EP Review: Joe Frater – New York | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Cover art by Roxanne Mary

Thornaby singer-songwriter Joe Frater has released his debut EP entitled New York, a body of work that was inspired by his love of music from the other side of the Atlantic. However the inspiration behind the concept of the EP came from much closer to home as Joe explains.

‘Marshall’s House was John Squire’s first solo album after the Roses’ breakup, and every single song on the album is inspired by, and shares a title with a painting by American realist painter Edward Hopper. I thought this was an incredibly interesting concept so I set out to do something similar; I took 10 paintings by George W. Bellows, another American realist painter known for his bold depictions of urban life in early 20th century New York City, and I wrote 10 songs based on nothing but their titles and their subject matter. I couldn’t believe how much this experiment encouraged my writing process; I’d got my enthusiasm for composing back and all of the songs were easy and an absolute pleasure to write. I whittled them down to 5 songs and this is what became New York; a homage to Americana, inspired by the artwork of George Bellows.’

The EP could quite easily be played on any jukebox down in Memphis, with its mix of country, blues and honky-tonk. The first track, River Rats has an opening riff reminiscent of Seasick Steve, before turning into a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on Avery Barkley’s Bluebird setlist (fans of the show Nashville will know what I mean). The second track, Lady Jean is a folkier affair with Dylan-esque harmonica and tenderly strummed riverside riffs. The song has a slower pace than the first and meanders into the similarly paced, New York which takes turns the country feel of the first two tracks into more urban, Springsteen territory. 

One of the stand out tracks on the EP is Stag At Sharkey’s with its barrelhouse bounce and a ‘teenage sweethearts dancing at the diner’ kind of freedom. But just before you take a bite out of the hamburger you ordered, the American dream fades on the Britpop tinged final track, Blue Morning, which veers the EP off Route 66 and onto the M6 towards Manchester (maybe to pay a visit to John Squire). 

New York is out now and there will be a launch gig at Musiclounge in Stockton on Saturday September 7th to promote the release, Support comes from local singer/songwriters Nicky Chapman and Kimberley Heron.

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