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REG MEUROSS – 12 Silk Handkerchiefs (Hatsongs HAT013)

12 Silk HandkerchiefsThis is not your typical Reg Meuross album. Not that it doesn’t have his consummate songwriting with its finely crafted melodies and emotive resonance and not that it isn’t beautifully sung; it’s just that, while he features on backing, Reg only sings two tracks. It is, in fact, a concept album, a song cycle about the Hull triple trawler tragedy when, in 1968, bad weather sank three separate trawlers in less than a month, with only one survivor from the total crew of fifty-nine men.

The album is based on Brian W. Lavery’s book, The Headscarf Revolutionaries, which documents the subsequent campaign of Lillian ‘Big Lil’ Bilocca, one of the trawlermen’s wives and her friends to bring about changes in the fishing industry. As such, it comprises both song and spoken word, the narration delivered by Lavery himself, while Hull folk singers Sam (as in Samantha) Martyn and Mick McGarry provide both vocal and spoken tracks.

There’s six songs, each preceded by Lavery’s scene setting, opening with the waltztime shanty ‘Wash Her Man Away, McGarry on vocals, Meuross providing harmonies and acoustic and Martyn on harmonium, a number rooted in superstitions about bringing back luck, here a meticulously tidy housewife not doing the laundry on the day before her skipper husband sets sail, the lyrics evoking such portents as the men leaving their small change behind.

The intro to ‘I Am A Fish House Woman’ conjures the fellowship of the women in the cold of the fish processing plant, detailing the work, talk of missing ships and introducing Lily, on her last shift for two years. This time, it’s Martyn on vocals, Meuross on strummed dulcimer, for a six minute, chorus-friendly anthem to the women, the conditions they work under (“my mother was a skinner ‘til the freezing took her lung”) in their nine-hour day, slicing the ‘silver darlings’ and how, while the men are away “fighting for their lives, we’re fighting for their rights”.

Sung heartbreakingly in the first person, ‘John Barry Rogers’ recounts the story of the eighteen-year-old deckhand who, when their ship went down in an Atlantic storm, saved the life of first mate Harry Eddom, the sole survivor, getting him onto the raft, before dying of exposure. Backed by harmonium and guitar, McGarry again sings lead on a classic Meuross lyric as the doomed boy talks of his mother and sweetheart, left behind in the siren call of the sea.

As you might guess, one of the two tracks sung by Meuross, ‘The Man The Sea Gave Back’, turns the focus on Eddom, a flavour of early Dylan to its brisk strum with Martyn adding flute, as he sings of Eddom watching the other two survivors eventually fall victim to the cruel sea.

Both the narrative and the lyrics to ‘Sleep You Safely’, sung by Martyn, turn the spotlight back on Bilocca, who was ejected from the campaign group she’d founded after appearing on the Eamonn Andrews show when, asked how the men spent their time on shore, talked of the single ones going to the pub “with their tarts”, a term that had a different meaning back home at Hessle Road to the one the studio audience assumed. The men she’d fought for also turned against her after a ban on fishing in bad weather meant they lost catches to Icelandic trawlers, but counterpointed by a meeting with a young galley boy on her way back from the meeting.

A melancholic, slow paced number, again featuring one of Meuross’s trademark uplifting choruses, it gives way to the lilting title track, the intro noting how, after her husband’s death, Lily moved home to a council house, weighed down by her treatment by the media and the feeling of being abandoned and her fight ignored, falling into ill health and eventually dying of cancer at 59 in 1988.

The title refers to her last request to her daughter to buy the handkerchiefs which, on the day before she died, she handed out to all those who had looked after her. Sung by Meuross with Martyn and McGarry on harmonies, the simply strummed song itself takes a more metaphorical approach, the handkerchiefs also symbolic of, as the chorus notes, the months of the year, “the twelve holy fisherman keeping her loved ones from fear” and “all the company men In their temples of greed she battled and beat in the end And for all the men and boys who are called by the sea…to bring them home safely to thee.”

It ends with ‘Times and Tides’, a reading by McGarry from Lavery’s book that, like the album, is a finely spun tribute testament to the men who risk their lives to harvest the ocean and the women “who never waved…Nor wavered” and the kids waiting for their fathers’ return “Christmas every twenty-one days.” It’s rich in honest emotion, deep humanity, resonant lyrics and infectious melodies. Typical Reg Meuross after all, then.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

’12 Silk Handkerchiefs’ – live:


SIMON TODD – Half Empty/Half Full (Ginger Tom Music GTM002)

Half Empty/Half FullSimon Todd’s new release Half Empty/Half Full is his second CD, following from Contracts For The Sale of Land in 2009. It’s nearly ten years, but it’s worth the wait. Half Empty/Half Full has ten strong songs, Todd has an appealing voice, which has a good range and makes well written lyrics easy to hear.

The video below is of ‘Send Her Home To Me’. Todd describes the song as “The closest I get to a love song” – in that it’s a love song from the point of view of a cuckold “if I remember it right/it was a bright clear night/ when you took her away from me”. It’s rather classy – gentle singing from an unreliable narrator so that you’re torn between thinking ‘Ah, that’s sweet’ or ‘idiot’ or ‘Might the woman not have a say in this?’ Without hitting you over the head to claim your attention, this is rather good songwriting.

‘The Last Step’ is similarly clever – a series of idioms joined into an up-tempo track and held together by the concluding line “the last step that you take you take alone.” Wisdom or cliché? It doesn’t matter, it’s a good song and it works. ‘Judas Kiss’ is similarly lively and foot tapping.

If there is a wryness to these songs, the opening and closing tracks ‘Down To The River’ and ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ show a different side to Todd’s writing – faster paced, more raw, a raspier vocal driving them forward. There is breadth as well as depth to Todd’s writing and playing.

‘And I Get Weak’ has my favourite opening line of the year “We laughed at the Dodo/Shot it where it stood” and builds into an anthem to challenge modern priorities (for example, “we build aquariums to simulate and please/whilst pumping toxic waste into the seas”. Genius). You could easily get a crowd singing along to this. ‘Poppy Fields’, an image we no longer associate with nature but with war and death, also has some stark images, this time of Douglas Haig’s trench warfare strategy “Sacrifices under fire/Virgin boys left screaming on the wire/Staring eyes that died alone/I’m sorry but your son’s not coming home”. There’s a punch in that juxtaposition.

Todd describes the album as having come from considering similar situations from alternative perspectives. ‘Think Of Me’, for example, takes the theme of a separated couple but gives a very different view to ‘Send Her Home To Me’. It is more equable, capturing day-to-day realities and summarizes “Just think of me/Maybe I’m still here”.

Although this pairing of perspectives may have been the creative source, and has led to the title of Half Empty/Half Full. I’ve heard the album as a collection of well written individual songs which stand on their own, from a man who “places equal importance on lyrics, melody and chord structure”.

A look on Todd’s website shows a history of gigs in the USA (mainly Texas) as well as the U.K. (mainly the north east). The website doesn’t show any planned gigs at the moment – which is a pity, as this album is well worth a listen and really ought to open up Todd’s songwriting and performing to a wider audience.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Send Her Home To Me’ – live:

BRIAN McALPINE – Mutual Imagination Society Vol 1 (own label CD001)

Mutual Imagination SocietyWhen did classical and traditional music become so intertwined? I suppose we must go back to the 15th century to find where it started but the definition of classical music didn’t appear until the early 1800s. In England, we can probably pin the blame on Ralph Vaughn Williams for nicking so many good tunes for Hymns Ancient & Modern and then Percy Grainger and George Butterworth. The purpose of this musing is to try to define Brian McAlpine and Mutual Imagination Society Vol 1.

Brian is first and foremost a composer, notably of music for film and television, where the accompaniment to a scene is so important and he’s contributed as arranger, composer and performer to almost seventy albums. He doesn’t borrow tunes but he does employ traditional styles so here you’ll find massed highland pipes alongside horns laid over the foundation of his piano. He doesn’t borrow tunes but ‘November 6th’, for example, sounds as though its origins lie deep in the past ‘Blue Grass’, which follows it, sounds much more contemporary with drones and massed keyboards. I’m just guessing here because Brian is a phenomenal multi-instrumentalist but modestly doesn’t list all his instruments and what I take to be synthesised strings could be the real strings of Jonny Hardie and Alison Smith multi-tracked. ‘Blue Grass’ is a particularly fascinating track because half-way through Brian suddenly switches to banjo overlaid with pipes before eventually returning to the drones.

All the tracks dance around ideas and forms. The eleven minute opener, ‘Suite #1’, is a sort of hors d’oeuvre allowing the listener a taste of what is to come. Brian uses a good deal of piano-accordion but he doesn’t do things in the obvious way. ‘Piobroch #1’ is initially a piano piece and just when you think it won’t happen, here come the pipes but not for long and we’re left with piano and accordion. ‘The Tumbler’, which comes next,opens with bluesy saxophone played Nigel Hitchcock but having established itself it wanders off for a while.

I’m not enough of an expert to say what Brian McAlpine does exactly or how he does it but he does say that each piece was composed to express an emotion and was inspired by the Scottish landscape and that, at least, I can recognise. I also know that it’s a rather wonderful album.

Dai Jeffries


Artist’s website:

‘Soundtrack To Peace’- official video:

Copperplate Podcast 230 – Presented by Alan O’Leary brings you the latest podcast from that aficionado of Irish music, yes you guessed it, the one and only Mr. Alan O’Leary with his regular monthly instalment of Copperplate goodies.

Click the play button below to listen to the show.


I. VAN MORRISON & THE CHIEFTAINSHigh Spirits. The Philosopher’s Stone
2. SULT HOUSE BAND: The Connaught Heifers/The Hunter’s Purse. Spirit of the Music
 GERRY O’CONNOR:     Dad. & Lads  Last Nights Joy
The Man from Connemara.  The Burren Backroom Series
5. THE DUBLIN LASSES: Princess Royal.    The Dublin Lasses
Lord McDonald’s/The New Steamboat/Sheridan’s.
7. JOHNNY DUFFY & TOMMY HEALEY: Mrs Kenny’s Barndance/Cavan Lasses/Rose in the Heather.
The Music of Sligo
8.  KEVIN CRAWFORD: Travelling West.
9. MAGGIE BOYLE:     Lady Margaret.  Gweebarra
10. TEADA: 
Jamsey Gannon’s/McDermott’s/Over The Moor to Peggy.
Nora Criona. The Drones & Chanter Vol2
The Nightingale. Liam Clancy
 DANNY O’MAHONEY:   The G Reel/Red Tom of the Hill/The Balintore Fancy.  In Retrospect
14. ROSIE STEWART:     The Grand Parade. 19th Jimmy McHugh Concert
Happy Reels.
From Clare to  Here.   Silver Celebration
17. DANNY MEEHAN:    Tarbolton/Over The Moor to Maggie.
18VAN MORRISON:    Into The Mystic.   Moonshine
19. VAN MORRISON & THE CHIEFTAINSHigh Spirits. The Philosopher’s Stone

For further information on the music featured in the show visit:

DANKO & BUTTERFIELD – Live At The Golden Bear (Floating World FLOATM6375)

Live At The Golden BearThis is the earliest of three new archive albums featuring Rick Danko. When The Band was in down-time Rick would regularly tour small clubs, sometimes solo, sometimes with friends and in the late 70s, Paul Butterfield was a regular partner. Live At The Golden Bear is one of the first of these collaborations, reckoned to be recorded in November 1978 but so obscure that it isn’t listed on The Band’s website.

The first disc is pretty much pure rock’n’roll and Rick and Paul are clearly having a wonderful time. Early tracks include JJ Cale’s ‘Crazy Mama’, a staple of Danko’s live set; Nick Gravenites’ ‘Born In Chicago’ from Butterfield’s early days and ‘Seaboard Line Boogie’ from Paul Revere & The Raiders – I’m still trying to find the connection to that one. From there we have five Buddy Holly songs and Bob Wills’ ‘Stay All Night’ to end the first disc.

The band includes Marty Grebb, Walt Richmond and Terry Danko and there may be others but they are not listed in the booklet. They are announced from the stage but the crowd noise is too high for clarity and therein lies the major problem. The noise builds and builds and an attempt to introduce some sensitivity in the shape of ‘Unfaithful Servant’ is ruined by an annoyingly loud-voiced woman, presumably standing next to the microphone. She moves or shuts up after a while and Randy Van Warmer’s ‘Just When I Needed You Most’ fares rather better.

I was really looking forward to hearing this album but, sadly, it turns out to be a so-so bootleg and I’m unwilling to recommend it.

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

‘Crazy Mama’ – live in 1979:

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention – tickets on sale now

Fairport's Cropredy Convention

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention three-day open-air music festival will celebrate its fortieth anniversary in 2019.

The organisers have announced many of the acts booked for next summer’s event which will take place on Thursday 8, Friday 9 and Saturday 10 August. The remaining acts will be announced in January 2019.

Tickets went on sale from 3 December 2018.

Host band Fairport Convention will open the festival on Thursday 8 August with an acoustic performance then take the stage again on Saturday to play a two-hour headline set. Thursday’s headline act will be The Waterboys whose potent performance makes them one of the UK’s most exciting live acts.

Former Fairport member Richard Thompson will appear with his erstwhile bandmates Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg and Simon Nicol. Award-winning Martin Simpson, one of Britain’s greatest acoustic guitarists, makes his first appearance at Cropredy. Fresh from a world tour with Robert Plant, Seth Lakeman returns to Cropredy after a ten year absence.

Celebrating 50 years of Jethro Tull’s music, Martin Barre’s band includes the original Tull drummer Clive Bunker and long-time bassist, Jonathan Noyce. Pioneers of Canterbury’s prog rock scene, Caravan will be making their Cropredy debut. Scottish singer-guitarist Zal Cleminson’s /sin’dogs/ are a new high-octane prog-metal band.

Daphne’s Flight features five female singer-songwriters; Christine Collister, Melanie Harrold, Julie Matthews, Helen Watson and Chris While. BAFTA nominee Richard Digance returns to his traditional Cropredy Saturday lunchtime slot. Will Pound and Eddy Jay are, respectively, among the UK’s finest harmonica and accordion players. Award-winning female trio Wildwood Kin play contemporary indie-folk characterised by spellbinding family harmonies. Multi-instrumentalist Lil Jim combines guitar, harmonica and accordion with foot percussion and vocals. Four-piece Tide Lines are shaped by the culture and music of the Scottish Highlands.

Cropredy tickets on sale for Christmas

Cropredy tickets went on sale on 3 December 2018 in time for Christmas.

Three-day festival tickets cost £140. Camping tickets cost £45 for three nights.

The first 1,000 orders will receive a Christmas card signed by all five members of Fairport Convention.

For box office details visit Fairport Convention’s website:

Reno Nevada – Cropredy 2017: