Welcome back to the Real Gone Singles Bar, the place where we explore the various individual mp3s that have landed in our inbox over the previous few weeks. This time around, we bring you a very eclectic selection – and what we think might just be one of best SB features to date. We’ve got cosmic country; we’ve got dreampop; there’s time for a slab of indie pop with a ridiculously infectious chorus, and even a bit of bluegrass. Strap yourselves in for the ride – and, as always, if you’ve enjoyed anything here, please drop by and let us know!
Joby Fox began his musical career as a member of Belfast post-punk band The Bankrobbers, who released material on the legendary Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label. Musicians have to grow and change, obviously, and it’s impossible to remain angry at the world for a lifetime; but, that said, Fox’s 2023 solo album ‘I Once Was A Hawk, Now I’m A Dove’ is as different from his formative years as it’s possible to be. It doesn’t even align with his work as a member of Irish pop-rockers Energy Orchard. The album shares a soft, after hours vibe which, used to power songs which stylistically straddle folk, pop and jazz, makes it fit almost into an easy listening bracket. This is by no means a criticism; the laid back moods are perfect for Fox’s voice, which is just one of the record’s many strengths.
Over the years, Tom Hector has shown a massive love for retro sounds on his self-financed recordings. 2016’s ‘Little Bee’ from Hector And The Leaves presented songs that had traces of Brian Wilson and other power pop singer-songwriters lurking within its melodies; the simpler ‘(interiors)’ from the following year teased with a lo-fi sound, but carried timeless influences from Nick Drake and Elliot Smith. At the heart of the material – no matter the style – there’s a man with an old soul, and that old soul ensures 2023’s ‘Flowers’ continues his DIY voyage in a similar vein.
The Levellers are one of those bands who’ve often kept themselves incredibly busy. Aside from the time spent off the road during the pandemic restrictions, they’ve toured constantly. When not on the road, the members can be found writing or in the studio recording. The band’s production wheel keeps turning in a way that suggests there’s a real love of what they do. Never was this more true than in 2018. Celebrating their 30th anniversary as a band, they released ‘We The Collective’, an album reworking old favourites acoustically, embarked on a twenty two date acoustic tour, played five festival dates, another two big shows arranged around their own “A Beautiful Day Out”, and almost thirty full electric shows. In between those, vocalist/guitarist Mark Chadwick found time to play seven solo gigs. In terms of work ethic, that’s a schedule probably only rivalled by Frank Turner, a man who seemingly never sleeps.
Subtitled ‘Pastoral Psychedelia & Funky Folk’, this three disc anthology from Strawberry Records delves deeply into an era where folk music adopted a more progressive approach, and prog/psych bands weren’t afraid to get whimsical. Although the music within isn’t always easily pigeonholed, the bands and artists featured cross genres and moods freely, in a way that captures a period like no other, mixing folk narratives and very English tones with the worldly haze of a prog rock experimentation and a love of jazz. Without these genre-bending pioneers, John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’ mightn’t be the much loved masterpiece that it is, and Al Stewart might’ve been forever stuck in a Dylan-esque narrative rut. And that’s just scratching the surface.