The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Cook-A-Hoop + Skeggy Interview

I sit here two weeks after The Great British Folk Festival with a Whitstable Bay Organic Ale in hand and I’m in good company as I have the new The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Cook-A-Hoop vinyl spinning on my turntable.

The album has made quite a journey from when it was first given to me by the band back stage after the interview we did in the early hours of Sunday 2nd December. The vinyl started its journey on top of a pizza box as Cush insisted it came along to the Oysterband back stage gathering (The MEN were playing on REDS stage outside of the Skyline Pavilion and Oysterband were in the Centre Stage complex and on at the same time). Like us, the new album couldn’t find its way there either as everything was locked up.  It took 20 minutes in the rain with TMTCH in tow to realise that the best destination was now 109 Gull Court in The Keys area of Butlins Skeggy. This was the place where the album, the half-eaten pizza’s, The MEN and us hangers-on could be reunited with some more alcohol. However, not all of us made it to 109 Gull Court as the pizza was offloaded on to Simon Care who happened to be wandering past at 2am in the morning on his way to bed.

Anyway, I digress… so let’s get back to the fantastic new album and that late-night folking TMTCH interview.

Cook-A-Hoop has thirteen tracks, two instrumentals, and eleven songs, five written by Paul Simmonds, three by Swill and three by Cush. Cook-A-Hoop is both minimalist and musically expansive.

The songs start with ‘Sirens’, with revolution and a call to arms Pogue-MEN-Style followed by an escapism tale imagined at the speed of an ‘Arrow’ flight. Then a tremolo panther prowls, like a young Bobby Seale and gives his greeting by way of Sunday Soul ‘Salutations’ with trumpet heralding in the arrival of Marvin.

Next, ‘Three Ships Sailing’ haul away, plundering oceans, flying colours with far of canon-shot drum beat judging distance. While half the world is living on ‘Pone’, the unleavened maize bread, this rocking song with mental saxophone and growling vocals shoves it down your throat and reminds us that some people don’t have a choice.

Mantle then shrouds the tale of ‘The Queen of Crows’ who surveys the night to gentle pining fiddle. We journey then to the city of the ‘Archangel’, riding on camels, playing snake charmer grooves, telling tales of devils, demons and shotgun shacks.

Finally, Cush gives us a ‘Kings Street Serenade’ in green bomber jacket, and tight drainpipe trousers. A homage to the glory days of Joe Strummer, Pogue Mohon and being in heaven.

So, to sum the album up… Right Time, Right Place, Right Song. All packaged up in ‘The Amazing Carrier Bag’ of broken dreams and Brexit chaos.

Yes, its classic MEN, so if you’re already a fan, you’ll love it. If you’re not yet, then you are in for a treat as it stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of the rest of the back catalogue of 9 studio albums and over 139 songs.

Paul Simmonds has songs pouring out of him at the moment and Swill and Cush are on top song writing form. So, strap yourself in, fasten your seatbelts, you’re in for a TMTCH Cock-A-Hoop roller coaster of a ride of an album. The MEN continue to be, not just a band of brothers who have stuck together for 35 years through thick and thin but also a group that have survived their time and forged a new  musical strength out of the political, blood, sweat and tears of their glorious musical past.

However, the biggest revelation of all is that Swill wished he had written Bat out of Hell!

Darren Beech

Here is the interview that Paul Johnson and Darren Beech recorded with TMTCH after the show.

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.

Artists’ website: https://www.tmtch.co.uk/

Here is the video from the Gosport and Fareham Festival in 2008 that we mentioned in the interview.

The Great British Folk Festival 2018

The Great British Folk Festival 2018

Hi-de-Hi! Hi-De-Ho! to all the team at The Great British Folk Festival 2018 at the Butlin’s Skegness resort.

Yep, its that time of the year again when “That Old Sweet Folk and Roll” comes to Skeggy and the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” of the Bultlin’s Live Music Weekend calendar, clashes with their other Electric Dreams weekend event in Bognor (where you can see Pat Sharp and join the Eighties music themed Pool Party). There is some brilliant banter already on the ‘Live Music Weekends’ facebook page suggesting that one individual would ‘rather watch paint dry’ than make the trip up North. Well, all we can say is your ‘folking loss Me Ol’ Mucker’ as I believe there is workshop on the Saturday morning up in Skeggy for that.

Look at that line-up above! Where else are you going to get that sort of a bill during 30 November to 2 December?

Anyway, you can probably tell that we are excited to the point of delirium so I’ll hand you over to folking.com’a answer to “Smashie” (I’m apparently Nicey), Mr Paul ‘How are Ya’ Johnson who is going to say a few words…

For tickets and more information visit GBFF 2018

Darren Beech

Here is Dai Jeffries excellent review from 2015 to get you in the mood.

THE GREAT BRITISH FOLK FESTIVAL, Skegness, 4th-7th December

Swill and Valentino to reunite on tour in April

PHIL ‘SWILL’ ODGERS
& BOBBY VALENTINO
April 2018 Tour
Never the same set twice!

The Men They Couldn’t Hang singer-songwriter Phil ‘Swill Odgers and roots fiddle supremo Bobby Valentino hit the road in April for a duo tour that’s selling fast.

Confirmed dates so far…

Sat 7th Sheffield Heeley Institute, 147 Gleadless Rd, Sheffield S2 3AF Tickets
Wed 11th Bristol Thunderbolt, 124 Bath Rd, Bristol BS4 3ED Tickets
Thurs 12th Birmingham Kitchen Garden Café, 17 York Rd, B14 Tickets
Fri 13th Lowton Social Club, 214 Newton Road Lowton, WA3 2AQ (Tickets are only available via email to gordongigshaw@aol.com)
Sat 14th Newcastle, Cobalt Studios, Boyd St, NE21AP Tickets
Sun 15th Durham: Old Cinema Launderette, DH1 2HX Tickets
Fri 20th Edinburgh: The Speakeasy, The Voodoo Rooms, 19a West Register St, EH2 2AA Tickets
Sat 28th London: The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton St, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 0DX http://www.wegottickets.com/event/427966

Artist Web Link: https://philodgers.bandcamp.com/

Wickham 2017 Reviewed

Click on the photo below to see the full set…

Wickham 2017

‪Squelch… Wickham Festival finally kicked off to a great start with sets from ‪Low, Barker, Morris & Tunstall which sounds like a firm of solicitors instead of musical, dance and poetry partners in festival law; Andy Fairweather Low, Les Barker, the Wickham Morris Sides and KT Tunstall.

Now tell me… where are you going to get a “bend me, shake me, a sermon from the church of the holy undecided, a strip the willow and a black horse and a cherry tree all the the same place!

Here is the moment when the sun came out and everyone forgot about the thirteen days of rain that fell on the site the day before it opened which caused the “elf and safety” three hours delayed start.

The main Thursday night event on the All Time Grates Stage was 10CC, who played all their hits, which they performed as a masterclass in song-writing. They even offered us the following words of wisdom from their extensive mantra…

Life is a minestrone
Served up with parmesan cheese
Death is a cold Lasagne
Suspended in deep freeze …

Friday afternoon had a definite garden party feel that went off with a Wizz, bang and Spooky side-splitting Tickell. It all started with the legendary Wizz Jones who rolled out all his hits including ‘When I Leave Berlin’ which Bruce Springsteen covered.

The Spooky Men’s Chorale followed, the Antipodean Blue Mountain settlers, that worry local livestock to such a degree that the local farmers club together to pay for their international tours (so long as they agree to do reworked Abba and Bee Gees choral arrangements). Luckily, Kathryn Tickell was there to restore order, Northumbrian Pipe Style, who together with The Side brought Wickham back into the hear and now with evocative slow airs that could break your heart one minute and then fling you seamlessly into life-affirming jigs and reels the next.

In between Tickell and the Spookies (great idea for a band name!) I managed to dash across to the Hapi Stage to catch a bit of the fab Portsmouth based band Bemis. I also managed to grab a copy of their excellent new album A World of Difference that I encourage you all to go and check out for free here

There was barely enough time for a quick change over before it was pedal to metal down the West Country highway in search of Fishy Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands.  All three did the West Country proud and I think its was a great bit of programming to put Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands all on the same stage and evening bill.

Here is my favourite moment of Friday night, when Show of Hands treated us to a slowed down version of the Don Henley classic “Boys of Summer” . Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday opened with more Wickham Festival goodies… Alas, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie didn’t make it for the reunion but folk legends, Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe turned up on the All Time Grates Stage in the afternoon. Then it was a quick hop and skip across to the Hapi Stage for a blistering set from Gilmore & Roberts with festival energy in a bakers bun-dance. Then back again to the All Time Grates Stage as master Dhol drummer, Johnny Kalsi fired up the furnaces of the drums of the mighty Dhol Foundation to create a high-energy, pulsating folking brilliant musical soundscape of Punjabi beat, rhythm and intensity. ‬

‪If that was not enough excitement for one day, there was a just enough time to sponge down before the main evening event of the big punk-folk-rock 3. I’m sure you will all know who they all are, as the Saturday evening, three in a row line-up, for many, was one of the dream festival programming highlights of this year (dreamt up by the mind of that festival organising genius, Mr Peter Chegwyn) which even included a returning Chopper as part of the Oysterband mix. For those who have not worked it out, it was of course The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Oysterband and The Levellers. I also legged it across to the Hapi Stage to see some of my old mates Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley set with the lovely Emily.

Time had flown by and before anyone knew it, it was “Sunday folk fun-day” and the fourth day of Wickham.

I’ll start with Ray “Chopper” Cooper who opened on the Hapi stage…

Fay Hield then blew in with the Hurricane Party on the All Time Grates Stage and Glasgow boys Imar followed and got the main stage dancing. Wickham festival favourite Duncan Chisholm followed with his Gathering before the afternoon slot was brought to a riotous close with Tankus The Henge (a great festival band).

LAU opened the Sunday evening slot which felt like a kaleidoscope of colour washing over the All Time Grates Stage. The power went off at one point so we even got a couple of un-amped numbers.

‪The finale for me was the crowned Queen of the Wickham Festival crowd, Eliza Carthy with Sam Sweeney & the rest of her merry Wayward Band.‬ Unfortunately, I had to leave early so missed the Peatbog Faeries set but Eliza said that they tore the place apart, so I have been lamenting the early departure ever since.

I was bitten by a Ferocious Dog on the way out and am looking forward to repeating the experience at one of their other gigs soon.

Darren Beech

Festival website: www.wickhamfestival.co.uk

THE MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG/MERRY HELL/THE LONDON SEWAGE COMPANY – The O2 Empire, Shepherd’s Bush

Photograph by Red Snapper Pics
Photograph by Red Snapper Pics – http://www.redsnapperpics.co.uk

This was a prestige gig billed for TMTCH as The 30th Anniversary Reprise Show – nothing like making the most of it.

The London Sewage Company are, in Ron’s words, a powerpunk outfit with a lead guitarist inexplicably missing from a heavy metal band. They also have a nice line in humour –“London sewage comes from everything you do” – ho, ho. They played a strong set but it lacked light and shade and you couldn’t help but wonder how their song about London’s lost toyshops would have sounded if written by Ray Davies.

 http://www.redsnapperpics.co.uk
Photograph by Red Snapper Pics – http://www.redsnapperpics.co.uk

Merry Hell showed them how it should be done, mixing power and restraint. My top track was ‘Bury Me Naked’ featuring Andrew Kettle’s only instrumental contribution – on hammer and spade! You have to hear the verses or the whole point of the song is lost so the band held back but the moment the last words left Virginia Kettle’s lips it was as though a switch had been flipped and that huge fairground chorus rolled over us.

They have a sizeable back catalogue now and they mixed them up and much as a ten song set would allow. Ron was disappointed that ‘No Money’ was omitted and I would have loved to hear ‘Iron Man’ but, although that song carried over into their first album, the days of Tansads are now a fond memory. Quite rightly – Merry Hell are their own new creation and ‘The Crooked Man’, ‘The Baker’s Daughter’ and ‘The War Between Ourselves’ are songs for this century.

The Men They Couldn’t Hang seemed a bit off form initially. Their third song, ‘The Ghosts Of Cable Street’, got the crowd bouncing and was excellent but ‘Shirt Of Blue’ seemed oddly lacking in energy. After the mid-set acoustic break – Phil Odgers sang ‘Carrying A Flame’ from The Defiant and Cush’s choice of ‘Hotel Chambermaid’ was interesting – they came back and suddenly stepped on the gas.

‘Smugglers’ hit the ground running and the other selections from The Defiant: ‘Bonfires’, ‘Fail To Comply’ and ‘Scavengers’ eclipsed the recorded versions. There are a few fixed points in any TMTCH set – it’s just a matter of waiting. Jon Odgers sat in for ‘The Crest’ after ‘Going Back To Coventry’ and ‘The Colours’ and ‘Ironmasters’ closed the set with ‘Walkin’ Talkin’’ as an encore.

This was their night and their crowd and at the end we were all bawling out the choruses. All together now: “Red is the colour of the new republic…

Dai Jeffries
Ron D Bowes

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.

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – THE DEFIANT – new album out now

Photograph: Max Ellis
Photograph: Max Ellis

The revered British folk punk group The Men They Couldn’t Hang will see out their 30th anniversary campaign with a return visit to Shepherd’s Bush Empire in west London on 4th April 2015. This show will neatly bookend a year that saw them play a sold out date in the same venue in April 2014 before unleashing their ninth studio album, ‘The Defiant’, in the autumn.

The DefiantThe Defiant was funded via a hugely successful Pledge campaign. Produced by long-term collaborator Pat Collier, it was recorded during savage bouts of drinking, mess, ribald reminiscence, raucous recreation and a week of bed and board at a South London flophouse and features such traditional themes as piracy, fascism, fishing and a little touch of romance in Henry V’s invasion force of 1415. It undoubtedly reinforces TMTCH’s reputation as both originators and unique pillar of the roots rock renaissance, as well as one of Britain’s finest ever bands.

Championed by John Peel, TMTCH’s debut single Green Fields of France was a huge hit on the UK Indie chart and was no. 3 in Peel’s Festive Fifty for 1984 (behind The Smiths and Cocteau Twins). It subsequently appeared on their first album, Night of a Thousand Candles [1985]. The following year saw the release of How Green Is The Valley’ while by 1988 and their third album Waiting for Bonaparte, TMTCH had also achieved recognition in mainland Europe for their political comment and raucous live shows. Touring in support of 1989’s Silvertown, the band played to a crowd of over 250,000 in Estonia as communism started to crumble, prior to an unforgettable appearance at Reading Festival. At the height of their career, they recorded the acclaimed Domino Club [1990] with producer Pat Collier, but then went on hiatus in 1991 following a ‘farewell tour’. Performing sporadically for the next few years, TMTCH reunited permanently in 1996 and released a new album, Never Born To Follow’and the Six Pack EP [1997] that displayed a fresh power and vitality to their music. Two ‘Best Of’ collections, Majestic Grill, and The Mud, The Blood And The Beer [both 1998] were eventually followed by the well received albums The Cherry Red Jukebox’[2003] and the Pat Collier produced Devil On The Wind’ in 2009. TMTCH have spent the last few years touring regularly throughout Europe and playing at numerous festivals.

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.

The Defiant is released on Vinyl Star Records.

Artists’ website: https://www.tmtch.co.uk/

 

“They are still in impressively energetic, rousing and angry form” THE GUARDIAN

“’The Defiant’ is rather essential listening” fROOTS

“This is brilliant stuff and is as uncompromising as ever” FOLK RADIO UK

“They’ve created one of the albums of the year. Vintage stuff” SPIRAL EARTH