MERRY HELL – Bloodlines (Merry Hell Music MHMCD 0116)

bloodlinesI was always a fan of The Tansads back in the 90s and the reunion of three Kettle brothers, singer Andrew, guitarist John and mandolin player Bob, along with John’s wife Virginia, in 2010 under their present name has done nothing to change my mind. Bloodlines is their fourth full-length album since then, the first to feature the voices of all eight members (the others being keyboardist Lee Goulding, Neil McCartney on fiddle with bassist Nick Davies and drummer Andy Jones comprising the rhythm section) and not only continues to see their political veined folk flourish, but also takes both that and the songs of personal relationships up a few notches.

It opens with ‘We Need Each Other Now’, John’s stirring anthemic cry for unity in a world divided over a martial beat and ringing guitars, a theme further explored on Bob’s swaying folk rock ‘Come On, England!’, here, again featuring the band’s massed voices, focusing at the divisions at home, a call for arms in a show of the nation’s tradition of tolerance and defence of people’s rights in the face of the troubling rise nationalism and racism in the name of the red, white and blue.

Sandwiched between is the title track, penned and sung by Virginia, a song that, presumably inspired by the current trend to trace family trees, again celebrates connections, this time within the family and generations, scraping fiddle and tumbling drums providing the song’s spine. ‘Coming Home Song’ is another from Bob, a heartfelt call for peace born of the refugee crisis sung a capella by himself, Andre, Virginia, Neil and Nick, while, again raising the anthemic flag and setting a martial beat, ‘All The Bright Blossoms’, on which he’s joined by Goulding on writing duties, addresses mortality and how love lives on in memory.

Virgina provides two in a row, echoing the theme of ageing on the acoustic slow guitar and fiddle waltzing ‘When We Are Old’, which she also sings, and striking political notes with ‘Stand Down’, a defiant message from those seeking freedom, mercy and justice to those who seek to oppress and exploit. Co-penned by John and Bob, the weary ‘Sailing Too Close To The Wind’ is another call to action, and not sing lullabies to our demons and simply “lie there and wait for the end to come.”

‘Chasing A Bluebird’ is something new from the band, the first to be written by McCartney, a country tinged waltzer duet between Andrew and Virginia about an inconstant restless lover leaving broken hearts behind, carried along, as you might guess, on a fiddle tide.

The final four numbers are all from Virginia. The traditional coloured ‘Over The Wall’ a rousing tale of a now or never prison escape by men locked up for striking for better pay and this, in turn, leads into the dreamy ‘Under The Overkill’, pizzicato fiddle and snare introducing a tumbling celebration of a love affair and its “wonderful moments in glorious technicolour”, Andrew providing the chorus refrain to her verses.

She shares credits with Bob and Goulding, who also wrote the music, for the penultimate ‘Man of Few Words’, another tender love song – a la ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ – about being unable to express what you want feel, before bringing things to a close with ‘Sweet Oblivion’, a playfully frisky, mandolin and fiddle driven hoedown, each member taking a bow on their respective instruments, about seizing love and life (“kiss me like it was the last night on earth”) and not going grimly into the dark night. If I was planning a party for the apocalypse, this lot would be top of the list for the house band.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the MERRY HELL – Bloodlines link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk

‘Come On, England!’ – live at the Citadel, St Helens:

EDDY MORTON – Rainbow Man (New Mountain Music NMM 2015/2)

Rainbow ManRainbow Man is Eddy Morton’s fourth solo album since the demise of The Bushburys and it finds him cast in the role of neo-sixties troubadour. Heaven knows there is plenty of scope for sharp song writing.

The title track is resolutely American and inspired by real people. Eddy does a great accent, an amalgam of mid-West and West Midlands, and as I played the album for the first time I heard more Americanisms than are actually present. That may have something to do with ‘Emily’ which can trace its lineage back to 1965.

After ‘Rainbow Man’ come three songs that address our current situation. ‘The Battle For Stourbridge’ – where Eddy lives – is in part a tribute to the working narrow-boats that crossed the country from Liverpool to Boston. Beneath that is a song that will resonate all over the country about the fight between people who know what they want and the bureaucracy that tells them otherwise. ‘In London Town’ is a classic contrast between a “have” and a “have-not” and ‘This Is War In Any Other Name’ covers just about every other obscenity committed by this government.

It’s not all political diatribes, though. There are reflective songs on episodes of life; songs like ‘When The Circus Comes To Town’ and ‘On The Journey From The Schoolhouse’ and meditative pieces like ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘Angels Never Cry’. Eddy’s band includes Andy Jones on fiddle and Trevor Spinks on Dobro, providing the Americana with Aidan O’Brien’s uilleann pipes used sparingly but to great effect and a guest appearance by rising star Sunjay.

This is a record to groove along with. I think Eddy has done it again.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.newmountainmusic.com/eddy-morton