REG MEUROSS – Songs About A Train (Hatsongs HAT012)

Songs About A TrainA companion piece of sorts to 2011’s The Dreamed And The Drowned in that it’s another limited edition (1000) collection of previously unreleased material, the tracks here spanning 2013-2017 and, as with its predecessor, Songs About A Train while not conceived as a unified album, the quality of the writing and performance ensures they hang together perfectly.

Save for the opening track, the bucolic reflective love song ‘Letting Go’, which features Rabbit Bundrick on soulful keys, bassist Simon Edwards and Roy Dodds (who also engineered the album), it’s primarily all just Reg and a guitar with just a touch of banjo and harmonica here and there.

As with his other work, the songs range across themes of relationships, social commentary and history-based storytelling, the latter brilliantly illustrated in ‘The Angel Maker’, a gently fingerpicked harmonica coloured number that unfolds the tale of Amelia Dyer, a former Victorian nurse who, after she was widowed became a baby farmer, adopting unwanted infants in exchange for money. There’s an unexpected tender tone, the lyrics asking “did you wrap them up warm… did you rock her to sleep?”, which compounds the chilling facts that, although initially caring for those in her charge, some died and she was charged with neglect, going on to subsequently murder an estimated 400 babies before being executed in 1896, claims of her mental instability much disputed, the song a veiled commentary on the nation’s neglect of such children.

It’s preceded by a story of a different era and nature, ‘Martin’ based around the story of St. Martin of Tours, a young Roman soldier who, legend has it, became a conscientious objector working for those in need after seeing Christ wearing the same cloak he’d earlier given a beggar at the gates of the city of Amiens, the lines “I will wrap my coat around you, I will share with you my bread, you are safe and you’re protected” patently having a contemporary resonance.

A third, fiction-based, narrative is found in ‘Idaho’, the poignant tale of a small-town girl who became a singer and wrote a song for the mother that left hoping she’d one day hear it, heading for America in search of herself and a love to rely on.

Bruised and broken relationships, distance and absence provide the basis for several numbers, among them ‘We Haven’t Started Yet’ and the resonatingly strummed ‘I Understand’ with its sad acceptance of a lover’s need for space and reassessment (a song which, for those of an age, may call to mind the similarly-themed song of the same title by Freddie and the Dreamers)  ‘Little Acts of Vengeance’ also offers a nice break up genre spin about holding on to resentments and anger over things that can’t be changed and only end up consuming you.

Those looking for more upbeat notes are directed to ‘A Quiet Night’, Reg on Appalachian dulcimer, for a hymnal song about finding peace, tranquility and calm with the one you love, the balm for a restless mind, and ‘Ring The Living Bell’, not a Melanie-cover, but (I suspect once intended for December) an optimistic hope for a new year, a song about giving and receiving, New Year’s Eve resolutions and an invitation to “drink the season’s glass with me beside the fire”.

The track finds him on banjo for a gospel bluegrass number about the power of songs to carry message of truth and hope, revelations of the heart and catharsis or protests against war or social injustice, or maybe just girls and cars and trains. It ends on a similar audience rousing, inspirational and healing note with ‘The World Being The World’, a Dylanish strumalong about enduring supportive love and friendship and seeing the light rather than the darkness and how the road less travelled feels like the road home.

Dedicated to the late Stephen Jordan, former head of the Bodleian Music Library, who inspired him to stick his hand down the sofa and see what songs had been lost, this isn’t just a case of clearing the shelves, more a case of, as Jordan put it, finding the right shelf to file them on. Your musical bookcase will be empty without it.

Mike Davies

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‘Ring The Living Bell’ – live with Phil Beer and Geoff Lakeman:

JOHN FORRESTER – Restless (Irregular Records IRR109)

RestlessJohn Forrester is a singer, a songwriter, an ace double bass player and the sort of chap that everybody in the business knows. Restless is his fourth solo album but his first working with a producer, Roy Dodds. With a small group of supporting musicians, Dodds has constructed a rich, varied soundscape without rounding off the corners. John’s voice can be smooth and delicate but is more often big and forceful reflecting the back-story of tragedy that interrupted recording.

Restless talks not of happy wanderlust but of dissatisfaction with wherever one happens to be. You know what he means: there is always something better around the corner even if it’s the place you just left behind. It’s the inability to settle coupled with the inability to move for whatever reason. In ‘Butterfly Catcher’, John sings “Stare out a new window, try to wish myself there” followed by “When I try to leave you’re blocking the stairs” encapsulating the dichotomy that the record explores.

John opens with the wistful ‘Richmond Hill’, initially a cappella with Kath Williams cello and Saskia Tomkins’ violin joining in. It’s a lovely song, looking back with fondness and forward with hope. ‘New Season’ is lifted by Andy Webb’s slide guitar and John definitely wants to leave wherever he is but in ‘Somewhere I Can Be’ he doesn’t know where to go. Jenny Carr’s piano and George Whitfield’s accordion help to provide the drive under John’s urgent acoustic guitar.

Restless is an album full of exquisite pain. Only in ‘Escaping A Storm’ does the central character find the place where she wants to be. In some ways the narrative reminded me of ‘She’s Leaving Home’ but so much bleaker. I’m very much enjoying the record but, as anyone will tell you, I’m a miserable old sod.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Escaping A Storm’ – live session:

John Forrester announces new solo album

John Forrester

As the title suggests, Restless – the fourth studio album from English songwriter John Forrester – explores the transient underpinning of the lone musician: songs of travel, displacement, creativity and disappointment sit alongside those that explore the journey we all make through life.

While working on the album, a close family member’s terminal illness forced Forrester to pause mid-album and spend time back in his home town to care for his loved one.

“You make a life for yourself”, he reflects, “But then you’re pulled back to something in the past. Back in the town you grew up in. There’s definitely a comfort in familiarity but also a disconnect, as you’re now effectively just a visitor.”

These events seeped into Forrester’s writing.

“It certainly coloured the album. There are songs that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. The album changed shape.”

Previously recorded songs no longer seemed right and new work emerged as Forrester’s world changed irrevocably – and when recording resumed, a broader canvas was laid out upon which the new songs were afforded more room to breathe and be heard.

Working with a producer – Fairground Attraction’s Roy Dodds – for the first time, Forrester was encouraged to play less and not fill every pocket of the aural spectrum. The result is a cohesive yet adventurous album that, although reminiscent of Forrester’s earlier work, explores new ground both musically and lyrically.

From the a cappella opener ‘Richmond Hill’, where the singer earmarks a place of personal pilgrimage for future reflection, to ‘Somewhere I Can Be’, the lead-off single, a song for “all the bits of us that we leave behind”, the general mood of the LP captures the essence, drive and complexities of the restless soul.

‘Butterfly Catcher’ “was inspired by people that seek to take your time and energy when you don’t want to give it. It’s about boundaries and not giving too much of yourself away”, while ‘Restless Bones’ is an autobiographical look at the passing of time and friendships.

Restless is an album born of change – with two very different sides owing to its divided recording process. It’s also a record that relishes in a newfound sense of experimentation and collaboration, while staying true to its creator’s restless soul.

As a solo performer, Forrester has shared stages with the likes of Show Of Hands, Nick Harper and John Kirkpatrick. An accomplished electric and double-bass player, he has also served with Pressgang and, currently, Rastko, The Outcast Band and Robb Johnson.

“A distinctive and immediate sound, this is something special.” – R2 Magazine

Artist’s website:

‘Somewhere I Can Be’:

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 an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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‘Faraway People’ – in the studio:

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:

Findlay Napier – new album

Findlay Portrait Final_2VIP VERY INTERESTING PERSONS on Cheerygroove Records CHEERY002

There are many who find themselves described as stalwarts, some for the rugged determination to keep slogging away and others because they contribute so much to stay actively involved on a whole range of levels, keeping sharp artistically and selflessly championing others who deserve attention. Findlay Napier is one of the most highly-regarded performers and creative forces on the Scottish music scene – thoroughly active and a truly energised with a heart-warming zing. He made his name touring and recording with multi-award winning traditional Scottish folk band Back of the Moon. In his more recent projects Queen Anne’s Revenge and The Bar Room Mountaineers his song-writing took centre stage and was described by The Sunday Herald as “Genuine songcraft and wit following in the Difford & Tilbrook tradition”. Findlay is also well known for hosting Glasgow’s premier open mic night at Bar Bloc, as the host of Celtic Connections’ Late Night Sessions and for his Hazy Recollections concert series which showcases the very best in new roots music.

This new album contains ten songs about real life characters that have led very interesting lives. The album was co-written and produced by Boo Hewerdine and features performances from Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott, Gillian Frame, Roy Dodds, Hamish Napier and incredible Danish multi instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren. The VIP project came together when Findlay began Creative Scotland’s Advanced Mentoring project with Boo Hewerdine. The first song they wrote together is the oft covered ‘After the Last Bell Rings’. It quickly became obvious that the pair worked well together and they decided a themed album was the way forward. ‘Heddy Lamaar’, a song about the actress who invented Bluetooth and WiFi, was the second piece that came from the creative pairing – and inspired the tone that would follow to bring VIP about.

Other interesting individuals include Valentina the first woman in space; the master conman who sold the Brooklyn Bridge at least once a week for thirty years; the ghost of a pugilist; the stunt pilot who discovered Angel Falls, and the Japanese soldier who fought the Second World War well into the 1970s.

“Clever lyrical lines, interesting contemporary, semi-acoustic, rocking arrangements… courageous and creatively skilled.” ∗∗∗∗ Scotland on Sunday

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.