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Welcome to Fifty3Fridays – band champions for emerging independent and grassroots artistes with an e. At least that’s the plan. It has been increasingly hard to keep up with the volume of fine new music that hits my desk and I am woefully behind in acknowledging those kind souls who submit music direct through this site. I just glanced up at my calendar and clocked that Monday is Spring Bank Holiday. If you ever need a reminder of the remorseless march of time, that’s it in a nutshell.


Each week I choose a small number of songs to share with you. I try to project a snapshot of each featured artiste with a bit about them, the song and what I liked about it. I restrict the number of songs on the grounds of time available to write and optimal attention span which I usually gauge as around six. So here goes with this week’s sumptuous six!

Our first stop is Waterford in south-east Ireland where we find Stella Hennessey aka Stella and the Dreaming. The name may hint that she has a full band behind her but Stella’s work is all her own – written, performed, recorded and produced herself and then mixed by sound engineer, Alessandro Di Camillo. Stella is quite a newcomer as she has only just played a third live gig last night. Yet that is by the by as her latest single was rightly voted a Fresh Fave by Fresh On The Net readers last week and shows the surefootedness of a seasoned songstress.

“A short ballad for frankie and everything we shared (in E flat)” is the explanatory title of Stella and the Dreaming’s new single. It’s a song that speaks for itself without lifting a veil of mystery, so it could apply equally to a lost love or to grief. It washes over you to leave a redeeming sense of hope, beautifully played and sung with a calm serenity enveloping it.  Embracing the qualities of a timeless piano ballad, Stella employs sparse instrumentation assisted by little brushstrokes of deft layering. I love the way the song ends without an obvious resolution; like a whisper of wind. Stella is kindly donating the proceeds from purchases of the song via Bandcamp to the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund, so please do support if you can.

I referenced the passage of time in today’s opening remarks and had to raid the memory cells to check that there was something else about Stella’s song that resonated. Elements of it put me in mind of the transient partnership of Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins, Bella Union) and Wisconsin-born singer-songwriter Stephanie Dosen under the aegis of Snowbird. It is in the graceful melodic transitions, vocal delicacy and shared intimacy of mood. I reviewed Snowbird’s debut and only album for Consequence and was surprised not only to spot it still online but also to find it was a full ten years ago. How time doth pass… [you’ve done this bit earlier – Ed]. Anyhow, as a worthy companion piece to Stella and the Dreaming, here is Snowbird’s “Porcelain” from 2014's Moon, boasting fine piano-driven melody lines, a meltingly soft vocal and a fragility at its core.

Our next stop is Nottingham and the train departs in five minutes. I had intended to convey this one to its destination soon after its release on 9 May but after a work to rule, signal failures and several episodes of leaves on the line [Ok that’s quite enough spurious railway references – Ed], it is now 24 May. So, enter Hello Midlands, who like Stella and the Dreaming sound like a band but in this case may or may not be. It might be the solo project of one Iain Simons; actually, in this case not quite knowing just adds to the fun. However, I can glean that Hello Midlands has three EPs under its belt and an album entitled Placeford in the works.

“Branch Line Station” is self-described as a song about culture, geography and public transport, underpinned by the story of a girl who wants to see some art, but can't. As Iain adds “it's not so much that the grass is always greener, more that they have grass and you don't.” From the opening keyboard drone and unexpectedly long, sustained vocal note, this is a song that stands to attention. A mixture of earnest storytelling allied to aspects of folk opera, “Branch Line Station” is a wholly compelling piece of music, sung with gusto. Lyrically it is shot through with pathos yet is grounded by everyday observation and a sharp turn of phrase. Marvellous stuff.

Neev is an artiste who has come up on the Fifty3Fridays radar on several occasions, both as a solo act with live band support and as a member of Frankie Morrow. The solo music of the London-based Glasgow native takes something from the rhythms of Scots folk music, adding a touch of jazz to her melodies combined with fine vocal inflections alongside deft storytelling. The result is a thoughtful and immersive blend characterised by a sure command of her broad vocal register.

Neev’s latest single, “Dianne”, is a story of someone who is ‘in denial about who they are, the person they’re with and the life that they live.’ The lyrics paint a disturbing picture of what others can see in a relationship that the titular character of the song cannot. Or at least denies. The song explores how this can shape a person’s life and affect those around her. Starting out softly in folk tones, Neev’s soothing voice glides and picks up pace in the soft folk rock choruses to deliver an exemplary and sympathetic vocal topline. The last minute and more is given over to a ghostly coda; an open ending which seems to echo the title character drifting apart and moving out of focus.

We close with two highly individual singer-songwriters with a Glastonbury connection. I have been meaning to feature Shropshire native Jessie Reid since she was longlisted in this year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition. Chosen by Crack Magazine for her entry song “Let Your Love Run Cold”, the writer hit the spot with his comment: “Beautiful harmonies and delicate vocals. Jessie Reid is a talented musician that understands how to build a song structure that pulls at the heart and stays in the head.” A few weeks later Jessie’s latest single, “Your Story”, was picked by Fresh On The Net readers as a Fresh Fave.

On “Your Story” Jessie sounds like the friend who would have the back of anyone feeling troubled. Her gentle coaxing and encouragement is touching and emotive, whether this is written about a specific person or more universally applied. Her soothing voice and percussive fingerstyle guitar work in great harmony while the drifting violin and layering on the vocals add soft hues. It is simply a thing of beauty. Jessie Read has equally been busy successfully crowdfunding to finance her debut album and while she did not make the Emerging Talent final cut, I was delighted to find that she has landed herself a spot on the prestigious Acoustic Stage at this summer’s festival. It’s on my list of must-sees.

A Glastonbury connection extends to our final act this week. I chose Winchester native Ella Janes as one of my three acts for Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Longlist in 2013 – yes 11 years ago; it’s that marching time thing again - and it’s always a pleasure to reconnect with her music. She has just shared a new live session for a song she wrote some years ago. “No Place Like Home” remains one of her favourite songs to play live. Ella now lives in Oxford and recorded this version nearby in the Cotswolds with Tom White adding stately brushed percussion to Ella’s seductive, jazz-infused vocal and finger-style electric guitar. More please… and a plea to bring back “Helen” one day?



FIFTY3 champions

outstanding new music

through Fifty3 Fridays and

occasional features 


Music is a great passion of mine. In my teenage years I was an avid record collector and concert goer. Stints as a booking agent, running folk clubs, promoting gigs and even a crack at artiste management followed. While it never became my main occupation, music was always on my personal radar.


In the past 15 years I have written for leading US music website  Consequence and breakthrough  site, BestNewBands. I am a judge for Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition and have reviewed the festival for both sites. I am now pleased to curate my very own music site.


Nothing gives me greater pleasure than unearthing great, original new music and championing independent musicians. You’ll find many of them on this site alongside the occasional legend of times past and I hope they will bring  you as much joy as they give me.

Tony Hardy



Selected dates in the London area:

Fri 7 Jun: Alexandra Leaving/Frankie Morrow, The Waiting Room, London N16

Sat 8 Jun: Bat For Lashes, St John's Church, Kingston

Sun 9 Jun: Blanid, The Black Heart, London NW1

Mon 17 Jun: The Mysterines, St John's Church, Kingston

Thu 20 Jun: Charm of Finches, The Lexington, London N1 See the Events page for all live shows in Kingston


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