The last time I saw Ivan Moult, he had just played his fourth ever show with The School at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh. We’d been lamenting the proposed closure of BBC 6 Music, and the generally sorry state of the music industry. Five months and 4000 miles now separate me from the Wee Red Bar. Since then, 6Music has been granted a reprieve and Ivan has released his debut solo EP, Mine Canary, through Cardiff’s Bubblewrap Collective.
Mine Canary is a far cry from The School. Though there may be a dash of the 60s swirling around in the mix, you’ll find no Phil Spector or Brill Building sounds here. You can trace Ivan’s musical DNA through the folk scene and even deeper, dipping into the Delta blues. The songs are quite stripped down, Ivan’s smoky vocals accompanied almost exclusively by his own guitar playing, their colour enhanced by generous use of open chord voicings and rare, minimal piano fills.
For a disc like Mine Canary, choosing a standout track is an exercise in futility as any one of the last three tracks could be your favourite song on any given day. But, for purely melodic reasons and the sheer unforgettability of it, “Fetch me a bucket” has got to be the high point of the collection. Like any good folk song, it has the ring of something you’ve loved all your life with no distinct point of origin. I cannot tell you how long I’ve heard “So fetch me some water, and some bread and a bucket. / Leave me to sleep it off and send me to my bed. / And tell me in the morning how I ended up corrupted. / And then I’ll realise that you go straight to my head.” going round in my head, because, as far as I know, it’s always been there. What I can be sure of is this: when it is gone, it will be all too soon.
For years, miners in the UK and US would take canaries deep into the mines with them. So long as the birds remained healthy, the miners knew they were free from the immediate danger of toxic gas. And like its namesake, if Ivan Moult’s Mine Canary is any indicator, the world is still a safe place for music.