Singles Club – January 2017

by / February 7, 2017

Happy New Year to you all. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I thought I’d at least make one relating to my wee column. My resolution was to clear the decks of all the music submitted to me before the frenetic December period and start again anew, with a determination not to get behind again. But I made the mistake (not really a mistake) of listening to the submissions before I filed them under ‘sorry, right place, wrong time’ and well, I found I couldn’t just hit ‘delete’. So. Here we are with the best of what should have been my New Year cull. Consider this your late Christmas pressie from your Uncle Al.

Saint Sapphire – ‘Underneath the Sun’

While not exactly a new outfit, Belfast’s Saint Sapphire, are still relatively young men and they play that type of fast paced, punky, dirty Rock n Roll that all young men want to play, and usually play it best. But, to these ears, there is something a little bit more at work here. A defter, cleverer lyrical content is in evidence and a smoother, more melodic vocal delivery is a welcome relief from what tends to be a throwaway delivery by many in this genre. I think, this all bodes well for the band’s longevity and I hope points to an ability to grow and expand their sound a little. All-in-all, very, very promising.

Rebekah Fitch – ‘Afraid of the Light’

Every artist has influences. My view is, if you have influences, make them good ones for a start and then use that influence carefully. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but your influences don’t need flattery and, if you want to be taken seriously, you can’t be written off as a copycat. It’s a tricky line to tread and many fail.

Thankfully not Ms Fitch, who has taken the undoubted influence of the biggest recording artist on the planet, Adele, and used it just enough to give her a sound that will be seen as having a finger on the pulse, while still retaining her individuality. This is a classy modern pop song with classy vocals and punchy production. There is also a classy video to match. My colleagues at Chordblossom have already singled Rebekah out as one of our best new talents. This grizzled aul Rocker agrees.

Patrick Gardiner – ‘Riverside Remark’

Ahhh. I must confess, I am a sucker for a good (what people call or understand as) ‘singer-songwriter’. And it is apparent from very on in ‘Riverside Remark’, that this is exactly what Co. Down exile, Patrick Gardiner, is. To be a good singer-songwriter you have to do 4 things really well. You have to have the chops on the guitar to come up with that musical canvas. You have to have the voice to enthrall the listener and carry the lyric. The lyric itself has to be interesting, because in no other genre is the lyric so exposed to scrutiny. If all that wasn’t enough, the song itself, irrespective of guitar dexterity, vocal excellence or even lyrical quality, has to be memorable – and quickly, as there are a million-and-one other singer songwriters out there waiting in line for their shot at being the next Damien Rice. Well, Patrick. You got 4 out of 4 for this song. Well done lad.

Saint Sister – ‘Tin Man’

Saint Sister (Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacItyre) are enjoying a pretty rapid rise to recognition on this island and beyond these shores. In three short years since forming, the Celtic electro-poets (copyright Al Gilmore), have recorded and released a debut E.P., ‘Madrid’, supported major recording artists, and toured throughout Europe. That’s pretty meteoric. But you can see why, when you listen to their hypnotic brand of Celtic electro-poetry (the phrase will catch on, trust me). This is how to use your celtic roots to create something new, that is neither some rehashed folk music schtick nor bland recycled Enya. Haunting. Fascinating. Different. Love it.

I’ve managed to miss advertising their latest tour, but I’m sure they will be at a venue near you soon. Check them out.

Chris Keys – ‘Under The Streetlight’

Remember I said about a million-and-one singer-songwriters out there all vying for attention? Lo-and-behold, here is one of our most talented and hardworking exponents of this craft – Chris Keys, coming to prove my point. Regular readers of my column will perhaps know that I rate Keys very highly. If I were to add a fifth component to the list of what singer-songwriters need to demonstrate, that component would be consistency, and Keys is one of the most consistent performers and writers we have. Judged on this ‘winter single’ (featuring the excellent Brigid O’Neill on harmony vocals) and the previous two, ‘Coming Home’ and ‘City Lights’, I am in no doubt that his forthcoming debut album (due June 2017) will be a top quality release. As we see artists like Ben Glover finding a worldwide audience, I have no doubt Keys can secure similar levels of success. This would be just reward for the investment he has put into his career to this point.

Michelle Dowd – ‘Honeyman’

As I said when I reviewed Michelle Dowd’s last release, ‘Bed of Love’, her music is a refreshing change to what I am normally sent. Yes, it’s a throwback to early 80’s R&B, but if I have to listen to post-60’s R&B, let it be 80’s rather than what masquerades as R&B currently. On ‘Bed of Love’ Dowd channeled her inner Sade with a sultry, lower register vocal delivery. ‘Honeyman’ however shows Dowd is not a one-trick pony with a much higher pitched tune and again, the vocals are flawless.

I’d be a total liar if i said I knew whether what Dowd is producing has the ability to garner record company interest. Does the nostalgia for the 80’s give her 80’s-insprired R&B a chance? I don’t know. But I wish her well.

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