The Men They Couldn’t Hang Biography

The Men They Couldn't Hang
Photograph by Max Ellis

The Men They Couldn’t Hang came together in 1984 to perform at the alternative music festival in Camden town alongside the legendary Pogues and the Boot Hill Foot-Tappers. Paul Simmonds, Philip ‘Swill’ Odgers and his brother Jon, veterans of the Southampton based pop-punk band Catch 22, met Pogues roadie Stefan Cush whilst busking in Shepherds Bush in London. Their early line up was Stefan Cush, Philip Odgers, Paul Simmonds, Jon Odgers and Shanne Bradley.

Their first single, ‘The Green Fields of France’, was released in 1984 and.the following year they were signed to the Demon label, which released their début album, Night of a Thousand Candles, and its accompanying single ‘Ironmasters’, a self-penned number by main songwriter Simmonds, linking the Industrial Revolution to the present-day treatment of the working class.. They followed this up with a new single not taken from the album, ‘Greenback Dollar’.

In 1985 the band signed for MCA Records and released How Green Is The Valley. The record included ‘Ghosts Of Cable Street’, a political song concerning the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 and ‘Shirt of Blue’, concerning the miners’ strike of 1984–85. At the end of promotion for the album Shanne Bradley left to create music with Wreckless Eric and The Chicken Family, she was replaced on bass by Ricky McGuire (ex UK Subs).

In 1987 the band switched to Magnet Records and the new record released was Waiting for Bonaparte. ‘The Colours’ told of an English mutineer sailor during the Napoleonic War and ‘The Crest’ a stretcher bearer during World War II. Whilst ‘The Colours’ was at Number 61 in the British top 75 it was blacklisted by BBC Radio 1 due to the line “You’ve Come Here To Watch Me Hang”, which echoed the events happening in South African townships at the time, in particular the plight of the Sharpeville Six.

In 1988 the band were on the move again and signed for new label Silvertone and were joined by Nick Muir (ex Fire Next Time) at this time on piano, organ and accordion, who remained with the band during their time at Silvertone. The band recorded two albums for Silvertone, the first being Silver Town. Highlights of Silver Town included ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’, ‘A Place in the Sun’ and ‘Rosettes’. Silver Town was the only TMTCH album to reach the UK Top 40 album chart, peaking at No. 39. They followed this up in 1990 with The Domino Club, which had a more conventional rock sound dispensing with much of the folk element.

The band split in 1991 after releasing the live album, Alive, Alive-O, a performance recorded at London’s Town & Country Club which was later released as a DVD The Shooting. Paul Simmonds and “Swill” Odgers then formed Liberty Cage who released an album, Sleep of the Just, in 1994 and an EP, I’ll Keep It With Mine, in 1995.

The band reformed in 1996, but minus drummer Jon Odgers who had become Therapy?’s drum technician. He was replaced by Kenny Harris of cult 80’s band the Screaming Blue Messiahs. Their new CD was Never Born To Follow, released on the Demon label in 1996. The following year the band released the mini-album Big Six Pack. Two “Best Of” collections followed Majestic Grill and The Mud, The Blood and the Beer, both in 1998.

The band again withdrew into semi retirement during which Odgers and Simmonds again released new material together (this time under their own names), Baby Fishlips, (originally released under the pseudonym Preacher Jethro Brimstone and the Watermelon Kid) in 1999 and Folk At The Fortress, in 2002.

The band released a brand new CD in 2003 The Cherry Red Jukebox, which most fans agreed was a real return to form. In 2005 the band released two DVDs, Shooting, and 21 Years of Love And Hate (released on Secret Records) to celebrate 21 years together. This latter was later released as a live double CD Smugglers And Bounty Hunters.

During further breaks from the band Phil “Swill” Odgers released two CDs with his band “The Swaggerband”, which includes Ricky McGuire and Jon Odgers, plus lyrical contribution from Paul Simmonds. The Day After, in 2004 and, Elvis Lives Here, on Irregular Records in 2006.

In January 2007 Paul Simmonds had the book A Bag of Songs published . It features a personal selection of 50 songs with lyrics, chords and commentary.

In March 2007 the band released a new CD through their website Demos & Rarities Volume 1. This album is a collection of rare unreleased TMTCH recordings from the Silver Town and The Domino Club albums.

The band are joined by Tom Spencer (The Yo Yo’s, Fastlane Roogalator, The Loyalties) bringing banjo to the line up and additional guitar and backing vocals.

They released a new CD titled Devil On The Wind.. As a prelude to the album the band released a six-track EP CD Devil On The Wind EP via their website. The EP contains an alternative mixes of ‘Devil On The Wind’ and ‘Aquamarine’ plus four songs not available on the full album.

On Thursday 8 October 2009, almost 25 years since The Men They Couldn’t Hang played their first proper gig in Camden Town at The Electric Ballroom, they returned for the official 25 Year Anniversary Celebration.

2012 saw the release of an album from Stefan Cush’s new band, The Feral Family and Paul Simmonds was recording and touring with roots singer Naomi Bedford as well as numerous live dates for TMTCH. The latter including appearances at Mike Peter’s “The Gathering”, and festival appearances alongside Billy Bragg and Adam Ant to name but a few. They headlined the 10th anniversary commemoration of Joe Strummer’s Acton Town Hall show which also featured a special guest appearance by Hard Fi.

March 2013 saw the release of Phil (Swill) Odgers highly anticipated solo album produced by Mick Glossop, the album “The Godforsaken Voyage” includes guest appearances from Australian folkrockers Weddings, Parties Anything as well as John Jones (Oysterband) and Eliza Carthy.

2014 marked the band’s 30th anniversary, and they released their ninth album, ‘The Defiant’ and in 2018 came Cock-A-Hoop.

Marina Osman Biography

Marina Osman
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

Marina Vasilieva Starostenkova was born in 1965 in Polotsk, Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, into a family of musicians. Her mother was a bayan player, a choirmaster and a singing/vocal teacher and her father was a theoretician, graduate of the Gnessin State Musical College.

After moving to Murmansk, Marina started her music studies in 1980 entering a piano class. In 1984, she graduated with distinction after completing the full academic course in the speciality fortepiano and was given the qualification of teacher of a music school and concertmaster.

During her studies in Murmansk, she became laureate of the Regional Contest of the soloist-pianist in the North-West region of the USSR and the winner of the Contest of Soloist-Pianists held in Murmansk. In the same year, she entered the Belarusian State Academy of Music in Minsk in the speciality fortepiano where she stayed until 1990.

Whilst she studied in Minsk, from 1989, she became a piano teacher and concertmaster in Novopolotsk State Musical College in Novopolotsk where she continued working until 2010.

She was a member of the jury of the third International Chamber ensemble competition “Nova Musica” in Daugavpils and took part in concerts both in Belarus and Russia, and also in jazz festivals in Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Russia in 2009.

Now in England, Marina Osman frequently gives concerts at the Pushkin House in London and has given piano and theory lessons since 2011 at the same time as working with Daria Kulesh in several line-ups.

Reg Meuross biography

Reg Meuross

Folking.com Soloist of the Year 2019, Reg Meuross is currently touring with his latest album, the song cycle 12 Silk Handkerchiefs which tells of fighting fishwife Lillian Bilocca, who led a battle for better trawler safety following the Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968. This album features Hull musicians Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry and narration by author Brian W Lavery whose book The Headscarf Revolutionaries inspired Reg to write the song cycle. The four artists are touring with some special 12 Silk Handkerchiefs multi-media shows in Autumn 2019 and early 2020.

Mark Radcliffe introduced Reg Meuross onto the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show as a “brilliant singer-songwriter and true troubadour with a social conscience”. And it’s not all protest, as well as story songs which bring characters from history to life and comment on life around him Reg also writes and sings some of the most heart-aching love songs ever written, performed with depth and spellbinding delivery. Reg has that rare gift of being able to touch people through his songs and performance, on a really human level, his words and music painting pictures that remain with the listener long after the song has been sung, accompanying himself masterfully on guitar and captivating audiences with his beautiful tenor voice.

“An insight into the human spirit and empathy the the plight of ordinary people.” Froots Magazine

Due to popular demand, Reg is re-issuing six of his back albums which had been out of print. The Goodbye Hat, Short Stories, Still, Dragonfly, All This Longing and Leaves & Feathers are all now available as a beautiful Reg Meuross Retrospective collection.

Reg Meuross first emerged onto the acoustic music scene in the 1980s with The Panic Brothers and has, over the years of touring and playing solo as well as with many other acclaimed artists, developed a style that as Pete Townshend says “allows the listener to embrace the whole breadth of his work over many years without distraction… he sings in the neutral accent of an Englishman who travels the entirety of the British Isles, and tastes all its flavours, influenced by all its most profound national colours. In this he reminds one of Roy Harper or Ewan MacColl, recent greats who went before him.”

Reg then went on to form The Flamingos featuring ex Graham Parker guitarist Martin Belmont, Bob Loveday from The Penguin Cafe Orchestra & Bob Geldof’s Band & Alison Jones of The Barely Works They recorded one album called Arrested.

In 1996 he released his first critically acclaimed solo album The Goodbye Hat and was nominated for several music awards. This was followed up in 2004 with Short Stories and in 2006 by the excellent Still. In 2008 he released Dragonfly, followed in 2010 by All This Longing. The Dreamed And The Drowned, released in 2011, is a collection of thirteen previously unreleased archive songs. It was commissioned and compiled by Stephen Jordan at The Bodleian Music Library, Oxford, who said, “this is Reg Meuross at his most eclectic and inspiring best.”

In 2012 Reg was invited by Abbey Road to record an album in their world famous studios and he took this opportunity to respond to the many requests for him to make a CD that reflects the warmth intimacy of his live shows.  The resulting album, Leaves & Feathers did just that, receiving 5 star reviews across the board. It’s a collection of twelve beautiful songs stripped down to the bare bones which prompted Pennyblack Music to say: “calling Meuross a singer-songwriter really doesn’t do the man justice. [He] doesn’t write lines of lyrics. He writes short stories then sets them to some of the most captivating melodies you’ll ever hear…. Meuross is one of the most talented storytellers of our generation.” Reg was awarded Best Vocalist 2013 by Fatea Magazine.

Leaves & Feathers was a hard act to follow, but his next album England Green & England Grey rose to the challenge dealing with difficult topics such as dementia, commemorated  the centenary of WW1, told the tale of the bandleader and his violin both lost in the Titanic disaster, ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie;’ and it delivered an anthem for our times: ‘England Green And England Grey’. The album was awarded Best Album of 2014 by FolkWords.

Many will know Reg for the extraordinary intimacy of his live solo performances, and it was the countless requests at these unique events for “the one that sounds just like what we’ve just heard” that inspired the production of a trilogy of distinctive and entirely solo albums, returning to the solo format which inspired him to write and sing in the first place. December is a collection of ten of the most beautiful songs which go straight to the heart. Pure Reg. The album was recorded on two days in London in 2016 with no overdubs or studio trickery as a gift to everyone who helped him bring his sweet little 1944 Martin to his hands from where he found it two years ago in San Jose and who helped lovingly restore it.  One man – who just happens to be “one of the finest songwriters this country has produced” [Mike Harding] and his guitar (and a touch of harmonica). In the second in the trilogy, Faraway People,

Reg comments courageously on the world we are living in now, from the ravages of austerity to the injustices of racism and the plight of refugees. He also delves into history, echoing warnings that resonate through the decades and are still relevant today. Stories told include people from living memory such as anti Nazi activist Sophie Scholl from WW2, and Michael Brown (victim of the fatal Missouri shooting in 2014) as well as ancient history (Cicero) and even a fictitious meeting between two of the artist’s greatest heroes. The title track was awarded Best Song of 2017 by Fatea Magazine. Amongst the protest there is beauty, love and humour. The third in this solo trilogy will be released in October 2019.

In February 2018 Reg released a second collection of previously unreleased archive songs (the first being The Dreamed and the Drowned) Songs About A Train. Fatea saidA lot of artists strive in vain to make an album of this quality, yet with these eleven previously rejected tracks Reg has once again produced something truly special. Songs About A Train is an absolute pleasure to listen to from start to finish.”

More recently Reg was invited by Stockfisch Records to re-record a number of songs to make the eponymous Reg Meuross. This was released in April 2018.

Before 2018 was out Reg released one more album, the song cycle 12 Silk Handkerchiefs marking the Hull Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968 and celebrating fish wife Lillian Bilocca’s fight for better safety on the trawlers. This album is now on tour including some special shows which feature Hull musicians Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry and narrated by author Brian W Lavery whose book The Headscarf Revolutionaries inspired Reg to write the song cycle.

When you have 2000 people singing along, you’re doing something right.” Great British Folk Festival

A mighty songwriter and an equally fine singer” Martin Carthy

One of the most talented storytellers of our generation” Pennyblack Music

Powerful and moving songwriting” Martin Chilton, The Telegraph

A deep well of compassion and insight into the human heart and spirit.” Mike Davies, Folk Radio UK

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

 

Ninebarrow biography

Ninebarrow

Having been friends since the age of 12, folk music had long been a feature in the lives of Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere. The primary reason for that was Bob Whitley, Jon’s father, who was (and still is!) a well-respected Dorset folk singer and song-writer. Providing a backdrop of song-writing and sing-around nights at Jon’s family home, not to mention running his own folk club for a number of years, meant that Jon had always had one foot in the folk world from a very early age. Jay found himself being inexorably (but not unwillingly!) pulled towards the genre after tagging along at many of the folk nights hosted by Jon’s Dad. It wasn’t until 2012, however, that the two began singing together, after spending a summer becoming inspired by a host of great music at some of the South West’s great festivals. In spending long hours at the sing-arounds of Sidmouth Folk Festival, as well as experiencing a particularly amazing line-up of folk acts at Larmer Tree Festival 2012, the friends found themselves hooked. Thinking that in the following twelve months they might be able to sell enough CDs to afford tickets to next year’s Larmer Tree Festival, Jon and Jay began singing together as Ninebarrow.

It quickly became clear that Ninebarrow was not only going to be something quite special, but also that Jon and Jay would not be needing to buy tickets for Larmer Tree Festival 2013 after all. Instead, after entering a competition on a whim, the duo were crowned Larmer Tree Breakthrough Music Award Winners – and were awarded not only tickets to the 2013 festival, but also a spot on one of the festivals main stages. From here, the accolades continued to arrive with regularity. In the same year they were announced Number 1 in Drunkenwerewolf Magazine’s ‘Hidden Acoustic Gems of 2013’ and their debut EP ‘Kingdom’ was announced as one of Ukulelehunt.com’s records of the year.

In 2014, Ninebarrow went on to release their debut album While The Blackthorn Burns and it received a raft of excellent reviews, including being awarded Fatea Magazine’s ‘Debut Album of the Year’ 2014 and the duo were also finalists in the UK Songwriting Competition of the same year with their song ‘The Weeds’ from the same album. Again, recorded and produced by the duo themselves, the 12 track release has been hailed as ‘a landmark folk album of its time’ (Folkwords.com), ‘exceptional…totally wonderful’ (Fatea Magazine) with harmonies that are used to ‘stunning effect’ (Brightyoungfolk.com). It’s also received airplay on Mike Harding’s Folk Show where he said: ‘I’ve had lots of requests for this next duo…Beautiful, lovely feel to this. I love it.’ In May 2014, Folk Radio UK posted the opening track of the album on their website and within 4 weeks it had received over 20,000 plays world-wide and jumped to number 1 on SoundCloud’s Folk chart. The album was also listed in the Telegraph’s top folk albums of 2014.

In the same year, as part of the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, Ninebarrow were invited to take part in a collaborative re-recording of Pete Seeger’s ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ which subsequently received airplay on Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show on BBC Radio 2 as well as winning FATEA Magazine’s ‘Single of the Year’ 2014.

The success the duo enjoyed during their early years performing together was set in front of a backdrop of full-time work in other professions. During Ninebarrow’s first four years, the duo took bookings as often as they were able, whilst Jay worked as a GP and Jon as a full-time primary school teacher. It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that both decided to take the decision to step back from these roles in order to pursue professional careers as musicians.

During this same period, Ninebarrow’s second album, Releasing The Leaves, was released to wide-spread critical acclaim. Recorded and produced in the duo’s own studio and mastered by Mark Tucker (whose other credits include Show of Hands and Fairport Convention) the album received a raft of stellar reviews including five stars in both Maverick Magazine and the English Dance and Song Magazine produced by the EFDSS. Receiving airplay on national and regional radio stations across the UK, including the multiple plays on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, it was described by Suzi Klein on BBC Radio 3 as demonstrating the duo’s harmonies ‘to perfection’. It was also awarded four stars by The Telegraph and listed in the paper’s Top Folk Albums of 2016 as well as featuring in several other ‘Best Albums of 2016’ awards lists.

In addition to their live shows and recording work, Ninebarrow have also worked on a number of commissioned projects. In the summer of 2014, the duo were commissioned by Artsreach Dorset to write a series of songs inspired by the South Dorset Ridgeway and designed to raise awareness of the rich archaeological heritage of the area. These songs were showcased in exhibitions across Dorset throughout the spring and summer of 2015. They were also commissioned by the ‘Off The Map’ Dance company in the summer of 2017 to write and record the soundtrack to a brand new contemporary dance production entitled Folklore, which takes inspiration from three folk tales from the south west of England. The duo spent two months working on the project, which was partially funded by Arts Council England.

Larkin Poe biography

Larkin Poe
Photograph courtesy of RS-photo

Rebecca & Megan Lovell began their musical careers in 2005 as teenagers with the formation of a bluegrass/Americana group, the Lovell Sisters, with their eldest sister, Jessica Lovell. After self-releasing two independent albums and touring successfully for four years – appearing on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, the Grand Ole Opry, and performing at Bonnaroo Music Festival – the Lovell Sisters announced the group’s disbandment in December 2009. In January 2010, Rebecca and Megan regrouped as Larkin Poe – “Larkin Poe” was the name of the sisters’ great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Over the course of three years (2010-2013), Larkin Poe self-released five independent EPs, 2 collaboration albums, and a live performance DVD. Spring EP (2010), Summer EP (2010), Fall EP (2010), Winter EP (2010), Thick As Thieves EP (2011), The Sound of The Ocean Sound a collaboration with Thom Hell (2013), Killing Time EP, a collaboration with Blair Dunlop (2013).

In late 2013, Larkin Poe signed a record deal with RH Music, the music division of San Francisco-based company Restoration Hardware. Following this signing, the band began work on their first full-length album, Kin.

In March 2014, producer T Bone Burnett tapped the sisters to record harmonies and instrumentation on The New Basement Tapes’ album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes alongside Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons, Elvis Costello, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Rhiannon Giddens. Rebecca and Megan also appear in the 2014 Showtime documentary Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued.

In June 2014, Larkin Poe performed at the Glastonbury Festival, which resulted in them being named “best discovery of Glastonbury” by The Observer. In April 2016, the sisters released their second album Reskinned and in February 2017, they performed as part of the backing band at the MusiCares tribute to Tom Petty in Los Angeles, accompanying such artists as Jackson Browne and Don Henley.

Larkin Poe’s cover of the traditional song ‘John The Revelator’ was used as the Series 3 episode 13 ending music for the Fox TV show Lucifer. In 2018, Larkin Poe’s self-produced third album Peach was nominated for a Blues Foundation Best Emerging Artist Album award.

Larkin Poe released Venom & Faith, their fourth studio album, on November 9, 2018. The album was recorded in Nashville, produced by Rebecca and Megan, and engineered and mixed by Roger Alan Nichols.Venom & Faith reached number 1 on the Billboard blues album chart for the week of November 24, 2018.

Vision Thing biography

Vision Thing

Vision Thing are mostly bass guitarist Paul Cunliffe, Pete Cunliffe on acoustic guitar, David Windsor on violin and vocalist Cherlene Walmsley. On big occasions they are joined by Phil Ware and Jon Ormrod on cajon and djembe, Jan Hough on bodhran, drummer Darren Leonard and electric guitarist Liam Halsall. As they say: it is a bit like Schrödinger’s band, they are not in the band and in the band all at the same time.

John Kettle of Merry Hell is their producer and engineer and sometimes plays guitar and bouzouki as well.

They say of themselves:

We make relaxed and entertaining music for people sick of the mainstream. We class ourselves as ‘Alternative Folk’ both in genre and as people. We feel that lyrics and the ambience of the music is more important than being famous or making money.

With lots of radio play in the US with the hit song ‘Barcode’, Vision Thing have made friends in unlikely places for a band from Liverpool and we hope to see you out and about at one of our gigs.

Recently Vision Thing have played many festivals including The Diggers Festival, Bickerstock Festival, Green Slate Festival as well as supporting bands like Merry Hell at Sold out concerts with concerts at The Floral Hall Southport, The Cavern Club Liverpool (3 times), The Zanzibar Liverpool, The Old Court Wigan, The Lomax Liverpool and many more.

“Vision Thing are a brilliant band! They opened up our last Wigan Diggers Festival – created a beautiful, relaxed, atmosphere that got the day off to a great start.”
– Bob Kettle: Merry Hell & Diggers Music Festival Organiser