This was a prestige gig billed for TMTCH as The 30th Anniversary Reprise Show – nothing like making the most of it.
The London Sewage Company are, in Ron’s words, a powerpunk outfit with a lead guitarist inexplicably missing from a heavy metal band. They also have a nice line in humour –“London sewage comes from everything you do” – ho, ho. They played a strong set but it lacked light and shade and you couldn’t help but wonder how their song about London’s lost toyshops would have sounded if written by Ray Davies.
Merry Hell showed them how it should be done, mixing power and restraint. My top track was ‘Bury Me Naked’ featuring Andrew Kettle’s only instrumental contribution – on hammer and spade! You have to hear the verses or the whole point of the song is lost so the band held back but the moment the last words left Virginia Kettle’s lips it was as though a switch had been flipped and that huge fairground chorus rolled over us.
They have a sizeable back catalogue now and they mixed them up and much as a ten song set would allow. Ron was disappointed that ‘No Money’ was omitted and I would have loved to hear ‘Iron Man’ but, although that song carried over into their first album, the days of Tansads are now a fond memory. Quite rightly – Merry Hell are their own new creation and ‘The Crooked Man’, ‘The Baker’s Daughter’ and ‘The War Between Ourselves’ are songs for this century.
The Men They Couldn’t Hang seemed a bit off form initially. Their third song, ‘The Ghosts Of Cable Street’, got the crowd bouncing and was excellent but ‘Shirt Of Blue’ seemed oddly lacking in energy. After the mid-set acoustic break – Phil Odgers sang ‘Carrying A Flame’ from The Defiant and Cush’s choice of ‘Hotel Chambermaid’ was interesting – they came back and suddenly stepped on the gas.
‘Smugglers’ hit the ground running and the other selections from The Defiant: ‘Bonfires’, ‘Fail To Comply’ and ‘Scavengers’ eclipsed the recorded versions. There are a few fixed points in any TMTCH set – it’s just a matter of waiting. Jon Odgers sat in for ‘The Crest’ after ‘Going Back To Coventry’ and ‘The Colours’ and ‘Ironmasters’ closed the set with ‘Walkin’ Talkin’’ as an encore.
This was their night and their crowd and at the end we were all bawling out the choruses. All together now: “Red is the colour of the new republic…”
Dai Jeffries Ron D Bowes
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This is Merry Hell’s third album and the band are into their stride. There is a tightness and polish evident in this collection of songs, indicative of a band that is comfortable in itself. This is a jam packed feast of fifteen tracks, so, no sign of writer’s block here.
There are jolly jigs, shanties and a soupcon of country & western in the mix. The songs are often reflective, witty and never dull. The voices intertwine well and the musicianship accomplished.
There are so many good tracks that it is impossible to take it all in on any cursory listen. It is an album that insists on multiple visits. It also presents the reviewer’s quandary of picking favourite songs.
Nevertheless, here are my top picks from the disc. ‘There’s a Ghost In My House’ is a confident opener, with a melody that sticks. The marvellous ‘Human Communion’ starts with single guitar and Virginia Kettle’s solo voice tripping a catchy tune and slowly the band joins in. Also worthy of mention is ‘Love Is A Game’ a pleasant, danceable ditty. Topping the list are the barn-strutting ‘No Money’ and the humorous ‘Hey. Scotty’. Of course, with subsequent visits, I am sure other tracks will become firm favourites. Such is music.
Not a filler amongst this choc filled album. It’s all typical “Merry Hell” and that should be good enough for anybody. Having enjoyed their first two albums, I am pleased to say the group is going from strength to strength.
If you have never sampled the delights of this band before, this album is an excellent introduction to their music.
Ron D Bowes
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The first leg of the “Ghost In Our House Tour” is behind us and we are now busy rehearsing for the forthcoming acoustic leg. For those who haven’t seen the acoustic incarnation of the band we can’t recommend it highly enough. Some of the venues on this leg will be seated giving you the opportunity to enjoy the more subtle side of the band but as ever there will be the opportunity to belt out an anthem or two! There may even be other new songs added to the set…
The band have been worked hard on the tour and actually played two sets in both Derby and Lancaster. Derby saw the first performance of material from the new album when “The Baker’s Daughter” was aired for the first time by the six piece acoustic band. It was played again by the full band at night along with ‘The Ghost In Our House’ and another driving rocker, ‘Rage Like Thunder’, though Stocksbridge were denied the latter which, due to a special request, was replaced in the set by ‘Emerald Green’. We made our third visit to Telfords in Chester, a venue where the audience are as close to the band as its possible to be which always makes for a lively night! Continue reading Merry Hell – news from The Ghost In Our House tour
Rising 8-piece folk-rockers, Merry Hell, release a new video and limited edition 4 track CD to tie in with their forthcoming tour and to herald the forthcoming album The Ghost In Our House (And Other Stories) – coming in the new year. The CD will be a free give away at gigs between now and Christmas but is also available to buy online from the band’s website. www.merryhell.co.uk/shop
The video was largely filmed at The Old Court Buildings in Wigan, where band member and producer John Kettle has his studio. However, our female lead singer, Virginia Kettle did have to walk in and out of the sea off the North Wales coast in order to obtain a number of shots. The storyline was developed by the whole band and shot and produced by our fiddle player Neil McCartney.
Tracks on The Ghost EP are:
1: There’s A Ghost In our House (3.21) An up tempo and atmospheric track that reminds us that ghosts can come in many forms. To describe it as haunting would be a little clichéd but once heard, the tune will inhabit the twisting corridors of your mind, emerging at the most unexpected moments. Almost but not quite the title track of the new album but certainly its inspiration.
2: The Baker’s Daughter (2.58) A memorable folk-rock anthem with a chorus that audiences have been joining in with almost as soon as they have heard it. The lyrics tell a story that will strike a chord with many of the female listeners.
The first two tracks are taken from the album which will be out in the New Year. The final two tracks are bonus tracks
3: Nobody Knows Me Like You (4.41) Slower and gentler musically but with a strongly reflective and insightful lyric that make the song powerful in a different way. Newly recorded by the band and exclusive to The Ghost CD EP.
4: Rosanna’s Song (3.56): A live version of a crowd favourite, recorded at The Grand Venue in Clitheroe. Living proof that, while Andrew’s voice has been likened to a strimmer in a bucket of gravel, he does have a softer, more velvety underbelly. A beautiful ballad of friendship.
Everyone remembers the charity version of ‘Perfect Day’ with its myriad of voices from the pop and rock world.
Let’s hope everyone will also remember the upcoming answer from the Folk World – ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ – with a plethora of voices from across the acoustic folk and roots spectrum representing the great and the good, young and the old, seasoned and emerging, all on the same single. The group is called The Armistice Pals and is releasing a fitting tribute to Pete Seeger, who sadly passed away this year as well as marking the 100 years anniversary of the breakout of the First World War. All profits will be distributed between four peacekeeping charities.