My Brightest Diamond
From The Top Of The World EP
Released: September 2008
Shara Worden’s obsession with all things French may well have begun in early childhood – Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s famed ‘Le Petit Prince’ is one of her favourite books. Having frequently dropped several Edith Piaf covers into her live sets, justly holding her up as an icon of musical integrity, passion and grandeur, this EP gave Worden the chance to port that same starry-eyed theatricality and geste d’amour to wax, while her version of Kurt Weill/Roger Fernay’s fantastical odyssey ‘Youkali: Tango Habañera’ fits right in with her fairytale-inspired originals (‘From The Top Of The World’ itself is based on a George Macdonald children’s novella). Worden conjures up the requisite drama and sultry despair to pull it off magnificently. [full review]
A Table Forgotten EP
Released: July 2008
Fresh from her life-affirming collaborations with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy on The Letting Go and its associated releases Wai Notes [demos] and Wilding In The West [live], Dawn McCarthy returns to work as the voice of California-based theatrical collective Faun Fables. In contrast to 2006′s The Transit Rider, an eccentric performance art project based on a train-hopping itinerant, A Table Forgotten finds McCarthy singing songs of home, and specifically the kitchen. It’s typically out there, but ‘Pictures’ and a new version of ‘Winter Sleep’, her collaboration with Icelandic producer extraordinaire Valgeir Sigurðsson, are among the best things McCarthy’s ever recorded.
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
Gentleness Of Nothing EP
Released: May 2008
Seeing Jesse Sykes play live is an intense experience as she sits and coaxes an almost psychedelic rapture out of her guitar from behind an improbably flowing, glossy curtain of dark hair hanging down in front of the fretboard. She’s a goner in the realm of the song, her distinctive voice curling seductively around each note. This four-track tour EP sees Sykes and guitarist Phil Wandscher (formerly of Whiskeytown) expand on the sound of last year’s Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls Of The Soul by adding in new textures and some revitalising oomph. Despite the 9-minute title track epic it’s not long enough by half, but such is the nature of EPs. Nevertheless, an interesting primer for what might be in the future.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
Keep Me In Mind Sweetheart EP
Released: November 2008
This six-track EP of leftovers from the Sunday At Devil Dirt recording sessions further explores the romantic progression seen in the duo’s second album. ‘Hang On’ could almost belong on Campbell’s solo album Amorino, such is its cute little swagger, while ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ and ‘Asleep On A Sixpence’ find Lanegan at his most serene. Closing ‘Sixpence’ with a hesitant piano-led melody from ‘While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks’ is a nice Christmassy touch, and the instrumental ‘Violin Tango’ is touchingly weepy. A satisfying epilogue to the unlikely duo’s second chapter.
Six White Horses: Blues & Lamentations Vol. I
Released: May 2008
Made for introspective times, Six White Horses is a slow and richly melancholic proposition. Gibson’s spectral take on ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair’, recorded by everyone from Joan Baez to Nina Simone to freak-folk ensemble Espers, is outstanding. Projecting her voice and classical guitar through an old record player speaker, she recalls Jana Hunter at her ephemeral best or Hem’s Sally Ellyson laden with reverb. ‘All The Pretty Horses’ is thoroughly charming in its simplicity and transitions beautifully into Blind Lemon Jefferson’s instrumental ‘One Dime Blues’ (positively sleepy compared with Etta Baker’s virtuoso interpretation), followed later by a haunting version of Jefferson protégé Mance Lipscomb’s ‘One Thin Dime’. Six White Horses ends on an autumnal cover of Furry Lewis’s ‘Dry Land Blues’; that, and a ‘hidden track’ comprising 20 more seconds of Gibson’s mournful coo. [full review]