MERRY HELL – A Grand Night Out (Focal Media)

MERRY HELL A Grand Night OutThree albums to the good and a growing reputation, Merry Hell, have seen fit to release a live DVD. Having seen the band perform live and reviewed their last excellent album The Ghost In Our House and other stories…, I slipped the DVD into the player with some anticipation. I was not disappointed.

The selection of songs come from across the three albums and with exception of the elusive ‘No Money’, which I have yet to catch live, all my favourites are in evidence.

The first thing that hit me was the high quality of the sound recording. I actually wondered, initially, if the track was overdubbed, but could see after a few minutes that it was the actual live soundtrack. The performance starts a little restrained and then eases into more comfortable delivery. Not unusual for any live show.

So, what we have here is Merry Hell moving from jig, to light folk to Celtic rock and all colours between. Top of the list, for me: ‘Let’s Not Have A Morning After’, ‘There’s A Ghost In Our House’, ‘The Butcher And The Vegan’ and ‘BLINK… and You Miss It’. Although, I am sure you will all have your own favourites if you are a fan. If you have never heard any of Merry Hell’s music you really are missing out on some damn fine folk/folk rock.

Not seen Merry Hell live? Well, here is the next best thing. Support the band, buy the DVD and have a Grand Night In.

Ron D Bowes

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Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk

‘The Baker’s Daughter’:

JAMES KEELAGHAN – new album

HistoryJAMES KEELAGHAN – Celebrating 25 Years Of Performing

History contains eighteen studio versions of James’ most beloved songs, while on the accompanying DVD we find James in the comfort of his home telling the stories behind the music

The CD booklet contains twenty eight pages of pictures and text from James’ own pen.   

Called Canada’s finest singer songwriter by the respected American journalist and historian Dave Marsh, James Keelaghan is an artist who has proven to be a man for all seasons. As the calendar pages have turned, for a quarter of a century now, this poet laureate of the folk and roots music world has gone about his work with a combination of passion and curiosity. His masterful story telling has, over the course of eleven recordings, have been part of the bedrock of his success, earning Keelaghan nominations and awards – including a Juno and acclaim from Australia to Scandinavia.
Continue reading JAMES KEELAGHAN – new album

THE DEMON BARBERS – The Lock-In (Safecracker Pictures DVD SP059)

THE DEMON BARBERS The Lock-InHaving witnessed the ‘Celtic’ hit Riverdance on its opening night in London in 1995 and being absolutely blown-away (as was the sold-out audience) by the effervescent amalgamation of dance techniques I wondered if there might ever be a British ‘folk’ equivalent. Well, for me that long wait has now been answered with The Demon Barbers folk/hip hop theatre production “The Lock-In” formerly known as Time Gentlemen Please. Now, maybe it’s just me but the opening scene with its American Werewolf In London type pub set-piece being visited by three hip-hop dancers (and a Continue reading THE DEMON BARBERS – The Lock-In (Safecracker Pictures DVD SP059)

Sunday for Sammy 2012 DVD now released…

Sunday for Sammy 2012Where else but at a Sunday for Sammy 2012 show could you see Auf Wiedersehen Pet’s Tim Healy, Kevin Whately, Chris Fairbank and Julia Tobin in a hilarious sketch written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais that also featured Emmerdale’s Chris Chittell, Loose Women’s Denise Welch and Byker Grove’s Donna Air, all playing the parts of King Arthur and his court and kept in order by Merlin the Magician, played by the inimitable Brendan Healy.  Add to that a rapturous standing ovation for surprise guest Joe McElderry following his stunning rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’, another pair of side-splitting sketches written by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood featuring Emmerdale’s Charlie Hardwick and Chelsea Halfpenny plus Continue reading Sunday for Sammy 2012 DVD now released…

VIN GARBUTT – Teesside Troubadour (Pancrack TV PAN4DVD)

For those not in the know, Vin Garbutt is the kind of bloke that you would like as your best mate. He could talk the hind legs off a donkey (in the nicest possible way) and his entertaining banter covers the sublime to the ridiculous. OK with introductions and clichés out of the way this documentary is lovingly crafted by Craig Hornby and should be required viewing by anyone who considers himself a true ‘folk music’ fan. The opening scene shows our hero emerging rabbit-like from his warren (or house in this case) looking onto a glorious vista of rolling hills that you would only normally expect to see on a postcard or the top of a box of biscuits. How any man could be enticed away from such a beautiful setting is beyond me but of course, as is the nature of the beast and to gain that somewhat dubious honour of being a fully paid-up member of the elite band of ‘real’ troubadours Garbutt has to travel far and wide in search of his own personal pot of gold. Continue reading VIN GARBUTT – Teesside Troubadour (Pancrack TV PAN4DVD)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Transatlantic Sessions 4 (Whirlie Records DVD03)

You can tell from the photo on the sleeve of “Transatlantic Sessions 4” that this DVD is going to be something special. It depicts Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas broadly grinning at each other as if they were the cats that had got the cream and who could blame them? In the illustrious company of amongst others; Karan Casey, Rosanne Cash, Phil Cunningham, Julie Fowlis, Donal Lunny, Mike McGoldrick, Donald Shaw, Emily Smith and James Taylor it’s enough to make any real ‘folk’ enthusiast salivate at the very thought of what lies in the little black box. As a musician myself, there’s a feeling of jealousy but then again, who wouldn’t want to be part of such an astonishing gathering. To coin the vernacular, “…they must have been freezing their nuts off!” wouldn’t I suspect be too far from the truth but the musicians collective warmth for each other would be enough to power a small sun. Onto the content itself and really it’s a case of where to begin? The title credits encapsulate everything by bringing a sense of wonder with stunning views of chilly rivers and a beautiful Scottish vista all within 28 seconds (and yes, I did set my stop-watch to time it) utilising Douglas trademark dobro, gently brushed snare drum, Uilleann pipes and fiddle. This in itself is enough to draw the listener/viewer in and get your feet tapping with the expectant thought of what is about to emerge phoenix like (this is the 4th series) from this box of treasures. The glue that holds everything together is of course the chemistry between the musicians and the main protagonists in this respect are fiddler Ali Bain and the astonishing accompaniment from Jerry “We are not worthy” Douglas. The camaraderie of everyone involved is a welcoming sight/sound and the collaborative juices flow without any sense of awkwardness just a mutual respect for each other and the obvious delight of working in such exalted company. The songs and tunes are painstakingly crafted and so too are the contributions of all the technical staff. In particular I’d like to point out the professional integrity of all involved (something you don’t see too often in the ‘folk world’) in providing such a banquet of audio and visual delights directed by Mike Alexander and produced by Douglas Eadie. Particular mention in despatches must go to the splendid eye for photography of Mark Littlewood, Derek Ritchie’s lighting and Allan Young’s superb mastery of capturing the sound so well. I’d also like to extend a round of applause to George Brown for making this four-hour extravaganza available via the Whirlie Records catalogue. If you can’t tell from this short review how blown away I am with this double disc DVD then do yourselves a favour, rifle through your bank account (I know how difficult that is in the present climate) and treat yourself to some tangible ‘magic’. http://www.whirlierecords.co.uk/ PETE FYFE