REG MEUROSS – Faraway People (Hatsongs HAT011)

Faraway PeopleI enjoyed Reg’s previous album, December, and Faraway People is more of the same and even better than its predecessor. Once again Reg has stripped himself back to the basics of voice and guitar – plus a bit of banjo and harmonica – with only engineer Roy Dodds in the studio for company. And for all its soft reflectiveness it hits as hard as anything you’ll hear this year.

The opening title track attacks government cruelty through the stories of its victims, driven to despair and suicide and ‘Angel In A Blue Dress’ takes a specific case of a nurse in the resource-starved NHS. ‘The Lonesome Death Of Michael Brown’ contains several nods to Bob Dylan in both its title and lyrics and ‘Cicero’ is oddly reminiscent of ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’. The former tells the story of the Afro-American boy shot by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri which gave rise to a wave of protests but I’m uncertain about the link to the Roman senator in the latter, unless it is his life-long struggle against corruption. The song has a modern setting with some righteous finger-pointing at the rich, and particularly bankers and lawyers, but more empathy for the ordinary people.

There is tenderness here, too. ‘New Brighton Girl’ and ‘In Your Arms’ are both love songs and ‘Refugee’ sees the western world through the story of one such, trying to settle into a new life. Its anger is buried in regret and a sense of helplessness but it’s there. Reg is not without humour, either. ‘Leavin’ Alabama’ tells of an imagined meeting between Hank Williams and Dylan Thomas – in a bar, of course – and ‘Phil Ochs & Elvis Eating Lunch In Morrison’s Café’ is pure Michael Marra. Note the apostrophe, this café is in the south-eastern USA although Reg also places it, somewhat confusingly, just off the M18 and it imagines two of his heroes together with him trying to eavesdrop.

Faraway People is destined to be one of the albums of the year. It will be released on July 28th but you really should be queuing up already.

Dai Jeffries

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 REG MEUROSS – Faraway People 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.

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Artist’s website: http://www.regmeuross.com/

‘Faraway People’ – in the studio:

REG MEUROSS – December (Hatsongs HAT010)

DecemberReg Meuross’ new album is a back-to-basics affair; one man, his acoustic guitar and harmonica and ten songs. It’s remarkably refreshing – I don’t know Reg’s music as well as I should but I think that will change very soon.

The opening song, ‘When You Needed Me’, is catchy and clever but I can’t help but think that he’s being rather knowing. He puts all the solo singer-songwriter tropes in this song – hints of Paul Simon, a dash of Bob Dylan and a wash of Leonard Cohen – as if to say “that’s what you expected, now let’s get on”. He follows that with ‘I Want You’, a love song with a great sense of intimacy, and this, you feel, is his real voice. That voice returns in the single, ‘The Hands Of A Woman’, a delicate ode to love that suddenly explodes with bitterness. The pattern is repeated with ‘In My Heart’ but this time the emotion is sadness rather than anger.

Reg is a master of melody, something of a lost art these days. ‘The Day She Never Cried’ is a perfect example of a sublime tune matched with great words and ‘The Night’ is a series of word-pictures that pull you in to snapshots of the world. Some of these songs are drowning in regret – ‘When You Needed Me’ and ‘Smarter Than Me’ are self-deprecating while ‘The Day She Never Cried’ obsessively picks away at the scars of a failed relationship. At least I think that’s what it’s about but the writer stands apart as if denying responsibility.

The album being called December it has to end with a ‘Christmas Song’ about one of the people forgotten at the festive season. Reg could take a very jaundiced view but, as with the rest of the album, the mood is one of regret and is surprisingly tender. This is a fine collection of songs which conceal great depths within their simplicity.

Dai Jeffries

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 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: www.regmeuross.com

Reg Meuross – new single and album

Reg MeurossAfter 10 album releases Reg Meuross has returned to the solo format which inspired him to write and sing in the first place. December is a collection of 10 of the most beautiful songs which go straight to the heart.

Many will know award winner Reg for the extraordinary intimacy of his live solo performances, and it’s the countless requests at these unique events for ‘the one that sounds just like what we’ve just heard’ that have inspired the production of this distinctive and entirely solo album of new songs.

On the 3rd of December Reg drove to London with his newly restored 1944 Martin guitar on a promise. That promise was to repay the kindness of various friends and supporters who had helped in bringing that sweet little instrument back from San Jose to the workshop of the master luthier, Stuart Palmer, in Doncaster. The moment he held that lovingly restored guitar in his hands, Reg set about fulfilling his promise by writing an entirely new collection of songs on it, and it was these which he brought to his great friend, the drummer and recording engineer, Roy Dodds’ Kitchen Floor Studio in White City. Over two days Reg recorded straight to mic with no overdubs or studio trickery.

This is the sound of beautifully crafted songs in their purest, most original and definitive form. One man – who just happens to be ‘one of the finest songwriters this country has produced’ [Mike Harding] – and his guitar.

Artist’s website: http://www.regmeuross.com/

JESS VINCENT – Shine (Hatsongs HAT008)

JESS VINCENT ShineOnce again produced by and featuring Reg Meuross (who also co-wrote five of the 12 tracks) with regular collaborators, guitarist Marcel Rose and cellist Beth Porter joined by Pete Willis on bass and Graham Brown taking over from Roy Dodds (who handles the mastering duties) on percussion, Vincent’s third album continues her upwards momentum as one of the brightest names on the UK folk-country scene. Again, the DeMent and Parton comparisons are to the forefront, but this time round I’d also suggest there’s a definite touch of early Nanci Griffiths to her engaging warbling trill, especially so on the lovely ‘Fall Apart’, the song itself putting me in mind of Julie Gold.

Reg providing the harmonica and banjo, it opens with the sparkling exuberant and infectious upbeat folk-pop title track, a number that could make the most dismal winter’s day feel like glorious spring, then, keeping the theme of love’s positivity (and the harmonica), comes ‘Love Me True’ before the first of the album’s songs rooted in real life figures. Featuring Vincent on shruti box, ‘New Amsterdam’ is a sort of sea shanty and gypsy waltz cocktail about Olive Thomas, a silent movies actress (and sister-in-law to Mary Pickford) whose promising screen career was cut short in 1920 after drinking mercury bichloride, rumouredly laced in her wine, sparking one of the first of media frenzy Hollywood scandals.

Moving from movies to music, Meuross co-penned closer ‘Billy Tipton’s Waltz’, Brown on brushed drums and Mike Cosgrave on piano, tells the story of William Lee Tipton, an Oklahoma-born 1950’s jazz pianist and saxophonist who was born Dorothy Lucille , but lived her life as a man (she had several wives and three adopted sons, who only discovered the truth when, 74, their father was treated for a fatal peptic ulcer), forming the Billy Tipton Trio (the others unaware of his true sex) and releasing two albums.

A somewhat less celebrated name, featuring Porter’s cello, ‘Wind On The Downs’ is adapted from the best known work by the Oxford-born poet Marian Allen, written after her fiancé, Arthur Greg, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps who was shot down in 1917. And, staying with a military but introducing a personal touch, the gently dappled, vocally soaring Parton-esque ‘Charley’s Song’ was written as a morale-boosting tribute to her army officer friend and the responsibilities she takes on.

There’s also a very personal note to the banjo and accordion backed Vincent/Meuross waltzer ‘Wrong Shade Of Blue’ that juggles the musically upbeat framework and the sunny day images with the emotions welling up over her mother’s death. She adopts a similar mismatch on ‘Shackles And Chains’, where she duets with herself on a piano led DeMent-like country heartbreaker about a woman rescued from post break -up suicide drowning and the chains of the past by a man the narrator meets in bar and who follows her to the sea.

Featuring Cosgrave’s accordion and Brown on cajon, the last of the co-penned numbers takes its cue from Tex-Mex tales of men seduced by femme fatales, ‘Run, Senor Run’a train-rolling rhythm tale about how Carlos ignores his friend’s warning that the woman with whom he’s besotted has come from the grave.

Which just leaves two self-penned tracks, the mid-tempo uke and cello accompanied ‘Raining’, a track that pretty much sums up the sort of day we’ve all had when the world seems to fall apart and the waters rise, and, again calling DeMent to mind, the gentle Appalachian heartache of ‘Here And Now’, Porter’s cello underscoring the lyrics (again, surely informed by her mother’s passing) about the grief, loss and and sense of being left alone following the death of someone close. Listen hard and you may find it hard not to feel a lump welling in the throat. Her best album yet, Vincent doesn’t just shine, she positively glows.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album, download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Artist’s website: http://www.jessvincentsings.com/

‘Shine’ – live performance and interview:

REG MEUROSS: England Green & England Grey (Hatsongs)

Reg MeurossOn this album it’s the historical material where Reg Meuross’s songwriting is particularly fascinating. His account of how the Suffragette Emily Davison hid in a House of Commons broom cupboard on the eve of the 1911 census is well told (‘Tony Benn’s Tribute to Emily Davison’). The story of the only woman to have officially served as a soldier in World War One is nicely recounted in ‘The Ballad Of Flora Sandes’. ‘They Changed Her Mind’ as a title is a clever play on words, the song looking touchingly at cases of mental asylum inmates who should not have been locked away at all. ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie’, about the violin given to the bandleader of the Titanic by his fiancée, is a gem.

Meuross also has a gift of wrapping up a polemic in a cheerful melody. He starts the album passionately, in ‘What Would William Morris Say’, blending poetically expressed words of Morris with a critique of the contemporary landscape from a classic liberal-left perspective. The title track has a similar dystopian theme, and is possibly seeking to emulate William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ in its sentiment. Its memorable and tuneful refrain has an air of sanguineness, and combines with verses railing against aspects of Britain’s past and present.

The album’s most poignant track, ‘Counting My Footsteps To You’, written on the subject of dementia, is measured in its expression and is a compelling song of great pathos. The CD comprises a wide-ranging collection of tracks, all well arranged and played. It certainly merits attention from beyond the folk constituency.

Colin Bailey

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 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.regmeuross.com/

CHARLIE DORE – Milk Roulette (Black Ink Music BICD8)

Milk RouletteAlthough she never really attained the stardom predicted for her when she released ‘Pilot Of The Airwaves’ back in 1979, the Pinner-born singer’s not exactly done too badly for herself, sustaining a successful career over the years as an actress, producer and songwriter, as well as regularly releasing albums and performing live. This, her eighth album, is particularly personal, the title track referring to how, to test whether the milk had turned sour, her father would simply take a swig and approach he, an ever optimistic widower, apparently applied to the women in his life. As the title suggests, family loom large too in ‘Looking Like My Mother, Acting Like My Dad’, a song and arrangement that, especially in Dore’s husky quiver, feels very much of the 30s or 40s (possibly down to its homespun recording), while album closer, ‘Cradle Song’, brings together a transcription of a piano instrumental written by her mother as a young child and an old cassette recording of her father reading his poems.

Although ‘Three A Penny’, a three-part harmony unaccompanied (save for barely discernible keyboard) number about the culture of cheap downloading, and featuring O’Hooley & Tidow, clearly comes from the very heart of a working musician, elsewhere, personal resonances are more open to interpretation. Sketched out on sparse piano notes, opening number, ‘All These Things’, another pre-war sounding track with co-producer Julian Litman on Indian harmonium, is about the hopes and heartbreak of IVF, ‘Born Yesterday’ a love letter from a new mother to her young child and ‘Firewater’, a guitar rippling, viola accompanied song about falling for a handsome man with a brilliant mind who, unfortunately, also happens to be a career drunk.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, death makes an appearance, conceived as an unwanted salesman peddling his wares to her father and brother on the defiant ‘Stare You Down’ and, equally poignantly, at the core of ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Promoted’, a strings arrangement in which the euphemism of the title and recalling the passing of her mother when Dore was 15 rejects the idea of being taken to a better place in favour of staying on the shop floor a little longer.

The remaining number, the tumbling, chorus-catchy ‘Best Man For The Job’ featuring harmonium and Dobro with Reg Meuross and Jess Vincent guesting on vocals, recounts the ironically titled tale of a neglected wife warning husbands that if they don’t tend the garden then weeds and discontent may grow and lead others to cultivate it instead.

Often fuzzily warm, sometimes playful, sometimes touching, but always immensely listenable, you really should pour a couple of pints.

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 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 website: www.charliedore.com

I included this video because Guildford Vox is one of our local community choirs. That should be Anna Tabbush conducting but if it isn’t I’m sure she’ll tell me!