks here may already be familiar having previously been released as stand-alone singles. In fact ‘Amarillo & Little Rock’, first saw the light of day over twelve months ago as the intended lead single from the album ‘The World’s Greatest Alchemist’, which was never released and instead this EP is a standalone precursor to her new full-length album ‘Love Addict’, due out later this year. The EP opens with ‘The Alchemist’, with its lush arrangement, and layered instrumentation typical of the four tracks, creating a warm dreamy ambience that at times works against the more gritty lyrical narrative of the down and out, broken and lost. And though ‘Beggar’, reveals a certain lyrical awareness that she’s been selling herself short, desiring to escape the boundaries of the mundane and go in search of her own path, overall the message gets somewhat lost in the rather top heavy arrangement.

The Bankes Brothers are a four-piece from Victoria, British Columbia, whose debut six-track EP ‘In Waves’, is released via Blue Heron Music, and embraces a sound that runs the gamut of indie bands throughout the decades, conjuring comparisons with The Cult, The Pixies, The Strokes, Cornershop, and even The Killers throughout these half dozen tracks, while lead vocalist Nelson Bankes inhabits a range somewhere between Paolo Nutini and Guy Garvey. Opening with the title track, their music is high on energy, full of catchy melodies and pop leanings that makes it easy to envisage them garnering chart success while even the slower numbers, such as ‘See Me Run’, build in crescendo to almost anthemic proportions. However, the final track here ‘Walkin’, does offer more depth both narratively and structurally suggesting a greater level of artistic ambition exists beneath the surface.

Long standing member of the band Butcher Boy, Alison Eales finally stepped into the spotlight last year with her debut solo album ‘Mox Nox’, which was warmly received in many quarters of the music press with its mix of electronica and chamber pop music combining to create a variety of sonic soundscapes. However, this new EP ‘Four For A boy’, which brings together four new songs, again penned with co-writer Garry Hoggan, has a much sparser arrangement allowing the listener to hone in on the lyrical narrative and subtle melodies. Opening track ‘Minuet’, is a love song delivered almost a cappella while ‘Rain Song’, sees the ukulele and piano played staccato recreating the sound of water droplets. Eales’ vocals have a sense of purity which combined with her lyrical awareness of the world around her creates a certain folk vibe not dissimilar to that of Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs.

‘Son’, is the latest EP from Drew Danburry’s new Baltimore based four piece band Icarus Phoenix who have already released three albums in as many years starting with their eponymous release in April 2021. Danburry is a writer of epic songs that never lose their melodic compass nor their pop sensibilities that after just one listen imbed themselves in your subconscious, reminiscent of Belle and Sebastian or even at times the late great Karl Wallinger’s World Party. These five tracks were part of forty songs recorded in three days back in November 2022, produced by Jed Jones and, as is typical of Danburry’s music, house a multitude of flavours and styles that never feel misplaced or disjointed. Standout tracks here are the title track along with the EP’s opener ‘Different Language’ and its closer, the gently sublime ‘Necessary /Painful’.

Touted as Scotland’s newest country supergroup, The Black Denims boast an expanse of no less than eight members hailing from disparate musical backgrounds, and have just released their debut EP ‘Grateful For Small Mercies’. With such an array of instrumentation at their disposal it comes as little surprise that the six songs on offer here cover a broad musical spectrum and whilst the banjo, fiddle and pedal steel clearly supply the country/bluegrass leanings there’s also a clear blues/jazz vibe coming from the piano and harmonica. The opening track ‘Two Fingers Of Whiskey’, has some exceptional fiddle playing while ‘You Weren’t There’, and ‘Hole In My Foot’, are all driven on by an energetic rhythm section. However, even on the slower numbers the band create what unsurprisingly could be described as ‘Big Music’, the sort of sound The Waterboys might have made in their heyday had Mike Scott led them down a country road rather than becoming raggle-taggle gypsys.

Last, but by no means least is ‘Live By The Song, Die By The Song‘, the new five-track EP from Katie Powderly who hails from Madison, Wisconsin and had previously released one album entitled ‘Slips Of The Tongue’. (2012). Since then she formed a band entitled The Unconditional Lovers who were due to release their debut album in 2020 only to be thwarted due to the pandemic, followed by a stint playing upright bass for the Dead Horse Revival. The music encased in this EP signals a major step forward from her debut, both in her writing, with its broader narrative, and delivery that exudes a new found confidence and identity, inhabiting the same musical geography as Gillian Welch and Aoife O’Donovan, fiddle and guitar combining to create a sublime bluegrass ambience. Opening track ‘Tobacco’, sets the tone with its poetry, dark and hauntingly hypnotic that draws the listener in without ever revealing all its secrets, always leaving something to the imagination that in its self displays a new maturity to her writing. The quality continues throughout the EP, of which Powderly is ably supported by Chance Hurley of the Dead Horse Revival on three of the tracks including ‘My Mourning Dove’, and ‘High Horse’, the lyrical narrative as cathartic as it is symbolic, while the final track ‘Love Me One More Time Before I Go’, smoulders with passion and regret. If the five songs that make up ‘Live By The Song, Die By The Song’, are anything to go by, then Katie Powderly should be one of the breakthrough acts of 2024.

About Graeme Tait 123 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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