REG MEUROSS – 12 Silk Handkerchiefs (Hatsongs HAT013)

12 Silk HandkerchiefsThis is not your typical Reg Meuross album. Not that it doesn’t have his consummate songwriting with its finely crafted melodies and emotive resonance and not that it isn’t beautifully sung; it’s just that, while he features on backing, Reg only sings two tracks. It is, in fact, a concept album, a song cycle about the Hull triple trawler tragedy when, in 1968, bad weather sank three separate trawlers in less than a month, with only one survivor from the total crew of fifty-nine men.

The album is based on Brian W. Lavery’s book, The Headscarf Revolutionaries, which documents the subsequent campaign of Lillian ‘Big Lil’ Bilocca, one of the trawlermen’s wives and her friends to bring about changes in the fishing industry. As such, it comprises both song and spoken word, the narration delivered by Lavery himself, while Hull folk singers Sam (as in Samantha) Martyn and Mick McGarry provide both vocal and spoken tracks.

There’s six songs, each preceded by Lavery’s scene setting, opening with the waltztime shanty ‘Wash Her Man Away, McGarry on vocals, Meuross providing harmonies and acoustic and Martyn on harmonium, a number rooted in superstitions about bringing back luck, here a meticulously tidy housewife not doing the laundry on the day before her skipper husband sets sail, the lyrics evoking such portents as the men leaving their small change behind.

The intro to ‘I Am A Fish House Woman’ conjures the fellowship of the women in the cold of the fish processing plant, detailing the work, talk of missing ships and introducing Lily, on her last shift for two years. This time, it’s Martyn on vocals, Meuross on strummed dulcimer, for a six minute, chorus-friendly anthem to the women, the conditions they work under (“my mother was a skinner ‘til the freezing took her lung”) in their nine-hour day, slicing the ‘silver darlings’ and how, while the men are away “fighting for their lives, we’re fighting for their rights”.

Sung heartbreakingly in the first person, ‘John Barry Rogers’ recounts the story of the eighteen-year-old deckhand who, when their ship went down in an Atlantic storm, saved the life of first mate Harry Eddom, the sole survivor, getting him onto the raft, before dying of exposure. Backed by harmonium and guitar, McGarry again sings lead on a classic Meuross lyric as the doomed boy talks of his mother and sweetheart, left behind in the siren call of the sea.

As you might guess, one of the two tracks sung by Meuross, ‘The Man The Sea Gave Back’, turns the focus on Eddom, a flavour of early Dylan to its brisk strum with Martyn adding flute, as he sings of Eddom watching the other two survivors eventually fall victim to the cruel sea.

Both the narrative and the lyrics to ‘Sleep You Safely’, sung by Martyn, turn the spotlight back on Bilocca, who was ejected from the campaign group she’d founded after appearing on the Eamonn Andrews show when, asked how the men spent their time on shore, talked of the single ones going to the pub “with their tarts”, a term that had a different meaning back home at Hessle Road to the one the studio audience assumed. The men she’d fought for also turned against her after a ban on fishing in bad weather meant they lost catches to Icelandic trawlers, but counterpointed by a meeting with a young galley boy on her way back from the meeting.

A melancholic, slow paced number, again featuring one of Meuross’s trademark uplifting choruses, it gives way to the lilting title track, the intro noting how, after her husband’s death, Lily moved home to a council house, weighed down by her treatment by the media and the feeling of being abandoned and her fight ignored, falling into ill health and eventually dying of cancer at 59 in 1988.

The title refers to her last request to her daughter to buy the handkerchiefs which, on the day before she died, she handed out to all those who had looked after her. Sung by Meuross with Martyn and McGarry on harmonies, the simply strummed song itself takes a more metaphorical approach, the handkerchiefs also symbolic of, as the chorus notes, the months of the year, “the twelve holy fisherman keeping her loved ones from fear” and “all the company men In their temples of greed she battled and beat in the end And for all the men and boys who are called by the sea…to bring them home safely to thee.”

It ends with ‘Times and Tides’, a reading by McGarry from Lavery’s book that, like the album, is a finely spun tribute testament to the men who risk their lives to harvest the ocean and the women “who never waved…Nor wavered” and the kids waiting for their fathers’ return “Christmas every twenty-one days.” It’s rich in honest emotion, deep humanity, resonant lyrics and infectious melodies. Typical Reg Meuross after all, then.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.regmeuross.com

’12 Silk Handkerchiefs’ – live:

 

Shrewsbury Folk Festival – tickets are now on sale

Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Kate Rusby

Tickets have gone on sale for the 2019 Shrewsbury Folk Festival as organisers have shared the first names to be added to the bill.

Weekend tickets to the four-day event, that will take place at the West Mid Showground from August 23 to 26, are expected to be in high demand. Last year the first tier of tickets were snapped up in less than 30 minutes and weekend tickets sold out a month before the August Bank Holiday event.

Two of the UK’s top solo stars Kate Rusby and Martyn Joseph will be topping the bill along with the legendary Oysterband and female supergroup Daphne’s Flight, who are returning after a triumphant performance in 2017. Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore have also been invited back after wowing crowds earlier this year.

Grace Petrie – photograph by David Wilson Clarke

Gary Stewart’s Graceland – a reworking of the Paul Simon classic – has also been signed up along with solo shows from Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightley, singer songwriter and activist Grace Petrie and appearances from The Phil Beer Band and Merry Hell.

Exclusive to the festival will be a special day of programming on its Pengwern stage by duo Chris While and Julie Matthews to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their musical partnership. The While and Matthews Takeover will see the pair curate performances on August 25th that will culminate in a big band show to close the night.

Granny’s Attic

Other acts will include Chris Elliott and Caitlin Jones, Edgelarks, Geoff Lakeman, Granny’s Attic, Mankala, Paul Downes, Rapsquillion, Reg Meuross, Track Dogs, the Urban Folk Quartet, and Winter Wilson. Festivalgoers will also be able to watch folk opera Here At The Fair by Mick Ryan.

Festival Director Sandra Surtees said many more artists are yet to be revealed.

“As ever the Shrewsbury line-up will feature some of the biggest names in folk, some popular performers that have been requested by our audience and a number of world and Americana acts.

“But the festival is about so much more than just the music – there’s so much to do during the weekend for all ages. The festival has its own magical atmosphere and we have many visitors who wouldn’t class themselves as ‘folkies’ but they just come to enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere with friends and family and listen to great music.

“The festival continues to go from strength to strength with a devoted audience who return year after year, demonstrated by the fact that we regularly sell out in advance.”

The festival has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, workshops, crafts, food village, real ale, cocktail and gin bars and on-site camping and glamping.

There are also fringe events at local pubs with dance displays held in the town centre and a parade through the streets on the Saturday afternoon. Weekend and day tickets can be booked at  www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.

REG MEUROSS – Reg Meuross (Stockfisch SFR 357.40922)

Reg MeurossI don’t often get to review a Reg Meuross album, usually because someone else gets to them first but this time that someone else wrote the sleeve notes which rather disqualifies him. This pleases me greatly because Reg Meuross is quite probably the best album I’ve heard this year. There is back-story to go into first. Reg was invited to Northheim, Germany to record a retrospective album with new arrangements of favourite songs. The twist is that the favourites were selected by Stockfisch founder and producer, Günter Pauler.

The first selection is the heart-wrenching ‘Good With His Hands’ in which a man calls up boyhood memories of his carpenter father. The band supporting Reg is guitarist and flautist Ian Melrose, Lutz Möller on keyboards and bassist Antoine Pütz and elsewhere you’ll find harp, cello, saxophone and autoharp but even with all these contributions you really hear Reg and his guitar. Second is ‘The Man In Edward Hopper’s Bar’, the bar in question being the one depicted in Nighthawks which I’m sure you all know. The song is a musical interpretation of the painting as Reg imagines the lives and conversations of the people behind the glass.

Next comes the summary of the country’s woes that is ‘England Green & England Grey’ and I could happily stop there – three exquisite songs is a good return for most albums. Of course, if it had ended there I would have missed ‘One Way Ticket To Louise’, a deceptively simple song about a man leaving town on the night bus and ‘For Sophie (This Beautiful Day)’ about an anti-Nazi activist guillotined in 1943. And I wouldn’t have heard ‘And Jesus Wept’ telling the familiar story of a soldier executed for “cowardice” by firing squad in the Great War.

I’ve talked about half the album but I’m sure you get the idea. I could describe ‘The Band Played ‘Sweet Marie’’ and ‘Looking For Johnnie Ray’ and the others but I’d rather let you discover them for yourself and I urge you to do so because, as I said, this is one of the best albums of the year.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.regmeuross.com/

‘And Jesus Wept’ – live:

Holywell Music & Folk – more 2018 concerts

Holywell Music
Photograph by Jo Elkington

Passionate music love and promotor Geoff Smith is keeping Holywell’s music tradition alive and singing in the heart of Oxford with a regular new concert series which is already off to a flying start: Holywell Music & Folk.

Holywell Music Room first opened its beautiful auditorium to the ears of the discerning music lover in 1748, and the room has hosted the best around for over 269 years now, from Handel to the Oxford Philharmonic. Now, thanks to lifelong music fan Geoff Smith, the driving force behind the exciting new live music venture Holywell Music & Folk, some of the best artists from the folk and singer-songwriter scene are now playing in this historic venue in the heart of Oxford.

Geoff has attracted some exciting support from Patron artists of this new venture, all of whom will be performing at the venue in 2018:

“I am thrilled to be joining the 2018 line up at Holywell Music and Folk myself and will bring real-life stories of inspirational and relatable people from the past including songs from my latest project No Petticoats Here” says Louise Jordan. Acclaimed Somerset singer-songwriter Reg Meuross is looking forward to performing in July “This is a fantastic initiative by Holywell Music & Folk and I’m proud to support it in every way I can.” Brilliant Folk Award nominees Ninebarrow are also excited: “The Holywell Music Room is stunning! There is an intangible, magical quality to the space. So, when you take a city as vibrant as Oxford, a concert programme of world class folk and roots music, and a venue the calibre of the Holywell Music Room, you really have got a recipe for something rather special – and we can’t wait for you to experience it!”

The programme in this unique U-shaped auditorium kicked off in January with a very special one off one-man show with Teddy Thompson, the son of Richard and Linda Thompson, described by the New York Times as “one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of his generation.  Next came a sell out show from Oxford based Anglo-Cymraeg-Galego four-piece folk band Xogara followed by an extraordinary performance from Russian born singer-songwriter Daria Kulesh.

2018 dates

September 2nd The Willows exclusive CD release launch –  first date of tour *tickets available soon

Saturday 20th October Ninebarrow  (Support Ben Cipolla)

Saturday 10th November Sera Louise Owen  ​(Support: Genevieve Miles)

Saturday 8th December Emily Mae Winters  (Support Three Pressed Men)

Saturday 14th December A Winter Tour Ben Savage & Hannah Sanders, Jade Rhiannon with Gilmore and Roberts *tickets available soon

Club website:  www.holywellmusicandfolk.co.uk and tickets are available online from  wegottickets.com

Tickets also available from Truck Store 101 Cowley Rd. £12.50 includes £1 handling fee and cash only please

Holywood Music & Folk gigs will all be held at the Holywell Music Room, Holywell Street, Oxford, OX1 3SD.

REG MEUROSS – Songs About A Train (Hatsongs HAT012)

Songs About A TrainA companion piece of sorts to 2011’s The Dreamed And The Drowned in that it’s another limited edition (1000) collection of previously unreleased material, the tracks here spanning 2013-2017 and, as with its predecessor, Songs About A Train while not conceived as a unified album, the quality of the writing and performance ensures they hang together perfectly.

Save for the opening track, the bucolic reflective love song ‘Letting Go’, which features Rabbit Bundrick on soulful keys, bassist Simon Edwards and Roy Dodds (who also engineered the album), it’s primarily all just Reg and a guitar with just a touch of banjo and harmonica here and there.

As with his other work, the songs range across themes of relationships, social commentary and history-based storytelling, the latter brilliantly illustrated in ‘The Angel Maker’, a gently fingerpicked harmonica coloured number that unfolds the tale of Amelia Dyer, a former Victorian nurse who, after she was widowed became a baby farmer, adopting unwanted infants in exchange for money. There’s an unexpected tender tone, the lyrics asking “did you wrap them up warm… did you rock her to sleep?”, which compounds the chilling facts that, although initially caring for those in her charge, some died and she was charged with neglect, going on to subsequently murder an estimated 400 babies before being executed in 1896, claims of her mental instability much disputed, the song a veiled commentary on the nation’s neglect of such children.

It’s preceded by a story of a different era and nature, ‘Martin’ based around the story of St. Martin of Tours, a young Roman soldier who, legend has it, became a conscientious objector working for those in need after seeing Christ wearing the same cloak he’d earlier given a beggar at the gates of the city of Amiens, the lines “I will wrap my coat around you, I will share with you my bread, you are safe and you’re protected” patently having a contemporary resonance.

A third, fiction-based, narrative is found in ‘Idaho’, the poignant tale of a small-town girl who became a singer and wrote a song for the mother that left hoping she’d one day hear it, heading for America in search of herself and a love to rely on.

Bruised and broken relationships, distance and absence provide the basis for several numbers, among them ‘We Haven’t Started Yet’ and the resonatingly strummed ‘I Understand’ with its sad acceptance of a lover’s need for space and reassessment (a song which, for those of an age, may call to mind the similarly-themed song of the same title by Freddie and the Dreamers)  ‘Little Acts of Vengeance’ also offers a nice break up genre spin about holding on to resentments and anger over things that can’t be changed and only end up consuming you.

Those looking for more upbeat notes are directed to ‘A Quiet Night’, Reg on Appalachian dulcimer, for a hymnal song about finding peace, tranquility and calm with the one you love, the balm for a restless mind, and ‘Ring The Living Bell’, not a Melanie-cover, but (I suspect once intended for December) an optimistic hope for a new year, a song about giving and receiving, New Year’s Eve resolutions and an invitation to “drink the season’s glass with me beside the fire”.

The track finds him on banjo for a gospel bluegrass number about the power of songs to carry message of truth and hope, revelations of the heart and catharsis or protests against war or social injustice, or maybe just girls and cars and trains. It ends on a similar audience rousing, inspirational and healing note with ‘The World Being The World’, a Dylanish strumalong about enduring supportive love and friendship and seeing the light rather than the darkness and how the road less travelled feels like the road home.

Dedicated to the late Stephen Jordan, former head of the Bodleian Music Library, who inspired him to stick his hand down the sofa and see what songs had been lost, this isn’t just a case of clearing the shelves, more a case of, as Jordan put it, finding the right shelf to file them on. Your musical bookcase will be empty without it.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.regmeuross.com

‘Ring The Living Bell’ – live with Phil Beer and Geoff Lakeman:

Reg Meuross announces new album

Reg Meuross

In 2011 Stephen Jordan, the Head Librarian at The Bodleian Music Library in Oxford, approached Reg Meuross with the idea of commissioning a compilation of unreleased material. After a cursory search down the back of the sofa Reg managed to find 20 songs that he had recorded to various stages of completion between 2006 and 2011 but which had failed to make the final cut onto albums. Stephen reduced the list to 13 and the result was the signed limited edition album The Dreamed And The Drowned.

Surprisingly to Reg that collection of songs which he had considered unsuitable for the various designated albums at the time of release attracted some of the best reviews of his career: “There is no doubt after listening to this selection of Reg’s unreleased songs that my view of him being one of our best singer/songwriters of our time is reinforced still further.” Alex Gallagher, Folk Radio UK. Anyone who is lucky enough to own a copy of The Dreamed And The Drowned will know very well that a rejected Reg Meuross song is in no way a reflection of its quality – but more a question of its suitability to the collection, or as (the now late) Stephen Jordan said himself “some songs are right books put on the wrong shelves.”

Now, with two successful solo albums under his belt (December and Faraway People) and a third on the way to complete the trilogy and as a nod in honour and appreciation of Stephen, who died in 2015, we felt it would be a good time to have a scratch around and see what else may have been overlooked. The resulting album Songs About A Train is a limited, signed release comprising eleven songs recorded by Reg between 2013 and 2017. Release date February 2nd 2018 (via Proper Records).

Reg will be touring with this album, plus previous release Faraway People, throughout the first half of 2018 in a Two Albums Tour.

“Some songs don’t stay still long enough and scamper off, some are dazzled by the dragonfly’s gleam. Some songs are right books put on the wrong shelves.” Stephen Jordan (1957-2015)

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: regmeuross.com

‘Letting Go’: