It’s that time again and here’s a round-up of this month’s EP releases. And to prove that americana music doesn’t have to be made in Nashville or Muskogee, this month we have music recorded in Winterthur (Switzerland), Chiswick, Manchester, Berlin and Alberta (Canada)!
So let’s get the metaphorical pick-up truck rolling with a trip to Winterthur in deepest Switzerland where Timothy and Christina Löffler under the name Goldschatz recorded their six track EP ‘Twin Flame’ at two studios, Suburban Sound and Porchhouse. Of the five tracks, three ‘Keep The Fire Burning’, ‘Gemini’ and ‘Free Rolling’ were written by the couple with the other two being covers. Theses are ‘Kindness Of Strangers’ originally sung by Courtney Marie Andrews (who part wrote it) and Townes Van Zandt’s ‘I’ll Be Here In The Morning’. The couple’s harmonies are warm and charming when they duet and they compliment the other when one of them takes the lead vocal such as on ‘Gemini’ when Timothy takes the lead and Christina supports him. Their voices have a superb blend and the playing from the various musicians along with the production makes this a beguiling listen.
From Switzerland we move across to Chiswick-based (although Portsmouth born) singer/songwriter Tricia Duffy who performs as Little Lore. Seven Stories Part 1 (part 2 will be released in February 2024), is her second EP as a solo artist and the four tracks have been produced by renowned New York based Oli Deakin who added all the instrumentation on the record whilst Duffy recorded her vocals at Chapel Studio in Kent. Seven Stories Part 1 features Duffy’s very clear, very English sounding voice with some superb piano especially on the final song ‘The Bench’ where it features on the intro. Duffy’s lyrics are always interesting although often quite dark; as she says, “Death is one of my favourite subjects to write about so there are a couple of quite bleak, sad, death songs”.
Next on our little geographic tour, we head up the motorway to Manchester where the musical collective Rob Jones & The Restless Dream are based. ‘Trees’ is their second EP and features four tracks ‘Heart Of The Storm’ a country-ish up-tempo song, ‘Cut So Deep’ which opens and closes with some delightful piano and features pedal steel, ‘Ballerina’, which at times sounds like a companion piece to Elton John/ Bernie Taupin’s ‘Tiny Dancer’ and the EP closes with ‘Carolina’. The reference to Elton John isn’t random as at times Jones vocals have a definite feel of his early recordings. The rest of the collective are Alan Taylor, drums, Josh Cavanagh-Brierley, bass guitar, Danny Wellens, keyboards, and Dan Catherall, lead guitar, Pedal steel playing comes from Chris Hillman (no not that one) and the female backing vocals are from Grace Kelly (no not that one either).
We stay in Manchester as that’s where Chloe Chadwick recorded her EP ‘Same Old Brand New Me’ at Hope Mill Studios although Chadwick herself comes from Staffordshire. She’s been around for a while playing all over the world and sharing the bill with the likes of Lady Antebellum, The Shires, Ward Thomas and many other familiar names and you can hear that experience in her voice which at times sounds a little like Margo Price. The six tracks vary from the rocky up-tempo ‘Rattling Bones’ to the more poppy ‘Temper Gene’ and ‘Soulmate’ – the EP ends with a stripped-back, piano and vocal-only version of the song which is very emotional. There’s also an excellent cover of CCR’s ‘Have You Ever Heard The Rain’.
Now over to Germany to visit with Californian-born but Berlin-based Ed Prosek and his six-song EP aptly titled ‘The Foreigner’. The tracks are a mix of big production numbers from the opening track ‘Hallelujah’ (no not that one) and ‘Man Overboard’ to the simpler, more folky sounds of ‘Ever After (Wedding Song)’ with its delightfully evocative acapella intro. Throughout the EP there are plenty of americana notes with banjo featuring heavily. At times there are faint echoes of Neil Young and even Springsteen running through the production which is no bad thing. Prosek is an interesting songwriter who studied classical trumpet (featured on the title track) before attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He then lived in the UK for a spell before finding his way to Berlin to set down roots and create music such as ‘The Foreigner’.
The last EP this month takes us across the pond and away from the Europe-centric releases listed above to Alberta in Canada where Chris Jones & The Night Drivers are based. Jones is a bit of polymath; as well as being a singer and a guitarist with the band, he’s also a journalist and a distinguished broadcaster fronting Sirius FM’s “Bluegrass Junction” for over 15 years. He’s been making music with the Night Drivers since 1997 and on their latest release, ‘Pages In Your Hand’ there are six tracks that cover everything from bluegrass to old-timey to country to folk. The band are made up of Jones on vocals and guitar, Marshall Wilborn on bass, Mark Stoffel on mandolin and multi-instrumentalist Grace van’t Hof with some guest musicians added to the line-up for the recording process. Jones’ mellifluous baritone takes the lead on most of the songs but van’t Hoff is the vocalist on Jimmy Rodgers’ ‘Those Gambler’s Blues’ adding another layer to the band’s superb sound.