MERRY HELL – A Documentary: A Year in the Life (own label)

A Year In The LifeExactly what it says, A Year In The Life follows the much acclaimed and awards-festooned Wigan outfit across the course of a year from February 2018 to February 2019, from rehearsals and hometown gigs to meet and greet Q&A sessions (why are you called Merry Hell?) and festivals, from Portugal to Skegness. As John Kettle stresses from the start, while their familiar live format is as a quintet, Merry Hell are, in fact, 12 piece, including not only keyboardist Lee Goulding, fiddler Neil McCartney (who made the documentary) and drummer Andy Jones who roll up for the recordings and larger stages, but also their manager, Damian Liptrot, merchandisers Julie McKiernan and Mike Jones, and designer Julian Watts. They are, as the film makes clear, very much a family in more than the literal sense of the three Kettle brothers and John’s wife Virginia.

Going behind the scenes, to their homes and into dressing rooms (at one show Virginia marvels how they all have their own, including Damian), each gets their own turn in the spotlight, talking about their background, their role in the band, offering up anecdotes and chatting about their favourite books. For Virginia it’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, which she read because she wanted to be like the cool girl in town she’d seen reading it, Nick (filmed with the backdrop of a Merry Helloween banner in St Helens) recalls first encountering The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy while Bob talks of George Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier, affording an opportunity for a trip round their native town and a visit to the actual pier, which, and I’m sure most wouldn’t have known this, was actually the loading bay on the canal where they put the coal on the boats. Virginia, on the other hand, takes us on a tour of Chester to where she moved from Manchester in 1982 and kicked off her music career at the Raven Folk Club (chatting to one of the long-standing organisers, Nick Mitchell), taking in the suspension bridge from which she and he mates would dive into the river and an old Anchorite cell.

As with their music, the personal and the politics go hand in hand, the different members talking about their convictions (Bob notes how the world needs more kindness and Andrew talks about the need for a global ecological consciousness) and how the need to keep what they do and sing about real. Surprisingly, perhaps, the music itself doesn’t play a prominent role in the film, there are snippets of songs from shows or rehearsals (including their support acts, such as Ragnari). But none are talked about individually or (save for Virginia’s ‘No Place Like Tomorrow’ over the end credits) played in full, although there are marvellous extracts of the band performing with the Commoners Choir and, with snatches from ‘Bury Me Naked’ and ‘We Need Each Other Now’, the 210 strong Rabble Chorus. As the notes on the back cover say “Merry Hell offer joyful, uplifting folk-rock with a message for troubled times”. This documentary affords an insight into why and how.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk.

‘Bury Me Naked’ – official video (and why not?):

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Well, the thunder is rumbling, the rain is beating down and festivals anywhere near the sea are packing up early – a typical British summer. Maybe it’s best to stay at home and watch a few new videos. We’ll start with one from our good friends Merry Hell:

‘The Fire’ is a recent track by Jamie Freeman, written about the Grenfell disaster. Jamie has a new album, Dreams About Falling and is currently on tour.

The name of Roo Panes crops up on our pages quite frequently. ‘Warrior’ was written to support anti-slavery organisation, International Justice Mission.

Karine Polwart covers Big Country with her version of ‘Chance’ taken from her latest album, Scottish Songbook.

‘Flying Visit’ is the latest single by Ferris & Sylvester who have just announced a new headline tour.

Equal measures chaotic and comical is how the new single ‘No Fun’ by Declan Welsh And The Decadent West has been described. It’s released in advance of their debut album, Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold coming in October.

‘Uneven Days’ is the atmospheric new single by Ben Harper.

Finally, Elephant Sessions have just released the video of ‘Tyragarah’, the single released in support of World Elephant Day.

The Folking Awards 2019 – the results

The Folking Awards 2019

Here they are, the results of the 2019 Folking awards. Thanks to all our writers who submitted nominations and to everyone who participated – over 18,000 votes were cast. Every one of the nominees made an impression on our writers either on record or on stage during 2018 and they are all stars to us. Without further ado, here are the top choices with percentage of the votes cast.

Soloist of the year – Reg Meuross (39%)

Reg Meuross

Read Reg’s biography here.

Best Duo – Ninebarrow (36.9%)

Ninebarrow

Read Ninebarrow’s biography here.

Best Band – Merry Hell (27.5%)

Merry Hell

You know all about them but you can read about Merry Hell here.

Best Live Act – The Men They Couldn’t Hang (38.7%)

The Men They Couldn't Hang 

Read a biography of The Men They Couldn’t Hang here

Best Album – Queer As Folk by Grace Petrie (32.3%)

Queer As Folk

Read Dai Jeffries’ review of Queer As Folk here.

Best Musician – Marina Osman (43.9%)

Marina Osman

Read Marina’s biography here.

Rising Star Act – Vision Thing (32%)

Vision Thing

Read Vision Thing’s bio here.

Best International Artiste – Larkin Poe (41.5%)

Larkin Poe
Photograph by Amy Harris

Read Larkin Poe’s bio here

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The 2019 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2019 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated this year. The nominations, were in eight categories, and came from our ever-expanding team of writers and were collated into shape by the Folkmeister and the Editor over a pint or two, which also involved, a few arm-wrestles and a spot of beer-mat aerobics, in a convenient local watering hole.

There were five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2018.

As we said last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just about what we think, so once more, it was down to you, our ever-growing readership, to make the final call.

We will now compile the results and announce the winners of each category at some point next week.

*The Public Vote for each category closed at 9.00pm on Sunday 31st March (GMT+1).


Soloist Of The Year

Keith James
Reg Meuross
Rachel Newton
John Smith
Andy White


Best Duo

Gilmore & Roberts
Daria Kulesh and Jonny Dyer
Ninebarrow
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar
Winter Wilson


Best Band

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Merry Hell
Skipinnish
Trials Of Cato
The Young’Uns


Best Live Act

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Grace Petrie
The Salts
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees
Andy White


Best Album

A Problem Of Our Kind – Gilmore & Roberts
The Well Worn Path – Seth Lakeman
The Joy Of Living – Jackie Oates
Queer As Folk – Grace Petrie
Hide And Hair – Trials Of Cato


Best Musician

Martin Harley
Aidan O’Rourke
Marina Osman
John Smith
Richard Thompson


Rising Star

Burning Salt
Robert Lane
Kitty MacFarlane
Smith & Brewer
Vision Thing


Best International Artist(s)

3hattrio
Tyler Childers
Mary Gauthier
Kíla
Larkin Poe


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Our first track this time comes from Polish band, Ariadne’s Thread, and is so new it still has snow on its boots. This is ‘Rolandskvadet’.

Skinny Lister’s new album The Story Is… will be released tomorrow. Here’s ‘My Distraction’.

CoCo And The Butterfields have a new EP forthcoming. This is the single, ‘Animals’.

Geiger von Müller is described as an experimental slide guitarist. His new album is already available and this is the single, ‘Blue Moon Frequency Parts 1 to 3’.

Thanks to our old friends Merry Hell for digging up this film of their acoustic line-up performing the Tansads’ ‘Up The Revolution’. Got any Tansads videos, chaps?

‘Sunset  Canyon’ is a track from the new album by Andy Shauf’s band Foxwarren. One to mellow out to.

Dig out the Rickies and pretend it’s the sixties again. This is Fur and ‘Him And Her’.

Last, but definitely not least, a folking.com premiere. Serious Sam Barrett and ‘I Don’t Need To Wait For Heaven’.

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It has been a while since we posted a video wall but some goodies have been arriving recently. A few are related to upcoming releases and some are just for fun.

We begin with Serious Sam Barrett and an unofficial taster for his new album Where The White Roses Grow which will be reviewed here very soon. This is a live take on the title track.

From another album that will be reviewed soon, this is Mandolin Orange and ‘The Wolves’ from the album Tides Of A Teardrop.

Skinny Lister’s new album The Story Is… will be released on March 1st. This is the official video of the title track.

We have already reviewed Anne Marie Almedal’s album Lightshadow. Here’s her version of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’.

We will always review an album from the mighty Breabach.  Here’s the single, ‘Birds Of Passage’, from their most recent album Frenzy Of The Meeting.

We missed this one when it was released last year but it’s a song that deserves a hearing. Tommy Ashby sings ‘Bowlegged’.

Seeing that Richard Thompson is our top solo artist of 2018 – Charlie Foskett thought he’d post you this Thompson penned piece of sadness from his forthcoming debut folk album collection Bugles And Bagpipeswww.foskettsfolkfactory.com – It’s almost completed and hosts many high profile guests whose magical, musical input you are just going to love – including Peter Knight and Rick Kemp (ex Steeleye) – Aidan Burke (cousin of Kevin Burke – Bothy Band and Ireland’s number celtic fiddler for the last 22 yrs – Julie Felix (duet) – Simon Care (Albion Band ) – Chris Spedding – Wizz Jones – Mike Wilson and Damian Barber (Demon Barbers) – Judie Tzuke and more !

The official album launch will be early summer 2019 along with a big, big promo campaign and tour to follow with his newly formed band The Pitmatics! – www.pitmatics.co.uk

Charlie says:

I originally recorded and produced the first version of ‘Nothing at the End of the Rainbow’ in 1986 with Elvis Costello – I was working with Elvis and Loudon Wainright III on other material at the time for EMI Records – I remember receiving a cracker review saying that I had produced “A Song to Slit one’s Wrists to” ! that was the headline – nothing’s changed there then! This, my own version also features Peter Knight on fiddle!

Mostly for fun now. Here are our old mates Merry Hell and ‘My Finest Hour’ from their album Anthems To The Wind. A wonderful euphemism.