Singer/songwriter/guitarist Vic Allen has continued to release top-quality singles since her ‘Between The Lines’ EP in early 2018. The Norwich-based performer blends heartfelt lyrics with a new-country instrumental backing, subtle and always reflective of the sentiment of the song. ‘Talk’ had a longing and urgency in the sung short phrases before the chorus sailed in with its descending backing voices and raised the track to new heights.
‘Enough’ was built around a mid-tone guitar figure which continues effectively through the song as the lyric unwinds ‘… walking home with my headphones on…same old street…same old song…‘. The tale of frustration weaved through with the chasing of dreams resolves into the chorus line ‘…it ain’t enough for me…’. It is an impressive song of questing and questioning with a contemplative and cinematic soundtrack.
Now new single ‘Ghost Town’ is a more soulful ballad, with the vocal performance the key aspect as guitar effects drift in and out below. It is a slow building complex track featuring melancholy thoughts, ‘….I don’t want to fall asleep with this fear in my heart…’ with bleak conclusions ‘…out here it’s just a ghost town…’.
Halfway through the percussion joins to propel the narrator and listener through the emotionally desolate townscape of the title. With a mesmerising voice, a deep bass line and a spectrum of guitars and sonic textures this adds up to a haunting and memorable single.
Vic Allen is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Norwich, making a name for herself in the flourishing UK new-country/folk scene. This set of four songs is a follow-up to ‘The Missing Piece’ EP from 2016. Opening track ‘Quit’ is a melancholy tale of the end of a relationship, woven through with resignation and reality. The gentler guitar work in the verses steps up into the sweeping but controlled chorus and the video partly filmed on the vast and strangely empty beaches of the Norfolk coast symbolises better times now gone. ‘Bittersweet’ is affecting in its deceptive simplicity, with some subtle vocal harmonies.
The title track is all about escape into the wide open spaces and an unknown future, a preferable alternative to a life trapped ‘Between The Lines’, set to a more conventional US country sound of instrumentation and vocal stylings than the rest of the EP. It is a fine soundtrack to the road-trip video that accompanies the music. ‘Kids’ is Vic’s best vocal performance, full of heartfelt mellow nostalgia for lost time over counterpointing guitar figures and a haunting hookline.
It is an impressive EP, four contrasting tracks that showcase Vic Allen’s expressive voice and songwriting potential.
It is good to know that a bit of searching finds that the folk and roots scene in Cambridge extends far beyond the annual folk festival and includes events such as this triple showcase hosted in the intimate surroundings of J3, set out cabaret style with candle-lit tables creating a very friendly and supportive ambience.
Having established themselves in other bands, Yve, Clare and Lu are still deciding on a name but in the meantime play guitar and violin and on a night where harmony vocals featured strongly they did justice to some timeless songs, including a subtle version of the Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody’. Original compositions too are promised in the future.
Trio Luna Falls instantly create a captivating sound; three acoustic guitars and vocals that gel with each other perfectly and reflect many years of sisters singing together. They play tracks from their EP and also cover versions including a spirited rendition of ‘The Irish Rover’. I think their own material is very strong; the haunting waltz ‘Gentle Lies’, the multi-layered tones of ‘Breakthrough’ and of course the impressive, award-winning ‘Falling To Pieces’, a favourite of mine from a recently reviewed compilation.
From acoustic folk the evening then went into pure country rock with SJ Mortimer & The Flying Pigs. SJ has a great voice and her original songs reflect more of the up-side of the genre; travelling on (‘Hit The Road’), celebration of love (‘Heart Beats Faster’) and with ‘American Dream’ the desire to make music in Nashville (where SJ actually recorded her album!). The combination of violin, guitars, banjo and beefed-up cajón with extra bass drum effect gave plenty of depth to the sound with SJ’s voice soaring effortlessly through it all.
There was a cover of the late Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin” and a rowdy ‘Fireball’ which is the title track to her new EP and a good excuse for a drinking game. With guest backing vocalists on the contemplative ‘Smokey Mountains’ we were treated to some emotional six part harmonies. The final encore was the glorious ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, (which always seems to make it sound a fine place to be?!), a fitting conclusion to a really good show.