REG MEUROSS – Raw (Hatsongs HAT021)

RawThe third of the solo back to basics recordings Raw trilogy reunites him with Geoff Hocking, the man who recorded and engineered everything he did as an emerging singer-songwriter in mid-70s Devon. He, together with banjo, dulcimer, harmonica, tenor guitar and trusty ’44 Martin are responsible for making this the most musically naked of the three albums although, as you would expect, there’s plenty of meat on the lyrics which, as ever, span the personal and the political.

It’s the latter that starts the ball rolling with the simple fingerpicked ‘We Looked Away’, a number which, musically borrowing from Dylan’s ‘One Too Many Mornings’, addresses how easy it is to turn a blind eye to what’s going in the world around us, variously alluding to the genocide, the rise of Hitler and climate change. Switching tack, coloured by harmonica ‘From Now On’ is essentially about anger management, sung in the voice of a jealous man promising to get a grip on his emotions and change his ways in an attempt to save his relationship.

Again a gentle fingerpicked number, ‘9 O’clock Angel’ is more enigmatic but seems to touch on ideas of innocence and mortality; however, there’s no mistaking the narrative to ‘A Child Was Born In Birmingham’ which retells the story of the Nativity in the city’s Bull Ring, cleverly reworking all the biblical elements, the three wise men being a doctor, priest and lawyer drinking in the bar of where else but The Lion and the Lamb.

Turning to banjo, ‘Stay’ is another relationship in stasis number (“You say you’re tired on thinking ‘bout tomorrow/You say you’re tired of waiting for the sun”) while ‘Shelley’s Heart’ would seem to find him putting his own spin on the folk staple about a young man drowned and an unaware sweetheart waiting anxiously back home, except it is in fact about the death of the titular mad, bad and dangerous to know poet who drowned in 1822 in storm off the Gulf of Spezia and who was cremated on the beach, his heart allegedly snatched from the pyre by his friend Edward Trelawny and buried with his son Percy. The Mary of the lyric is his widow who, as alluded to here, in 1824 went on to publish a collection of his works. Again it’s evocative of Dylan, this time ‘Chimes Of Freedom’, both musically and in its lines about writing his poems for “the innocents the dispossessed the weak/For those who cannot fight and those who cannot speak”.

One more proving a springboard into history for those who like to dig deeper into the songs, harmonica making a return, the strummed ‘The Crossbones Graveyard’ refers to the disused post-medieval burial ground on Redcross Way in Southwark, south London, not far from Shakespeare’s Globe, where it is believed up to 15,000 people are buried, many, as the song references, prostitutes known as “Winchester Geese” because they were licensed to go about their work by the Bishop of Winchester, ending, 200 years on from London’s shame, with the hope that such times never come again.

‘Broken’ is a more straightforward end of relationship number, the emotionally shattered narrator given a smile of recognition from a woman in the café with a pale ring where a gold band once rested. From loss and separation to a celebration of community, ‘Our Street’ is exactly what it says, a sepia archive newsreel in song of a neighbourhood and the many different souls who share their lives there.

It’s back to the political for the five minutes plus anthemic strummed Guthrie-esque ‘The Chainmakers’, a rousing song inspired by and about how, in 1910, the women chainmakers of the Black Country, particularly the Cradley Heath, responded to the call by the National Federation of Women Workers, led by the suffragette Mary Macarthur, for a strike in protest against their low wages, ending in triumph 10 weeks later, the song duly extending to commentary on the continuing gender gap in pay and end with an echo from Karl Marx that “You have nothing to lose now but your chains!”

He moves from the chain works to the mines with ‘The Coalminer’s Song’, another rallying cry for those left “dead but still above ground” with the closure of the Welsh pits, now like wounds carved in the land.

Meuross has a real skill in putting the lives of historical figures into song and does so again with the uptempo strum of ‘The Eyes of Ida Lewis (Row Ida Row)’. An American answer to Grace Darling, Idawalley Zoradia Lewis was, in the late 1800s, keeper of the Lime Rock Light near Newport who, at the time the highest paid lighthouse keeper in America, made her first rescue at the age of 12 and, in her 54 years at Lime Rock, went on to save at least 18 lives.

It’s back to banjo and break-ups for the Appalachian feel of ‘Moving On’ while, in contrast, flecked with early Paul Simon, ‘If She’s The One’ has the narrator unable to forget a girl seen in passing, serving as a metaphor for how “in the earth the promise lies the harvest and the seed”.

And from an unobtainable ideal love to the bitter collapse of what promised to be forever with the fairly self-explanatory ‘Our Love Has Turned To Hate’, a number that evokes the old time country of the Louvin Brothers and The Carter Family.

In some ways a companion piece to his earlier ‘Phil Ochs And Elvis Eating Lunch in Morrison’s Café’, the album ends with two more real life figures in the cowboy campfire strum of ‘Gene Vincent Jr & Billy the Kid’ which pulls together two of his Texas encounters, the first with an aged cowboy on a horse claiming to be the rock n roll star’s son (Vincent Eugene Craddock, Jr. died in 2006), “singing Be Bop A Lula aye eh”, and then with a woman in a bar claiming to be kin to the legendary outlaw and that he didn’t die at the hands of Pat Garrett but went on to a ripe old age. The point being that sometimes tall tales are preferable to reality because, as he sings “if he’s selling stories I’m buying/Cos there ain’t enough dreams on this trail”. You would do well to invest in Reg’s.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘We Looked Away’ – official video:


SINGLES BAR 44 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 44As a taster for his somewhat delayed album, From Coalfield To Battlefield, GARY MILLER releases his DLI EP. The DLI is The Durham Light Infantry and the final track, featuring Ferryhill Town Band, has previously been released as a single. The long opening track, ‘The Final Letter Of Jimmy Durham’, is the story of the first African to join the British army. He became a bandsman and a popular man in the regiment but sadly died of pneumonia in Ireland in 1908. In contrast is ‘Ballad Of Lance-Sergeant William Stones’ who was executed for cowardice in 1916. Like so many others, Stones was posthumously pardoned when it was far too late to make amends.‘Euphonium And Cornet’ is about the bandsmen who, like the Scottish pipers, put themselves in harm’s way to rally their comrades. Gary’s powerful voice and equally powerful songs are complemented by big brass arrangements. We’re looking forward to the album.

Featuring Orkney fiddler Louise Bichan alongside American colleagues guitarist Ethan Hawkins, mandolin player Ethan Setiawan and recent addition Casey Murray on cello and clawhammer banjo, Boston-based CORNER HOUSE release their second EP, Smart Folks, a collection of four originals and two contemporary Irish numbers that ranges cross Irish, Scottish, Appalachian stringband and bluegrass influences. It’s Ireland that provide the opening instrumental ‘Slip Jigs’ (‘Farewell To Whaley Range’ and ‘Soggy’s’) before they follow on with ‘Happy Now, a number about depression and family life penned, as is ‘You’re Great’, as low, minimalist spooked-mandolin ballad which briefly perks up rhythmically midway before a fiddle solo, by Hawkins. Setiawan, contributes the musically shape-shifting instrumental title track before, starting slow and gathering pace, a third instrumental, ‘Through The Snow-Covered Pines’, Murray’s clawhammer evoking the quartet’s Appalachian aspects, brings things to a close. They’re due to return to the UK in 2020 for a Spring tour, I suggest you keep a close eye out.

THE PORTLAND BROTHERS are Steven Adams and Tim Victor and their first EP is the download set First EP. Fortunately, their music is rather more imaginative than their titling. The key to their sound is their tight harmony singing over acoustic guitars sometimes bolstered by organ but the lead track, ‘Shake Off The Dust’, begins with a decidedly country vibe and it’s a while before you realise that they are from neither Oregon nor Maine but actually got together in Cambridge. They aren’t exactly informative on their web page but this is clever songwriting – deceptively simple but also complex and raising questions. Is ‘Invisible Love’ about hiding one’s sexuality or is that reading too much into it? Steve and Tim could really go somewhere.

An echo of Simon Garfunkel comes with the self-released The Kivalina EP from New England/Nashville duo JESSE TERRY & ALEX WONG, the title referring to the Alaskan village where the indigenous population have hunted whales for generations.  However, climate change and thinning ice has made both this, and indeed their very existence difficult with experts predicting Kivalina will be uninhabitable by 2025, making them the first climate change refugees.

As such the six tracks revolve around the villagers’ predicament, extending it to more personal and universal considerations, opening with the shimmering, percussion cascading, gradually swelling ‘Landfall’ and proceeding through the similarly styled ‘Nowhere’, the more musically muscular ‘Dangerous’ and the introspective, softly sung fragility of ‘Thieves’. It ends with the tumbling drums and keening harmonies of the lyrical desperation of ‘Ten More Years’ and, finally, the simple strum of the strings-coloured ‘Fight Or Flight’. A simple but beautifully crafted and performed record that delivers a timely and important narrative.

ERIN RAE adds her contribution to the current spate of covers with the download only Lagniappe Session EP (Aquarium Drunkard), opening up a dreamy 60s psychfolk reading of Gene Clark’s ‘Some Misunderstanding’. Formerly recorded by The Monkees, Carole King’s ‘As You Go Along’ here, Rae on 12-string, more recalls a slow burn Byrds, leading on to a loose late 60s West Coast vibe take of Jonathan Richman’s ‘You Must Ask The Heart’. The final cut is an ambitious interpretation of Scott Walker’s ‘Duchess’, featuring Jerry Bernhardt on fuzz guitars, 12 string acoustic and Casiotone, a fine conclusion to an excellent indulgence.

Mandolin, Violin And Saw is one of the best titles we’ve come across all year. It belongs to an EP by DAVID SQUIRE AND THE LONG LAST LOOKS and being recorded in Tennessee it’s pure(ish) country – David says the song is inspired by his maternal grandfather. To confuse things, David is actually from Bristol and despite many years living in the USA he doesn’t really have the accent – whether by chance or design is impossible to say. He is back in England now but his lyrics betray his love of all things American – ‘Savannah Days And Nights’ being a perfect example. As well as mandolin and violin there are guitar, piano, organ and drums but the band’s sound is light and gently rolling and the songwriting is excellent.

A UK Americana four-piece comprising siblings Callum on vocals and rhythm guitar, drummer Theo and lead guitarist Jack Lury with Peter Dixon on brass, THE BLUE HIGHWAYS make the running with their self-titled, self-released debut EP. An energetic four-track collection it kicks off with the Southside Johnny saloon soul swagger of ‘He Worked’, a horns-embellished song about an old man reflecting on his life now he’s retired and to the future of his kids, continuing in a similar but Stonesy blues style with piano-accompanied lying-themed ‘Blood Off Your Hands’. Co-penned with David Burn from Orphan Colours, ‘Matter Of Love’ is an upbeat swaggering Southern country pop track about not having the courage to end a relationship and they end with the reined in reflective acoustic balladry chug of ‘Have You Seen My Baby’, coloured by Henry Senior on mournful pedal steel. It doesn’t push the envelope, but it handles the staple ingredients in solid style

After a run of singles, SJ DENNEY releases a six-track EP, Forgotten Friends. The most recent of the singles is ‘A Fond Farewell’, the final track in the set while ‘Here I Am’ opens it..’(Feels Like I’m) Hearing Things’ is something of a departure in musical style, spikier than his usual material and a powerful song and the drive carries over into ‘All The Signs Were There’, the predecessor to ‘A Fond Farewell’. SJ is big on brass solos in his arrangements which give him a distinctive sound and the pounding drums on ‘The Good Times’ are equally powerful.

BANDITS ON THE RUN are a NYC-based trio consisting guitarist Adrian Enscoe, cellist Sydney Shepherd and Regina Strayhorn on percussion and xylophone, all three handling the vocals. Bandits Live At The Power Station (The MTA) is the latest EP, a four track collection of three originals and one cover kicking off a splash of Hispanic musical colours on ‘Potted Plant’ before the intertwined harmonies of the folksier, blues shaded ‘Sweet Thing’. The swayalong feckless lover-themed ‘Cowboy On The Run’ takes you to the New Mexico desert, complete with cod coyote howl, closing up with their inspired, sultgrily-sung, cello-led lurching take on Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’. It certainly makes you want to check out their studio recordings too.

Folking award winner REG MEUROSS releases a new solo album, Raw, very soon but before that we have a single, ‘We Looked Away’, which has to be one of his best ever songs. There’s a delightful hint of Dylan in the melody that serves to root the track in the protest movement of the 60s and if ‘We Looked Away’ doesn’t make you question yourself and everything that is going on in the world you have no soul.

JOSHUA RADIN serves up a taster for his forthcoming new, eighth, album with ‘Here, Right Now’ (Netwerk Music Group), a fingerpicked acoustic-based, whisperingly sung number about embracing the moment that, featuring Maria Taylor, on harmonies, calls to mind early Simon & Garfunkel.

‘Mud’ is the new single from Londoner YVONNE McDONNELL. It has a beautiful, ethereal sound and according to her PR it’s an important song. Sadly, the production and stylised vocals are such that it’s impossible to make out a single word of the lyric.

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%)


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

Reg Meuross biography

Reg Meuross Soloist of the Year 2019, Reg Meuross is currently touring with his latest album, the song cycle 12 Silk Handkerchiefs which tells of fighting fishwife Lillian Bilocca, who led a battle for better trawler safety following the Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968. This album features Hull musicians Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry and narration by author Brian W Lavery whose book The Headscarf Revolutionaries inspired Reg to write the song cycle. The four artists are touring with some special 12 Silk Handkerchiefs multi-media shows in Autumn 2019 and early 2020.

Mark Radcliffe introduced Reg Meuross onto the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show as a “brilliant singer-songwriter and true troubadour with a social conscience”. And it’s not all protest, as well as story songs which bring characters from history to life and comment on life around him Reg also writes and sings some of the most heart-aching love songs ever written, performed with depth and spellbinding delivery. Reg has that rare gift of being able to touch people through his songs and performance, on a really human level, his words and music painting pictures that remain with the listener long after the song has been sung, accompanying himself masterfully on guitar and captivating audiences with his beautiful tenor voice.

“An insight into the human spirit and empathy the the plight of ordinary people.” Froots Magazine

Due to popular demand, Reg is re-issuing six of his back albums which had been out of print. The Goodbye Hat, Short Stories, Still, Dragonfly, All This Longing and Leaves & Feathers are all now available as a beautiful Reg Meuross Retrospective collection.

Reg Meuross first emerged onto the acoustic music scene in the 1980s with The Panic Brothers and has, over the years of touring and playing solo as well as with many other acclaimed artists, developed a style that as Pete Townshend says “allows the listener to embrace the whole breadth of his work over many years without distraction… he sings in the neutral accent of an Englishman who travels the entirety of the British Isles, and tastes all its flavours, influenced by all its most profound national colours. In this he reminds one of Roy Harper or Ewan MacColl, recent greats who went before him.”

Reg then went on to form The Flamingos featuring ex Graham Parker guitarist Martin Belmont, Bob Loveday from The Penguin Cafe Orchestra & Bob Geldof’s Band & Alison Jones of The Barely Works They recorded one album called Arrested.

In 1996 he released his first critically acclaimed solo album The Goodbye Hat and was nominated for several music awards. This was followed up in 2004 with Short Stories and in 2006 by the excellent Still. In 2008 he released Dragonfly, followed in 2010 by All This Longing. The Dreamed And The Drowned, released in 2011, is a collection of thirteen previously unreleased archive songs. It was commissioned and compiled by Stephen Jordan at The Bodleian Music Library, Oxford, who said, “this is Reg Meuross at his most eclectic and inspiring best.”

In 2012 Reg was invited by Abbey Road to record an album in their world famous studios and he took this opportunity to respond to the many requests for him to make a CD that reflects the warmth intimacy of his live shows.  The resulting album, Leaves & Feathers did just that, receiving 5 star reviews across the board. It’s a collection of twelve beautiful songs stripped down to the bare bones which prompted Pennyblack Music to say: “calling Meuross a singer-songwriter really doesn’t do the man justice. [He] doesn’t write lines of lyrics. He writes short stories then sets them to some of the most captivating melodies you’ll ever hear…. Meuross is one of the most talented storytellers of our generation.” Reg was awarded Best Vocalist 2013 by Fatea Magazine.

Leaves & Feathers was a hard act to follow, but his next album England Green & England Grey rose to the challenge dealing with difficult topics such as dementia, commemorated  the centenary of WW1, told the tale of the bandleader and his violin both lost in the Titanic disaster, ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie;’ and it delivered an anthem for our times: ‘England Green And England Grey’. The album was awarded Best Album of 2014 by FolkWords.

Many will know Reg for the extraordinary intimacy of his live solo performances, and it was the countless requests at these unique events for “the one that sounds just like what we’ve just heard” that inspired the production of a trilogy of distinctive and entirely solo albums, returning to the solo format which inspired him to write and sing in the first place. December is a collection of ten of the most beautiful songs which go straight to the heart. Pure Reg. The album was recorded on two days in London in 2016 with no overdubs or studio trickery as a gift to everyone who helped him bring his sweet little 1944 Martin to his hands from where he found it two years ago in San Jose and who helped lovingly restore it.  One man – who just happens to be “one of the finest songwriters this country has produced” [Mike Harding] and his guitar (and a touch of harmonica). In the second in the trilogy, Faraway People,

Reg comments courageously on the world we are living in now, from the ravages of austerity to the injustices of racism and the plight of refugees. He also delves into history, echoing warnings that resonate through the decades and are still relevant today. Stories told include people from living memory such as anti Nazi activist Sophie Scholl from WW2, and Michael Brown (victim of the fatal Missouri shooting in 2014) as well as ancient history (Cicero) and even a fictitious meeting between two of the artist’s greatest heroes. The title track was awarded Best Song of 2017 by Fatea Magazine. Amongst the protest there is beauty, love and humour. The third in this solo trilogy will be released in October 2019.

In February 2018 Reg released a second collection of previously unreleased archive songs (the first being The Dreamed and the Drowned) Songs About A Train. Fatea saidA lot of artists strive in vain to make an album of this quality, yet with these eleven previously rejected tracks Reg has once again produced something truly special. Songs About A Train is an absolute pleasure to listen to from start to finish.”

More recently Reg was invited by Stockfisch Records to re-record a number of songs to make the eponymous Reg Meuross. This was released in April 2018.

Before 2018 was out Reg released one more album, the song cycle 12 Silk Handkerchiefs marking the Hull Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968 and celebrating fish wife Lillian Bilocca’s fight for better safety on the trawlers. This album is now on tour including some special shows which feature Hull musicians Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry and narrated by author Brian W Lavery whose book The Headscarf Revolutionaries inspired Reg to write the song cycle.

When you have 2000 people singing along, you’re doing something right.” Great British Folk Festival

A mighty songwriter and an equally fine singer” Martin Carthy

One of the most talented storytellers of our generation” Pennyblack Music

Powerful and moving songwriting” Martin Chilton, The Telegraph

A deep well of compassion and insight into the human heart and spirit.” Mike Davies, Folk Radio UK

Artist’s website:


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
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar
Winter Wilson

Best Band

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Merry Hell
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)

Tyler Childers
Mary Gauthier
Larkin Poe