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:

Merry Hell breaks loose!

Merry HellRising 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.

GhostTracks 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.

The title track (more or less) of the EP:

MERRY HELL PREMIERE NEW ‘LOVING THE SKIN YOU’RE IN’ VIDEO

Merry Hell feb14Merry Hell have released a new video and download single to tie in with their forthcoming spring tour.

‘Loving The Skin You’re In’ is taken from the folk-rock outfit’s critically-acclaimed second album ‘Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain’ (Mrs Casey Records) which saw them land a series of high-profile festival dates in 2013. Continue reading MERRY HELL PREMIERE NEW ‘LOVING THE SKIN YOU’RE IN’ VIDEO