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

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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Artist’s website: www.regmeuross.com

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

MARK NEVIN – My Unfashionable Opinion (Raresongs Recordings MARKNCD005)

My Unfashionable OpinionSome of you might be asking ‘What’s Mark Nevin got to do with folk music? Folk music should be traditional or nothing’. Others might say ‘No. Folk music should be expressing new ideas and challenging the establishment view’. And that, in microcosm, is the point of the title track of Mark’s new album, My Unfashionable Opinion, although unfashionable is perhaps a euphemism as anyone who has expressed a contentious point of view on Facebook or Twitter knows.

Mark Nevin is a fine songwriter who is unlikely to hit the charts any time soon, nor will he appear in your local folk club. He inhabits that twilight zone between commercial success and cult adoration. He is accompanied by a core band of Simon Edwards, Richard Marcangelo, Roger Beaujolais and James Hallawell with guests including a brass section.

He returns to the absurdities of the internet with ‘Forgotify’ and I tried to imagine what I’d feel if I heard it on acoustic guitar by a club floor singer. I know I’d hate it and that’s why Mark has to be where he is. ‘Don’t Be My Echo’ is essentially acoustic with some decoration but ‘Curly Wurly Boy’ – about both careers advice in schools and the drudgery of factory work – could be but isn’t. His songs about relationships: ‘Uncertainty’, ‘Cold War’ and ‘I Can Hear You’, for example, need the rock backing to avoid mawkishness but it’s the autobiographical pieces such as ‘Punching Above My Weight’ that I enjoy most.

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).

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.marknevin.com

‘My Unfashionable Opinion’ live:

MARRY WATERSON AND DAVID A JAYCOCK Two Wolves (One Little Indian tplp1284cd)

MARRY WATERSON AND DAVID A JAYCOCK Two WolvesWhen her brother, Oliver Knight, decided to take a break from music, Marry Waterson found herself with something of a quandary. Not playing any instruments herself, while she might have the words, setting them to music was a bit of a problem. However, an unexpected, and frankly unlikely, new ‘musical foil’ presented itself in the form of Jaycock. Described by mutual friend James Yorkston as a “Cornish hermit and underground psychedelic freak-ball”, he’d been impressed when he saw her performing in 2009 and, out of the blue, got back in contact to see if she’d be interested in working together.

Although this mostly took place by e-mail and phone, the pair clearly developed a fruitful rapport, he retaining his experimental approach but tempering this with a more traditional structure, and she finding ways to wrap her words round the melodies. With guitarist Neill MacColl and multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John handling production duties, contributions from the likes of Simon Edwards, Alison Cotton and Kami Thompson and instrumentation that includes piano, oboe, viola, cello, accordion and Weissenborn, the album began to take shape, the songs roaming across a wide range of subjects.

Setting the tone, it opens with the watery guitar and dreamlike pastoral cor anglais and oboe-shaded sound of ‘Sing Me Your Tune’ (a instrumental reprise providing the album’s play out), the line “You were the strange melody that came fully formed to me, the picture you painted filled the space vacated” almost a summation of the working relationship. Musically, it summons up a sort of Arthur Rackham world, a landscape of ferns, dew-hung spider webs and dragonflies hovering over standing waters, an atmosphere that permeates the following ‘Hoping To Be Saved’, a visit to the beach littered with piano arpeggios about Britain’s disappearing village communities, and, indeed, much of the album.

The seaside also finds its way into the acoustic guitar and piano dream world of ‘The Honey And The Seaweed’, the lyrics shaped from the words of her late mother, Lal, found in the same 60s notebook from whence came many of the early songs for the ‘Bright Phoebus’ project. There’s another nod to the family legacy on ‘Velvet Yeller’ which interweaves samples of her late uncle Mike’s recording of the traditional ‘Tam Lin’ between Waterson’s own verses.

With a melody line at times reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Stranger Song’, the title track explores the duality of human nature, a fight between ego and empathy, sorrow and serenity, etched with circling acoustic guitar and a wailing Jen-1000 synth that’s mirrored by Waterson’s mournful howl. If that conjures thoughts of late 60s progressive folk, so too do ‘Caught On Coattails’ and the accompanying a capella ‘Ginger Brown & Apple Green’, both of which are redolent of Pink Floyd, the former circa Piper At The Gates Of Dawn while the birdsong on the latter can’t help but recalls ‘Grantchester Meadows’ off Ummagumma. That same air of pastoral psychedelia also hangs over ‘Brighter Thinking’.

Featuring MacColl on marxophone, the dreamily lilting ‘Woolgathering Girl’ is a particular highlight, lyrically underscoring such Waterson influences as Dylan Thomas and Billie Holiday, the ghost of the latter also haunting the jazzy blues ambience of ‘Emotional Vampire,’ while the final stretch also offers the breathy, banjo-dappled intoxication of Mockingbird with its talk of “everyday déjà-vus” and the childhood nostalgia of the music hall coloured ‘Circa ’73’ with its playful Lewis Carroll-like imagery about Wendy houses, telephones made from paper cups. “stilts made from empty tins of powdered milk” and “quick brown frogs jumping over the dogs”.

Ethereal and melancholic, like its shadow play cover illustration, it conjures and transports you to a timeless world that exists just behind the veil of our perceptions, at once mysterious and unsettling, but also alluring and comforting.

Mike Davies

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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Artists’ website: http://marrywaterson.com/

‘The Honey And The Seaweed’ – official video:

Marry Waterson – new album and tour

Marry Waterson - new album and tour

Marry Waterson returns with a brand new album made in collaboration with David A. Jaycock on 20th November. Entitled Two Wolves, it was recorded in May of this year and produced by guitarist Neill MacColl and multi-instrumentalist & arranger Kate St. John.

The seeds for the union were sown in 2013 when David was asked – via mutual friend and collaborator, James Yorkston – to rearrange ‘Yolk Yellow Legged’, a co-write with Yorkston taken from Marry and brother Oliver Knight’s 2011 debut The Days That Shaped Me. David had been struck by the character and warmth of Marry’s singing when he saw her performing with Yorkston in 2009. “It was earthy, dreamlike, warm, powerful and jagged. It had the capacity to be both melancholic and joyful, and it could tell a story – of course Marry Waterson could tell a story!”

When Oliver elected to take a break from music last year, Marry found herself without a musical foil (“I don’t play an instrument, my tunes are sung into existence.”) So she was intrigued when David – described by Yorkston as a “Cornish hermit and underground psychedelic freak-ball” (!) – renewed contact to see if she would be interested in working together.

Hearing David’s music was to prove revelatory.

“I felt like I had entered through a door hanging askew on one twisted hinge into a surreal world of cobwebs, all layered guitars and synths,” recalls Marry. “Sometimes it’s scary in there, but mostly it’s beguiling.” All the more so as Marry discovered that “I could sing anything into David’s tunes, the words just wrapped themselves easily around the melodies, though I had to be quite inventive sometimes to accommodate certain structures – and that gave me a different voice.”

Starting with what became ‘Sing Me Into Your Tune’ – completed in a matter of hours – Marry and David entered into an eager musical correspondence by email and by phone.

“What was coming back from Marry convinced me that we were on the right path. I felt a more tonal, but still dreamlike, surreal and at times dark sound was emerging. It was fascinating and exciting sending ideas and waiting to hear what came back. I could still experiment and be playful but always had an ear on keeping to a more traditional structure. Marry was interpreting the pieces beautifully. The lyrics were complete.  I felt we were working almost telepathically at times. Modern technology making it all possible.”

The match made, Marry went about assembling a team of musicians around her to best service the material. Having previously worked with Neill MacColl and Kate St. John on several projects including Hal Willner’s Rogue’s Gallery at Sydney Opera House, the Bright Phoebus tour and on the forthcoming Ewan MacColl tribute album Joy of Living (contributing ‘The Exile Song’), the pair were the obvious choice to produce the record, in turn enlisting the help of outstanding musicians Kami Thompson (The Rails), Michael Tanner (Plinth), Alison Cotton (The Left Outsides), Simon Edwards (Fairground Attraction) and Emma Black (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).

“Neill is another brilliant musician who really listens and gives you space,” enthuses Marry. “His contributions are so tasteful yet subtle, his playing is awesome, he’s rock solid and I feel safe with him. Kate’s arrangements are so compelling and definitive, vividly bringing these stories to life. They are both inventive and intuitive players.”

The songs themselves cover a wide range of subject material from laments about disappearing village communities (‘Hoping To Be Saved’) to the title track’s reflection on the duality of human nature. Two songs explicitly acknowledge the Waterson legacy: The words to ‘The Honey and the Seaweed’ are fashioned from an original Lal Waterson lyric, written out of love for her friend and co-writer Christine Collins and set down in the late 60’s in a book containing early Bright Phoebus songs. ‘Velvet Yeller’ meanwhile utilizes Mike Waterson’s recording of ‘Tam Lin’ to startling effect. “I got to ‘sing’ with him one more time by weaving him into this tribute, which he read before he died,” says Marry of the song.

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 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://marrywaterson.com/

Tour Dates

25th November          York                            The Basement

26th November          London                       The Green Note 

29th November          Stroud                        The Convent  

30th November          Brighton                     The Greys 

01st December           Birmingham               Kitchen Garden Cafe 

02nd December          Sheffield                     The Greystones 

03rd December          Halifax                        Arden Road Social Club

MARK NEVIN – Beautiful Guitars (Raresongs Recordings MARKNCD004)

Beautiful GuitarsWe’ve all done it, or know someone who has: gazed longingly in the window or gone inside for a closer look; maybe even asked to try a Strat or a Firebird (insert guitar of choice). That’s the premise of the title track of this album in which the writer portrays himself as a man with family responsibilities that keep him from the road and now teaches his son. But still he haunts Denmark Street looking wistfully in shop windows. How can you not love Mark E Nevin after a song like this?

‘Beautiful Guitars’ is not so much a song as a series of observations linked by a chorus and it’s this quirky way of writing that makes Mark so fascinating. Take ‘The Old Wound’ for example: all the way through it sounds as though he’s writing about a physical wound and he doesn’t deviate from that line. But you’re left with the feeling that this is really a psychological wound that “will never heal”. ‘Dangerous’ is a bit of soul-baring that comes out of a dream – real or imagined, who knows?

There is everything here from the fragile acoustic guitar of ‘Kiteflyer’s Hill’ to the glorious celebration of ‘Let’s Make Hay’ with The Kick Horns in full cry. It’s one of the album’s top tracks and is set against ‘Just In Time (To Be Too Late)’ which is Mark’s ‘Positively Fourth Street’ – soulful and vicious. Others in the supporting cast include fellow ex-Fairground Attraction Simon Edwards on bass, drummer Martyn Barker, pedal steel maestro B J Cole and Folk Award winner, Tim Edey.

Beautiful Guitars is fabulous album, full of original ideas and equally original execution. What more do you want?

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).

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.marknevin.com

IARLA O’ LIONAIRD – Foxlight (Real World Records)

Ignorant peasant that I am, I hold my hands up and declare that I have never understood the Gaelic language or, more than likely never will do. Still, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it as an aural texture and in fact find it quite soothing in many of my more relaxed ‘mood’ moments. If you’re looking for a serious bit of ‘chill-out’ then this album will more than likely appeal to you as it did me. Many of the ‘folk’ world will know Iarla O’Lionaird having been the vocalist in the Afro Celt Sound System but here, accompanied by Leafcutter John, Simon Edwards and Neil McColl amongst others this recording is a far more relaxed affair. Utilising the main framework of Leo Abrahams electric guitar, piano, effects and programming the project might appear at first to be an indulgence by O’lionaird but repeated listening will be justly rewarded by those who enjoy their ‘folk’ music with a bit of class.

PETE FYFE

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 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 links: www.iarla.com