EP Round-Up September 2023

Welcome to the first of our regular EP Round-Ups. Wikipedia defines an EP as: “A musical recording that contains more tracks than a single but fewer than an album or LP record”. Most EPs play at 45rpm and were very popular in the sixties but have continued to be produced ever since and are still around but how it works when a lot of music is being streamed is a bit of a conundrum. However, as their popularity endures, here at AUK, we’re determined to let our readers know what’s currently out there on EP so here’s this month’s pick of the crop.

We’re starting with a London-based band Forest Bed who take their influences from folk, country and roots music. The four-piece band is made up of Paul Freeman (lead vocals, guitar & synths) Matt Markwick (lap-steel guitar, violin and backing vocals), Mark Duddy (drums) and Jay Springett (bass). There are four tracks on ‘Placeholders’ and first up is ‘Footsteps’ which features Marwick’s violin and has a folky, earthy feel of a long-lost Fairport Convention recording. This is followed by ‘Just Where The Light Begins to Fade’ which has echoes of Lindisfarne in the delightful harmonies. The third track is a melancholy ballad ‘Ghosts’ with Rebecca Freeman on backing vocals and the EP ends with another slow song from Freeman (who wrote all four songs), ‘Placeholder’.

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Roger Street Friedman has been around for a few years and he already has a number of albums under his belt. Friedman is a superb songwriter and the six songs on ‘Love Hope Trust’ cover a number of subjects. The tracks vary from the upbeat, optimistic gospel-sounding ‘Thankful For This Day’ which features his teenage daughter Allie on backing vocals. In fact most of the tracks have a female backing singer on them be it Allie Friedman, Teresa Williams or Lucy Kaplansky and they sweeten Friedman’s world-weary vocals. The two other standout tracks are the folky ‘The Ghosts Of Sugarland’ and the south of the border stylings of ‘Vapor In The Air’. The EP sounds superb as it should do as production is by renowned producer Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson etc.).

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Cole Gallagher is a 21-year-old from LA and ‘The Confluence’ is his debut release and what a star-studded debut it is. Produced by 7 time GRAMMY winner Vance Powell (Chris Stapleton, Jack White etc.) there are also collaborations with The 400 Unit and Los Lobos’ David Hildago who sings and plays accordion on ‘Chatting Through The Steel’ and to top it off, there’s ‘Sugarland’ an unreleased song from Bruce Springsteen – someone’s got quite a Rolodex! The production is as you’d expect from someone like Powell – full of sweetening with strings on ‘Delilah’ and horns on the big, Bruce-sounding ‘Sugarland’.  Gallagher’s voice has a growling quality on some songs and sounds quite smooth and soulful on others and is always interesting although is it americana? Answers on a postcard please.

To conclude this month’s round-up, ‘Hidden Lane’ from Scottish singer-songwriter Steve Grozier, is a four-track live studio EP featuring acoustic versions of songs from his back catalogue. Recorded by Johnny Smillie at the delightfully named La Chunky Studios in Glasgow, the four tracks are just Grozier and an acoustic guitar intimately recorded in a way that it sounds like you’re in the room with him, sitting by a blazing log fire and sipping on a fifteen-year-old single malt whisky. All four songs are delightful with the standout, Grozier’s most popular song (over 71000 streams on Spotify) ‘Power In The Light’ but the other three songs aren’t too shabby either! Apart from writing some excellent songs, Grozier is an expressive guitar player and his high tenor voice dovetails perfectly with his playing.

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