King Cedar is the new name on the lips of the alternative-folk community. Behind the alter-ego is a familiar voice, the tender tones of Stephen Macartney.

The songwriter and vocalist formerly of Farriers has been a mainstay of the Northern Irish music scene for many years. He’s honed his craft in bars, backrooms, and festival stages. Recently, he spent time in the United States drawing on the inspiration of these turbulent times.

And that’s where we are with this debut single. ‘Hey, I’m Stephen’ pulls back the King Cedar mask. Musically, there’s a Nashville twang akin to Townes Van Zandt or Gram Parsons. Much like those artists, however, the melodic notes betray a much darker subject matter.

‘Hey, I’m Stephen’ is an honest confessional; a look at life through the eyes of someone living through depression.

And the war was going badly, when we lost the king to the devil and his whores. As my body fell to pieces, you’d be surprised how easy it was to ignore.

Draped in a poetry Conor Oberst would be proud of, King Cedar’s solo foray is one that will resonate with listeners. As humankind slowly comes to the realisation that it’s ok to not be ok, it’s important for this level of honesty from artists and fans alike.

And I spent so many years convinced I didn’t make the grade. Oh I believed it. I believed it. I was beyond being saved.

We may never understand the personal or professional grades that Macartney felt unable to make. It’s neither for us to suppose nor know. This release, though, feels weightier, more important, more honest than any prior work.

The Nashville influence is clear with Dave Marks on bass, Matt Weir on drums, Michael Keeney on keys, and Colm McClean weaving the strands together with pedal steel. Yet, there’s something dark, brooding, and inherently Irish in the imagery and honesty. All in, it’s essential listening whoever and wherever you are.

We can expect much more from Stephen Macartney as King Cedar. A four-track EP is in production and you can find out more and get involved in the release on the King Cedar fundraising page.