Swingle singer satisfingly soars solo.
We do, it is true, cover a lot of ground here at Americana UK – causing some to query “what is this Americana thing anyway?“, a query that collectively we’ve attempted to answer at some length and still not fully agreed on a definition. It has to be said though that a mention of The Swingle Singers seemed unlikely, and yet Edward Randell’s “day job” is singing in The Swingles, the London based a capella group who are the rightful heirs to the group formed by Ward Swingle in 1962. That heritage is not instantly apparent on his solo release of four thematically linked modern folk songs, other than in a penchant for finger-clicking in the first song ‘Cold Snap‘ – although The Swingles do have a more modern repertoire than you may recall, with arrangements of Laura Marling for example. The songs on ‘Almanack EP‘ are framed as snapshots of the seasons – although they meld into musings on personal relationships. ‘Plough‘ takes an Autumnal turning of the ground into a sepia tinted assessment of a decade long close friendship which, perhaps, is mellowing into predictability or, perhaps, stubbornly continuing beyond its purpose “what must you think of me now?” asks Randell “Stubbornly pushing my plough, Fifty yards turn around, over the same old ground, tilling new lines on my brow.” It’s a mellow contemplation, with Nick Drake-isms casually scattered through it.
The opening of the shimmering and summery ‘Nightjar‘ recalls Sam Lee, before it slips away on trippy percussion and gentle piano lines – drifting gently like an evening punt on the Cam. ‘Wild Garlic‘ is vibrant with the rising sap of Spring, more muscular than the rest of the EP, with almost a swamp rock feel. Overall the brief ‘Almanak EP‘ is good as far as it goes, there’s variety from song to song and it’s certainly a recording likely to appeal to those who look forward in folk’s development along those Sam Lee lines and also to those who admire the early 1970s Nick Drake branch of folk.