Double 'A' side singles come along very rarely these days; long gone and sadly missed are the days of flipping your 45rpm vinyl between 'Straight To Hell' and 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?' Rarer still is a double whammy from two artists from the same stable. Whilst the vinyl revival may still be bubbling away in the corners of your local record store or in the living rooms of the sentimental fundamentalist or seriously traditional music lover, the main drivers of today's music business are clearly digital downloads, CDs and live performances. So it is with great pleasure, some surprise and, above all, unwavering appreciation for all concerned that I can share the latest release from Smugglers Records.
The Deal based record label is well known for its fabulous roster of multi-talented Folk and Roots flavoured artists and for its organic, earthy and inclusive ideology, so putting out a 7" single of such unique quality probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise. As if to confirm they are one happy family, the two major artists on the label have combined their not inconsiderable talents for the first, hopefully of many, 'Smugglers Record Club' single releases. The premium package from the two very different artists, namely Cocoslovers and Will Varley, is not only bound by the label but also by their particular propensity for superb song-writing.
'Baron Of Trees' is a new song from Cocoslovers. The song starts with delicacy and tenderness as the timid score backs the gentle layered vocal before the beat kicks in and the banjos and violins take us skipping through the reflective tune. Flutes and snares flit in and out as the male and female vocals combine and contrast to add texture and harmony to the undulating arrangement that brilliantly builds and breaks with the deftest of touches. The six piece Deal collective, headed up by Will Greenham, have clearly fine-tuned their skills since their last album release, 'Elephant Lands'. 'Baron Of The Trees' is not only a terrific song, it also manages to encapsulate and showcase each of the bands individual talents. Natasha Greenham's violin and Nicola Vella's flute passages are both delightful and, when used in unison, quite captivating. This is Cocoslovers at their best playing infectious pedigree Folk. (Eat your heart out Mumford & Sons).
Equally brilliant, but for quite different reasons, is the other 'A' side of this double delectation. 'King For A King' is taken from Will Varley's stunning album 'Advert Soundtracks' and is arguably the best song of those ten. The narrative tale that goes from birth to death through formative years, first loves, rites of passage and the mundaneness of working life, fatherhood and eventual old age is a circle of life tale like no other. Will's ability to guide the protagonist through the song between his future aspirations and ultimate despondent realism is masterful. Nicola Vella adds an all too brief vocal accompaniment to Will's slightly gravelly voice, and the addition of the intermittent violin to Will's guitar supplements the arrangement very well. Why this song is just so effective, however, is because it is so superbly written with such well-versed, poignant lyrics that are each delivered with Will's great presence and passion ('well your teenage years scar you like daggers, your insecurity turns into a swagger. Defensive as Normandy, lacking maturity, drink like a fish, smoke like chimney. A King for a King, an eye for an eye, the birds still sing when they fall from the sky'). It's wonderful, stirring stuff.
In joining forces, Cocoslovers and Will Varley have helped Smugglers Records produce a rare treat for fans of both acts. The not unprecedented but definitely under-utilised vehicle of the double 'A' side from two different artists is a definite winner. As well as the new Vinyl/Download release, both artists have also taken the time to shoot two new character-driven videos to accompany each track. Hopefully, this combination, coupled with the up and coming live sets and the ever growing fan base, should ensure Smugglers Records new release gets all the air-play it surely deserves.