Tag Archives: singer songwriter

Ronan Conroy – The Game – album review

Ronan Conroy is a New York based singer songwriter. His previous work was with dark folk band ‘The Listeners’ and Goth Inspired ‘Oh Halo’ for whom Ronan played guitar and shared songwriting duties.

In 2013 Ronan embarked on a “never-ending album” project, recording over 30 songs in the first year, working with the incredibly talented producer, engineer, and multi-instrumentalist Charles Nieland (guitarist with Her Vanished Grace), with a host of guest musicians including Justin Wierbonski (Children of Mu, Quiet Sons, Demonic Sweaters) and Satoshi Inoue (Quiet Sons, Cerenkov).

I had the pleasure of reviewing “Discontent” his first solo offering, late last year and I am delighted to say that the second album was released at the end of February.  Amazingly the next instalment is already in production.

Where “Discontent” was brooding, introspective and largely acoustic “The Game” is a ‘bigger’ album.  It is bigger in sound and bigger in outlook.  The stripped back acoustic approach is largely replaced by a full band sound and the songs are much more outward looking.  What the albums share though is that they dig deeply into the dark side of life.  No subject is out of bounds, drink, drugs, prostitution and the seedy side of big city life all get a run out.

Ronan Conroy honed his songwriting skills studying Dylan, and Nick Cave and those influences are clear once again.  Like those masters Conroy is extremely adept at building contradictions, layers and  dilemmas into his songs.  His songs are often metaphorical and allegorical, something that comes over really well in “The Princess, the Coke Whore and Magdalena.”  The song reacquaints is with Ramon and Magdalena from Dylan’s “Romance in Durango” as Magdalena lies with her dead lover.

We are introduced to the three sides of her personality, the princess on her wedding day, the coke whore turning tricks in a back alley for a line of coke and the wife, daughter and mother that is Magdalena.  It shows us that people have many faces and each of sees a different face at different times.

The Game reflects on life’s winners and losers, one light and dark, joy and despair, life and death and the stories that underpin each of those facets are told across the piece.  In “Hello Kitty” you get light bound in darkness.  The melody is bright and uplifting and holds out a message of hope “what we have will live for ever so you say” then Conroy cruelly smashes that hope as he observes “but I won’t live forever, I’m dying every day”.

“Give me what I need” conjures up a vision of the man who has everything and yet has nothing. “I’ve got everything I need, but I ain’t got what I need.”  You see the rich man surrounded by material wealth but unfulfilled because something is missing. “We’ve all night” builds on the theme of a lack of fulfilment claiming that “its all right now, I’m all cried out”.

“One way or another” sees the protagonist trapped in the cages of an unfulfilling job and an unfulfilling home life, trapped in cages, knowing that so much more is possible but not having the courage to chase his dreams.

“Right or Wrong” sees the pace lifted another notch, driving electric guitars set the tone and Conroy hints that you know what is right, it is there inside of you, things are not black and white but the answer is there if you choose to open your eyes and see it.  The higher energy is maintained through the rest of the album but the contrasts remain “we are going nowhere fast, but we are going there much faster, beyond the point of pointlessness,” deliciously ironic observations in “It Comes Around.”

Once again this offering from Ronan Conroy holds together beautifully as a piece its wry observations on life are the theme on which everything hangs.  It is more upbeat and perhaps more instantly accessible than “Discontent” but it still feels part of an overall story.  It is hugely enjoyable, interesting and rewarding and it still carries secrets that are given up only after a little effort on the part of the listener.  “The Game” is another wonderful piece of work by Ronan Conroy and it is by some distance the best album I have heard so far this year.

Ronan Conroy | website | facebook |  bandcamp |

Sam Smith

Sam Smith: My Music Is Best When I Sing About My Insecurity

If you go to a Sam Smith concert you will be likely to hear Sam talk and sing about his insecurities and about unrequited love. 2014 has been an incredible year for Smith as he has become the year’s biggest breakthrough act. Sam was the only artist to sell over one million albums on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to his booming, soulful voice and his deep, honest lyrics. He has built a loyal fan base, sold millions of singles and sold out arena’s like New York Cities ‘Madison Square Gardens’.

Krista Green – Stepping Stones

Krista Green is a self-taught guitarist and drummer who has been song writing for ten years and now lives in Bournemouth working as a full time musician.  She specialises in acoustic folk inspired pop songs.   Her songs are upbeat, funky, catchy and lyrically poetic. Now those who read my reviews frequently will be well aware that my music of choice usually sits within the Punk, Folk-Punk, Indie and Folk-Rock genres.  So to be upfront and transparent this isn’t normally the type of music that normally finds its way to the top of playlist very often.  Why then have I found this album so bloody addictive.

Krista GreenThe first thing that strikes you about ‘Stepping Stones’ is Greens voice.  It is sweet as honey, joyful and has a smile in every word.  It is versatile, her phrasing and enunciation immaculate, at various times she reminded me of Lily Allen, Kate Nash (without the swearing), Laura Marling and even, most often, Katie Melua.  Her voice has that beautiful warm, joyful, breathiness that is so characteristic of Melua’s vocal performances.

Stepping Stones is a collection of eleven songs all built around the theme of relationships.  They are mostly love songs but there is a touch of angst an bitterness in a few of the songs.  Again the subject matter isn’t my normal fare, I prefer, anger, angst and political rebellion as my staple musical diet, but Green’s songs will have you singing along, tapping your feet and searching for the repeat button time after time.  It seems a little churlish to pick favourite tracks as every song has its own charms.  Repeated listens have seen ‘Bellies full of Booze’ emerge as a firm favourite with its commentary on social and anti-social drinking and fights between drunken lovers.The horns on the song give the song a really funky feel and help to pull you along at a frantic pace.

‘Never let you down’ is simply gorgeous.  It starts out with just vocal, piano and guitar and slowly builds as Cello, Flugelhorn and even a steel guitar add layers and textures as it builds to its climax.  Melodies, the closing track is a nicely stripped back live track just vocal, Guitar, drums and a really top class blues harp that lies just under the surface and plays a supporting role to green’s vocal, it really is a delight.

In the cover notes of the album Green pays tribute to Jay Pocknell who recorded, mixed and mastered the album, he also plays on many of the tracks.  I think that this credit is very well Krista Green2deserved.  The whole piece is beautifully engineered, the mix is sympathetic and subtle capturing the mood of the album perfectly.  The musicianship throughout is superb but never overwhelming, it always plays a supporting role to the vocals, building textures, a pallet that allows Green to paint a stunningly beautiful canvas.  We all have our favourite bands, genre’s and musical styles but the reason we all love music so much is that it always has the potential to surprise and delight you.  This is an album full of joy and good cheer, an album that will make you smile and that will have you reaching for it anytime you want to bring a bit of musical sunshine into your life.

http://www.reverbnation.com/kristagreenmusic/song/21879548-melodies-live

Ronan Conroy – Discontent

Ronan Conroy is based in New York. His previous work was with Dark folk band ‘The Listeners’ and Goth Inspired ‘Oh Halo’.

Discontent is his first solo offering and is part of a project that will spawn several albums. I suspect that each of the albums will follow a theme, certainly ‘Discontent’ has the feel of a concept album. The first thing that strikes you about ‘Discontent’ is Conroys’ voice. It is deep, dark and brooding, like molasses on a hot skillet it spreads, slowly, bubbles of discontent rising, popping and rising again.

The album open brightly with ‘Welcome to my Country’ the intro of which is reminiscent of a ‘Band’ era Bob Dylan or a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. The brightness of the music disguises the underlying message which speaks of drunken ill mannered youth, a lack of respect and financial exploitation. ‘Sunrise’ continues the bright theme with upbeat finger style guitar and lyrics that speak of love and yet you feel the discontent rising as Conroy sings “I’m not tired of loving you YET”.

‘If only’ brings percussion and a female backing vocal into the mix and starts out with some great lines including “I don’t know whats wrong with what we are saying, except for what we are saying” handing out the clear message that everything is wrong. ‘Of turning corners’ develops this theme as Conroy sings of “turning my back at you, things that I thought AT you, behind a smile’. This track splits the album into parts with its winter and a latter summer versions.

After the ‘Winter’ version things turn really dark with ‘Lord help me I am lost’ which leads into ‘Song to the River’. Conroy’s voice reaches its deepest, keyboards tap out a funeral march and the addition of strings adds to the sense of melancholic desperation. It gives the feeling of someone who has lost all hope to the wind and the deep dark river. ‘Winter of our Discontent’ is a stark and sparse instrumental piece that gives just a hint of approaching spring. ‘The Climb’ has suggestions of an outsider ‘Standing on the ledge, knocking on the window pane’. It is agonising and disturbing.

The summer version of ‘Turning Corners’ has the same lyrics as the winter version but it feels different. It feels like someone who has made the decision to break free of the things and people who are dragging them down. The gently climbing tone of the guitar, a brighter string arrangement and an altogether more optomistic percussion arrangement tells the story of someone who has reached rock bottom and has started to make their way back to the light. This feeling continues in ‘By the time I get to Denver’ a song that suggests that the worm has turned, that control has shifted.

‘So long Mary-Jane’ suggests someone who has broken free, broken the shackles that have held them down, broken the link with what or who was causing the pain. The closing track “the Road Not Travelled’ talks of a man who has made difficult choices but is content to have broken with the past.

As a piece this album holds together really well. It is deep, dark, introspective and at times menacing. It does however hint at optimism for what is to come. For Conroy I suspect that this will emerge in the next album, part of an ongoing project. To be fair this is not an album that you will be playing at our New Year house party. Like the best of Leonard Cohens work you will want to listen to this when you are in reflective mood and want to be challenged by what you are listening to. I loved it and cannot wait for the next instalment.

The Glass Child

Every so often you come across a story that reaches deep down into your soul.  Charlotte Eriksson’s story is one of those.  I came across Charlotte’s story when she started to follow me on Twitter.  I clicked on her profile and saw that she is a musician.  As a result I followed her back as I do for the majority of musicians I come across.  I then went and had a look at her website and listened to some tracks on her Sound-cloud site.  What can I say, I was immediately hooked.  Check it out you will be too.  You can download an acoustic version of her album “I’d like to remain a mystery” here for free!! It would be nice to make a donation if you like it.  I did!  I will be reviewing the album in more detail in the next few days.

The paragraphs below tell Charlottes story in her own words.  It is a story that is all too familiar.  The story of a really talented artist trying to earn a living from her art.  This sort of artist is the perfect antidote to the dreadful dirge we are constantly force fed by the likes of Simon Cowell! the-GlassChild2

The story of The Glass Child, Charlotte Eriksson, is one of those you usually see on movies. Only 18 years old she left everything she had and knew, family and friends, and moved to London to dedicate her life to her music and art. A vague dream about reaching out with her music became an everlasting journey about fighting for your right to build a life on your own terms, learning what it means to be an artist and how to make an impact, now with over 29,000 dedicated followers and fans with her on her journey through her social sites like Twitter and Tumblr.

Forward four years and she has started her own record label Broken Glass Records, released 5 EPs, released her critically acclaimed debut full-length ‘I’d Like To Remain A Mystery’ in February 2013, had her single ”I Will Lead You Home” reaching #2 on the Swedish Itunes-chart, was names Breakthrough Indie Artist Of The Year by Lemonade Magazine, and been played on major radio such as BBC6 (UK), Sveriges Radio (Sweden) and 3FM (Netherlands). In April 2013 she also independently published her first book “Empty Roads and Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps”, telling the story about leaving, searching and going after your dream. The book was beautifully received and has been widely praised both by her fanbase and by a new literary crowd of writers and readers.

Charlotte is a wandering soul and after spending a year in England with nothing but a guitar and a will to search for something more, playing wherever she could play and crashing at fans’ floors, she has now spent a year in Berlin, Germany. A year of wandering, growing and rediscovering in the new city resulted in what is slowly becoming the biggest journey and achievement of her life so far; a new album, created and funded together with her dedicated following through PledgeMusic. Her Pledge Music Campaign (launched June, 2014) reached 100% within four hours, and after 40 days ended at 249% funded.

“It’s bigger this time. I’m wiser this time. This is not about the final physical product, like a CD. This is about the impact those songs can have inside someone. My mission is to seek those who need to hear those words and melodies and stories, and if I can touch one soul out there and make them feel like they belong, then I will be happy.”

The new album ”I Must Be Gone And Live, Or Stay And Die” will be released October 21, 2014,
with the first single off the album,”The Fall” out worldwide September 2nd.

”I wanted to turn my life into my art. My very existence into a poem. This is my story – it’s been a beautiful fight. It still is.”

Check out a video of The Glass Child’s latest single – The Fall.  It sent shivers down my spine!

Lily McCauley – Larmer Tree Festival 17th July 2014

P7174080 (2)I love to browse festival programmes to spot artists I don’t know and who I really want to catch. I spent a couple of hours browsing this years Larmer Tree programme and spotted Lily’s Bio. She immediately went onto my ‘must see’ list.

Lily is a local girl to the festival living just a few miles down the down the road in Salisbury. Aged just 22 Lily has already won a couple of music awards including the solo category of this years Larmer Tree breakthrough awards. She was up against some very fierce competition for  a prized spot at this years festival.

On arriving in the ‘Arc’, one of the two covered stages, Lily immediately grabbed my attention. She is tiny, waif-like figure and bears a striking resemblance to a young Kate Bush, she has that same dark eyed smouldering look, enigmatic smile and easy grace.  As I entered the venue Lily was playing a lovely version of Fleetwood Mac & Eva Cassidy’s classic ‘Songbird’. She already had the audience captivated. Every eye in the house was firmly fixed on her and she clearly had the audiences undivided attention.

As Lily worked through her set I was struck by her guitar playing. She is remarkably adept using a range of styles including folk finger picking and percussive strumming. I was very surprised when Lily told me later that she has only been playing for four years. She took up playing and songwriting after a friend taught her thP7174108 (2)ree simple chords (Em, G & D) at the sadly now defunct ‘Endorse it in Dorset’ festival. She went off, bought a guitar and wrote a couple of songs, including ‘The worst part of it all’, based on those chords. My word she has come a long way in a very short space of time. Lily’s set comprised mostly her own songs including ‘Dolce Vita’, ‘Truth be told’ and ‘Arboris Inops’, the songs that won her The Larmer Tree breakthrough music award. Her own songs were full of emotion and painted a beautiful soundscape.  The set was interspersed with a handful of well chosen covers including a lovely stripped back version of Outkasts party favourite ‘Hey Ya!’. Lily finished her set with a superb version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish you were here’ which really showcased her guitar playing.  I asked Lily about this choice of song after the show as it struck me as  remarkable that she would choose to cover a song released some 20 years before she was born.  Lily said that she loved it because her father enjoyed Pink Floyd and when she had sat down to listen to the song it had made her cry. Lily confessed that her songwriting was very much driven by her emotions and I sensed a kid of emotional vulnerability in her songs. This really comes over well in her work adding depth and texture to her songwriting.  Lily cites Joni Mitchell and Laura Marling amongst her influences and she really captures the same feel in her own songs, she has a lovely expressive and emotional singing voice.   Her folk roots are there for all to hear but there are tastes of contemporary americP7174087 (2)ana and a dash of pop blended with poetic lyrics and lovely melodies.  The result is a very pleasing blend indeed.

Lily indicated that she was extremely grateful to The Larmer Tree and thrilled to be playing at the festival.  Winning the breakthrough artist award had been a huge boost to her confidence. The fact that she had won the award and got to play at the festival she cites as the high point of her career to date, quite a compliment considering that she has supported the likes of Kate Walsh and has gigged widely around Wiltshire, Hampshire and London.  I believe that there is much more to come from Lily. She is moving to Brighton this autumn to study songwriting at University after winning a music scholarship. She hopes to have an EP ready for release later this year, hopefully this will prove a successful and rewarding development.

I found Lily a charming, engaging and extremely likeable artist both on stage and off. I am sure she will hone her style as she experiments whilst at University. I hope he will remain close to her musical roots and wish her every success.  I really look forward to hearing more from her in the future.  In the meantime you can check out Lily’s music here

 

 

 

Copyright A. Ewart 2014 – All rights reserved.  If you wish to reproduce any part of this blog for any reason then please ensure that the author is credited and a link back to this page is included.