SHOW OF HANDS – Wake The Union (Hands On Music HMCD36)

Steve Knightley and Phil Beer (with long time collaborator Miranda Sykes) certainly know how to stir things up opening with a powerful song of bitter recrimination in the hard-hitting and spiteful “Haunt You”. You can just hear the angst as Knightly spits out the lyric with such venom that it will make you wonder if he has personal experience of the subject matter. Continuing the duo’s/trio’s no nonsense approach in having a dig at the ‘fat cats’ that still inhabit the earth carried over from their previous album Arrogance, Ignorance And Greed they include the laid-back blues styled “Company Town” reminiscent of  “Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?” but in place of a full-on New Orleans Dixie Band they introduce the sound of Paul Sartin’s Cor Anglais (perhaps, in view of the recession the budget wouldn’t stretch to a full band) and Paul Downes tenor banjo this is only the start of what turns out to be a veritable box of delights of which there’s not a duff track to be found. With more than a touch of Americana liberally sprinkled throughout the recording and images of Dust Bowl tumbleweed blowing about courtesy of sampled instruments this really could be the CD that sets Show Of Hands alight in the good old US of A. Personally for me this album really is a turning point in my appreciation for all things American styled and congratulations must go to the other musicians involved in the project namely Seth Lakeman, Cormac Byrne, Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting, B.J. Cole, Hannah Martin, Phil Henry, Leonard Podolak and Jenna Witts. On a final point congratulations to Mark Tucker in the production chair, photographer Rob O’Connor and the stunning art design by Mark Higenbottam. Unreservedly ten out of ten!

PETE FYFE

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