SHOW OF HANDS with MIRANDA SYKES – Covers 2 (Hands On HMCD32)

Ah, a three-piece suite always looks and feels better with a new set of covers and a new set of covers is exactly what you get here. Any musician will (usually) tell you that as part of the requisite for any performer it is the enjoyment you feel at having been afforded the opportunity to re-interpret someone else’s songs and make them feel as integral a part of a set as if you’d written them yourself. With this in mind our intrepid heroes Steve Knightley & Phil Beer and long time associate Miranda Sykes muster thirteen tracks of the highest calibre. Talking of Ms Sykes, it’s her brooding bowed double bass that resonates chillingly beneath Steve’s anguished vocals on the opening track Richard Shindell’s You Stay Here” that will steer the listener to check out the writer himself…so I did and now I’m a convert. Speaking as someone who has to sing songs like ‘The Wild Rover’ and ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ (I suppose you’d call them ‘covers’) in pubs in order to eke out a living it makes listening to Show Of Hands all the more enjoyable particularly when the songs are given a new ‘acoustic’ lease of life. From Springsteen and Knopfler to an invigorating version of Peter Gabriel’sSecret World” who wouldn’t feel honoured to be counted amongst such august company? If this is your first dip into the world of acoustic music (I’m not even going to try using the word ‘folk’ anymore) then you’ve come to the right place. Artist links: http://www.showofhands.co.uk/ PETE FYFE

STEVE KNIGHTLEY – Live In Somerset (Hands On Music HMCD33)

It’s certainly to an artist’s credit when he opens a live performance by singing a traditional unaccompanied ballad “All Things Are Quite Silent” with such confidence that the audience couldn’t be anything other than impressed. But then what else would we expect from an artist the calibre of Steve Knightley? Without his usual tag-partner Phil Beer, Knightley is comfortable in the knowledge that predominantly his own song-writing, instrumental and vocal skills are all that’s required to give the listener what they want. On occasions such as “The Oakham Poachers” (hands up who remembers Steeleye’s ‘Bold Poachers?) where he is joined on some subtle dobro by Phillip Martin it is the little additions that make the arrangement more poignant. Of course, no Knightley experience would be complete without a couple of Show Of Hands standards and in this he does not disappoint by including “The Galway Farmer” and “Cousin Jack”. No mean showman, Steve finishes with a flourish on the anthemic “Now You Know” with the audience chanting as if they were at a rock concert and a fitting rapturous round of applause left ringing in his ears. Great stuff! PETE FYFE.

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Artist web links: https://www.facebook.com/steveknightley

Steve Knightley Solo Tour 2011 plus Live In Somerset album

KNIGHTLEY TO RECORD DEBUT LIVE SOLO ALBUM… Show of Hands’ inspired frontman Steve Knightley, hailed as one of England’s finest songwriters, recorded his debut live solo album on Thursday, December 9 2010. Live in Somerset was recorded at The David Hall in the village of South Petherton – a former 19th century Congregational church where the Exeter-based singer songwriter performed a sell-out solo show in May. Says Knightley: “The David Hall is the perfect acoustic space in which to capture the live sound needed for an album with audience participation. It should be a great evening.” A mix of stand-out Knightley originals and his unique take on some traditional folk songs will form the mix of material to be recorded in front of a capacity audience, all tickets having been sold some months ago. Says Pete Wheeler of Petherton Arts Trust:  “What a tremendous coup for the Hall! We always look forward to Steve’s performances and for him to choose to record his debut live album in our company is a great compliment.” Knightley won the Best Original Song accolade at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for the topical title track of Show of Hands’ last studio album, Arrogance Ignorance and Greed, a heartfelt tirade against bankers and bonuses, MPs and expenses, which not surprisingly resonated with a lot of the population!  Together with his long-term musical partner and dazzling multi instrumentalist Phil Beer, Knightley also won the Best Duo title. Knightley writes most of the material for the increasingly popular Show of Hands including classics like Country Life and Roots, both also nominated for Best Original Song at previous BBC Folk Awards. A skilled musician, he also plays numerous instruments from guitar to mandocello and South American cuatro. Live in Somerset, due to be released in February, follows on from his stunningly sparse solo album Cruel River (2007) and Track of Words Retraced (2009) which revisited  his first solo album of a decade earlier. Steve, whose “Songbook 4” was recently published, will take to the road on a 26-date solo tour early in 2011, starting in Rugby on January 27 and ending in his home town of Exeter on February 27. His special guest will be fellow Devon musician Jim Causley (left), the rich-voiced former frontman of Mawkin:Causley. 

 Artist Links: http://www.showofhands.co.uk/ – http://www.jimcausley.co.uk/

“One of England’s greatest singer songwriters” – Mike Harding, BBC Radio 2

“Knightley dares to tackle subjects other songwriters leave well alone – his best songs are bleak, witty and finely observed”The Guardian

“A folk legend” – BBC Music

“Touching emotional literacy” – Daily Telegraph

SHOW OF HANDS – Arrogance Ignorance And Greed (HMCD 29)

No resting on their laurels for that dynamic duo of ‘folk’, multi-instrumentalists Steve Knightley and Phil Beer bring home the bacon once again with a superbly crafted album that is positively crackling with great material. Now joined at the hip by bass player and vocalist Miranda Sykes, Show Of Hands well structured finger-wagging title track particularly at the ‘fat-cats’ from London and beyond is the voice of reason for a Nation sick to the back teeth of ‘rip-off’ bankers. Raking over coals in much the same way the Battlefield Band did with their diamond encrusted Zama Zama release a short while ago, Steve and Phil certainly know how to ‘have a pop’ and in much the same way as Peter, Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton and Bob Dylan did years before them the protestations of ‘folk music’ can certainly make itself heard above a lot of the crass drivel expounded on the airwaves today (did anyone watch the Mercury awards?). There is a darker, more gritty edge to this recording than the duo have been recognised for on past offerings and, with a bit of luck (although it might not go down too well in the loftier tiers of our society) this album could seriously make a dent where it needs to. Also added to the already heady mix are guests Mawkin:Causley and Jackie Oates on a stirring “Keys Of Canterbury”. With an impressive production that strips the musicians to their organic ‘acoustic’ roots Stu Hanna (one half of Megson) will gain much kudos from the recording ‘business’ and undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him. To complete the package I’d like to credit in despatches the terrific artwork and design by the team at Stylorouge. Nice one! PETE FYFE

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.

Show of Hands – No Song To Sing

Show of Hands - No Song To SingWhatever else, you can’t fault Show Of Hands. So, needless to say, this album comes recommended but, as it were in passing. There are now so many re-issues and re-worked arrangements turning up as compilations under different labels that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Here, we have the tried and the tested including ‘John Riley’, ‘Broomfield Hill’ and ‘Blackwaterside’.

For those of you that haven’t caught up with Phil Beer & Steve Knightley, now’s as good a time as any. Their interpretations of well established traditional material and of course Steve’s fine compositions are particularly well suited to the acoustic sounds of the guitar and mandocello. If you haven’t been converted already, pick up a copy.

Original Posting date – 12-June-2001
Reviewers Name – Pete Fyfe

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.