It’s four years since we last heard from Megson, which is too long but we all know what happened in the interim. What Are We Trying To Say? is their thirteenth album and, as before, they are supported by John Parker on double. All the rest: writing, playing, singing and producing are all down to Stu and Debbie. That’s an awful lot of music even for a twenty year career.
Much of the record sprang out of lockdown when, as Debbie says, “We spent so much time…watching the news and endlessly scrolling”. The first two tracks, ‘What Are We Trying To Say’ and ‘Keeping Him On’, are both directly about the media, their methods and intentions. We’re talking yellow journalism here, which seems appropriate on a Saturday when there won’t even be Match Of The Day to cheer us up. ‘Before I Know It’ is a rather jolly song about our obsession with social media and the need to know what’s round the next corner or, in this case, on the next page.
The songs are underpinned by Debbie’s accordion while Stu switches between, and overlays, guitar, banjo, mandolin, mandola and fiddle and I’m sure I heard a tambourine in there, too. It makes for a distinctive sound and after a couple of tracks you’ll find yourself comfortably settled into their groove.
‘Next Year’ is about all the promises we make to ourselves about how much better we’ll be – except we won’t and don’t. It’s a gentle, domestic, song in contrast to ‘Anastasia And William’, a song about the circumstances surrounding the romance between the editor of The Northern Gazette and a Russian author. The revolutionary press denounced him, she rejected him and later he died on the Titanic. You couldn’t make it up!
This song also reminds us of Megson’s north-eastern roots which are later reinforced by two old songs from the region: ‘Canny Old Blind Willie’ and ‘The Barber’s News’. Now, it might be my imagination but I’m sure that their regional accents are a little stronger than previously. Perhaps it’s all that enforced time together and it’s much better than hearing singers who try to hide their roots.
There are two contradictory songs in the middle of the record: ‘The Conspiracy Trap’ and ‘We Are Better Than This’ – the titles tell you all need to know. And finally we come to ‘And Finally’, a cheekily titled ode to those odd stories we used to get at the end of news broadcasts. (Perhaps we still do but I can never get to the end of a bulletin to find out!)
What Are We Trying To Say? is another excellent Megson album but you wouldn’t expect anything less, would you?
Artists’ website: www.megsonmusic.co.uk
‘Next Year’ – official video: