Since we started the High Fives feature two years ago, only two guest contributors have been ever-present. We’ve already heard from Dean Owens, so now it’s time for Billie Ray Martin. Her choices are always interesting and eclectic and this year is no exception. Have a listen to these and you’ll see what we mean.

Nils BechNils Bech – “Jealousy”

He’s done it again. After my initial surprise that he was once again covering the trials and tribulations of a relationship on this album, I realised that his approach is radical. He tells a deep truth that is at times uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding to witness. ‘Jealousy’ is the most striking example from this best album of 2014.



WatersonWaterson – “Ae Fond Kiss”

Waterson deserves major recognition in the coming year. “Ae Fond Kiss” is just something he came out with, because he felt like it. The effortless skill and talent here is apparent as is the deep soul that drives him.




Hans-Joachim RoedeliusHans-Joachim Roedelius – “Tape Archive 1973-1978”

This is one of my most precious possessions. Not only is the quality of the vinyl, the cardboard, the print, the best I’ve ever seen and the mastering is warm and lush; the music too is almost unexpectedly beautiful and the influence on people like Brian Eno becomes even more obvious. Each vinyl includes also a CD album. Money was never better spent.



Bright Light Bright LightBright Light Bright Light feat. Elton John – “I Wish We Were Leaving”

When I heard this song I emailed Rod Thomas telling him that the (at the time) 26,000 listens on Soundcloud were all mine! Songwriting at its best.



Eric D ClarkEric D. Clark & The Scandals – “Summer Cruising EP”

This is not a new release but I came across it this year. It is an uplifting song, with a funky production and mix. The inimitable Eric D Clark on vocals warm up the heart while you skip round the living room dancing.

For the second consecutive year, Billie Ray Martin makes a contribution to our High Fives feature.  We’ve been looking forward to this one because the 2012 selection featured some great songs and artists which were new to us at MusicRiot.  We weren’t disappointed.  Please take a bit of time to check out the links; it’s worth it.

Visions of the CountryRobbie Basho – “Blue Crystal Fire”

Robbie Basho’s tenth album “Visions of the Country” (originally released in 1978) was re-released this year after being unavailable for over thirty years.  Although he’s remembered for his innovative guitar stylings and tunings and attempts to integrate western and oriental music, the standout feature on this song is the powerful counter-tenor vocal with incredible vibrato.  He died at the age of 45 in 1986.


Look InsideNils Bech – “Breaking Patterns Part 2 (The Breakup)”

The first of two selections from the Norwegian performance artist Nils Bech’s 2013 “Look Inside” album, this is an intimate arrangement with a minimalist acoustic piano and beautiful sautillé strings under a close-miked vocal which deals with a relationship falling apart.  The final third of the song mirrors the break-up with a descent into atonality from the string section.


NinaXiu Xiu –  “Don’t Smoke In Bed”

Xiu Xiu is an American experimental indie band which has existed in various guises since 2002. This song is from the recently- released album of Nina Simone covers, “Nina”.  The arrangement is almost completely percussion-free, with rhythm supplied by a horn section and one guitar and shifts from fairly traditional horn arrangements (with the guitar taking one of the horn lines) to free-form jazz.  Singer Jamie Stewart delivers a vocal which is just this side of a deranged, creating a version which, incredibly, is more over-wrought than the original.
Look InsideNils Bech – “A Sudden Sickness”

This follows directly on from “Breaking Patterns…” on the “Look Inside” album and is the next part of the  narrative sequence.  The song opens with acoustic piano backing before settling into an electronic percussion and keyboard arrangement underpinning the lyrical theme of the inevitable jealousy towards an ex-partner who has moved on; it actually has a feel of the Abba song “One of Us”.  Both are standout songs, but you really should listen to the entire album.

Garden of ProblemsPoisonous Relationship – “Men’s Feelings”

This is a contemporary track which takes its influences from the early ‘90s when house started to incorporate breakbeats into the 303 and 808 backing tracks.  It has a feel of Jamie Principle and, towards the end, a hint of the jazz-funk of NuYorican Soul.  It’s the lead track from the androgynous Sheffield artist Jamie Crewe’s “Garden of Problems” EP and it’s hypnotic and gorgeous.