Three decades on the road. 4500 gigs. 35 albums. 6 Royal Albert Hall sell-outs. 3 BBC Folk Awards. 2 Honorary Doctorates. Tours in 14 countries from America to Australia, Canada to India.
What more can you say about Show of Hands? Over three decades the West Country alliance of Steve Knightley and Phil Beer has become one of the most inspirational, iconic and best-loved acts in folk roots – a status achieved from wall-to-wall talent, constant connection with their fans and sheer hard work building a unique cottage industry.
A phenomenal partnership of pure alchemy fusing Phil’s remarkable musical wizardry and Steve’s stand-out songwriting, they have always pushed the boundaries but never pulled the punches when it comes to edgy, hard-hitting songs highlighting today’s social issues.
Often nudging the mainstream the Devon duo have produced some of the most recognised songs in the genre and, in Knightley’s ‘The Galway Farmer’, created a song that has been mistaken for coming straight out of the tradition.
Strident songs. Poignant songs. Anthemic songs. Witty songs. History-inspired songs. But always songs with lyrics whose aim is true.
They’ve won major awards, stirred up politicians, helped save a rural Devon post office, appeared on BBC TV’s Andrew Marr Show and Countryfile and formed some memorable collaborations along the way, most recently with the Madrid-based roots band Track Dogs.
And since 2004 they’ve been given a brilliant extra dimension by the wonderfully warm vocals and bass playing of Miranda Sykes.
But now Knightley & Beer have called time on touring and announced “an indefinite break”.
Marking that milestone – and complementing their final ‘Full Circle’ tours this autumn (with Miranda) and next spring (as the duo) they will release Roots 2 – a double album of no less than 31 tracks legitimately looted from one of the most enviable back catalogues around.
Says Phil: “Many people might be surprised to hear that out of all our albums the best-selling release was Roots 1 ‘Best of’ compilation back in 2007. Now Roots 2 picks up the story of what happened next. It’s certainly been quite a journey since we recorded our first album live at the Bull Hotel, Bridport in the early 90s with a bunch of mates.”
Steve says: “We’ve always strived to evolve and experiment with our sound, all the time staying true to our folk roots. We hope the diversity of this album demonstrates that and it will be a noteworthy addition to our discography. While our endless touring must come to an end the album will be a permanent souvenir of our output and a moment in time. We can’t thank people enough for sticking with us for the last 30 years and sharing the ride!”
Produced by in-demand Mark Tucker the album will be released on November 6 gathering together some of the finest gems from four classic albums – Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed (2009), Wake the Union (2012) The Long Way Home (2016) and Battlefield Dance Floor (2019).
The album also features several live recordings including a striking alternative version of their famed anthem ‘Country Life’ captured at the Northcott Theatre in their home city of Exeter.
Exeter Cathedral is the setting for a live recording of the memorable ‘Columbus (Didn’t Find America)’ and ‘Recuerdos (Maria)’ where Show of Hands are joined by Track Dogs for a flourishing and theatrical, trumpet-enhanced performance.
While Knightley (one of the finest voices in folk) takes lead vocal on most of the tracks, Phil puts his own unique stamp on Richard Shindell’s ‘Next Best Western’, the traditional ‘’Twas On One April Morning’ and Steve Earle’s ‘The Devil’s Right Hand’. Meanwhile Miranda delivers her fine take on Jennifer Crook’s ‘Sea Glass’ and steers ‘The Lily And The Rose’, also recorded at Exeter Cathedral for the album Centenary Live and featuring Dartmoor’s The Lost Sound Choir.
Disc 2 includes ‘Arrogance Ignorance And Greed’ – the band’s famous blast at bankers which won Best Original Song at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (the same year they won Best Duo, having previously won Best Live Act).
Their inspired covers include Leonard Cohen’s ‘First We Take Manhattan’ while the Dhol Foundation’s Johnny Kalsi plays on the captivating ‘Mother Tongue’ – a song he co-wrote with Knightley. Other artists who feature on the album include Jackie Oates and Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin.
The final track is a riotous live performance of the 2021 post-lockdown anthem ‘The Best One Yet’, again recorded in Exeter Cathedral with Track Dogs.
Once again, Stylorouge have designed an eye-catching ‘shop window’ album cover crammed with images and effects inspired by songs from the albums trawled for the compilation.
An incredible body of work, Roots 2 emerges as a timeless souvenir – a ticket to relive Knightley and Beer’s remarkable journey. Capturing the essence of their extraordinary career in a single anthology it is destined to serve as a lasting legacy to, as folk guru Mike Harding put it, ‘one of the finest bands ever to have graced the scene’. It’s hard to think of a more deserving duo to take their place in Britfolk’s Hall of Fame.
Released on the Hands On Music label on November 6, Roots 2 will be showcased on a UK tour in November/December – the final tour with Miranda Sykes.
Artists’ website: https://showofhands.co.uk/
‘Arrogance Ignorance And Greed’ – official video:
FULL CIRCLE 1 TOUR DATES
8th HONITON- The Beehive SOLD OUT
9th SHREWSBURY – Theatre Severn SOLD OUT
10th HARROGATE – Royal Hall
11th BUXTON – Opera House
15th NORFOLK – The Halls
16th BEXHILL-ON-SEA – De La Warr Pavilion
17th BRIDPORT – Electric Palace SOLD OUT
18th CRANBROOK – Queen’s Hall Theatre SOLD OUT
19th BASINGSTOKE – Anvil Arts
24th DORKING Halls
25th BATH – The Forum
29th STREET – Strode Theatre
30th EXMOUTH – Pavilion SOLD OUT
1st EXMOUTH – Pavilion SOLD OUT
2nd EXMOUTH – Pavilion SOLD OUT