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Reg Meuross 12 Silk Handkerchiefs – album review by Folking.com

“A finely spun tribute… rich in honest emotion, deep humanity, resonant lyrics and infectious melodies.”  FULL FOLKING.COM REVIEW BY MIKE DAVIES HERE.

2019 FULL SHOW TOUR DATES HERE

This 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

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Reg Meuross 12 Silk Handkerchiefs album review – Folk Radio UK

“Meuross has achieved something rare and important: he has reanimated a valuable piece of history, and he has done so with great sincerity and emotional depth. 12 Silk Handkerchiefs is a fitting tribute not just to Lillian Bilocca, but to the power of individuals to bring about change for the better.”  FULL FOLK RADIO UK REVIEW HERE By Thomas Blake

TOUR INFO HERE

few years ago there was something of a fad for TV programmes about ‘the deadliest jobs in the world.’ One occupation that often featured was that of the commercial fisherman. Camera crews would spend a few days with a fleet, filming the taciturn crews of trawlers as they were buffeted by menacing winds and huge sea swell in the North Atlantic. The sombre mood of these programmes was exacerbated by stories of injury and death, and by the unavoidable fact that the fishing industry has been in a seemingly terminal decline for a long time. I am not entirely sure what draws people to view this sort of thing – perhaps a large measure of schadenfreude is involved, or the need to experience vicariously a life of danger and adventure. Either way, they must have been reasonably successful – even a hermit with no telly (me) was aware of them.

And it is true – commercial fishing is dangerous. But it is much, much less dangerous now than it was fifty years ago when the industry was virtually unregulated, and crews were wholly in the power of unscrupulous and often negligent trawler bosses whose primary concern was to maximise profit. The city of Hull suffered more than most – an estimated 6,000 of its fishermen have died at sea since the 1850s. And then in 1968, in a period of less than a month, three separate trawlers went down in bad weather. Of the combined crew of fifty-nine men, there was only one survivor.

The story of what became known as the Hull triple trawler tragedy – and the subsequent changes in the industry – has been told before. But the universal nature of the lessons learned combined with the highly personal and emotive subject means it is a story that is worth repeating. And there can’t be many better placed to tell that story than singer, songwriter and storyteller Reg Meuross, who has been compared to Ewan McColl and counts Pete Townshend and Martin Carthy amongst his fans. Meuross has chosen to present the material as a six-song cycle with each song introduced by a section of spoken word to provide an extra layer of historical context. Singing duties are shared between Meuross and two Hull folk singers, Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry. 12 Silk Handkerchiefs’ narrative arc is based on Brian W. Lavery’s book The Headscarf Revolutionaries, itself a fascinating and moving work of social history, which focuses on the campaign of Lillian ‘Big Lil’ Bilocca (Lavery also provides the narration here). Bilocca was the wife, mother and daughter of fishermen (and herself worked in the fishing industry), and it was the tireless work of her and her colleagues that finally brought about better working conditions for trawlermen.

The album begins on the most personal of notes: Wash Her Man Away describes the superstitions of a fisherman’s wife who refuses to do laundry on the day before her husband sets sail. Sung by McGarry, it is a quietly stirring hymn to the small details and relationships that make life bearable: drinking with your brothers, singing along to songs by the Drifters. It is also a song fraught with fear and haunted by the listener’s foreknowledge of the disaster that is about to occur. Meuross’ acoustic guitar has a simple fluidity to it, and Martyn’s harmonium adds depth and a touch of solemnity.

The narrative introduction to the next song, I Am A Fish House Woman, describes the camaraderie of the women in the fish processing plant and goes into colourful detail about the nature of the work. It also briefly introduces Bilocca, and we get a glimpse of the determination and the sadness that will define the rest of her life. The song itself is sung beautifully by Martyn. Her voice is both impassioned and down to earth, and harmonies in the chorus enhance the strong sense of community. It is illuminating at a documentary level – we learn for example that the women have to wear thick coats to stave off the freezing temperatures in the fish house – but what is truly moving is how these facts impact on the lives of individuals, how the narrator’s mother only stopped working when ‘the freezing took her lung’, or how her tongue is as sharp as her knife. It is partly the mastery of details like this that makes Meuross such an impressive songwriter.

The heart of the album deals with the harrowing story of John Barry Rogers, an eighteen-year-old deckhand who saved the life of Harry Eddom (the tragedy’s only survivor) before dying of exposure in Eddom’s arms. The song John Barry Rogers, sung by McGarry from the point of view of the dead man, is not an easy listen. We see all the modest hopes of a young man disappear into the freezing sea. But it is a compelling and ultimately moving examination of just how precious – and how precarious – each individual life is.

The Man The Sea Gave Up, sung by Meuross, tells Harry Eddom’s story. On the surface, it is the most upbeat moment of the album, but in reality, the tale of a man who survived only to see all of his colleagues perish puts an even more heartbreaking slant on the story. Musically, the structure and delivery of the song resemble early Bob Dylan, and Martyn’s flute sounds a note of hope above the desperation.

As 12 Silk Handkerchiefs draws towards its end, it focuses in on Lillian Bilocca. It was Bilocca’s sustained campaign of civil disobedience that led eventually to a change in the legislation that would save the lives of countless fishermen. She was evidently a strong, single-minded and complex character, but was not without her fragilities. A character that any writer would love to invent. In short, she was human, and it is this humanity that Meuross draws out so well in his songwriting. Sleep You Safely describes her touching meeting with a young galley boy, a small but meaningful moment of empathy. And the title track, full of graceful harmonies, shows that she was still thinking of the men who were lost at sea when she herself lay dying of cancer in 1988 at the age of 59.

Fifty years on from the triple trawler tragedy, the events of 1968 and Lillian Bilocca’s story are, more than ever, in the public eye. Earlier this year there was a BBC documentary on the subject, and a play by Maxine Peake – The Last Testament Of Lillian Bilocca – opened in Hull a year ago. But more importantly, the story lives on in the hearts of the people from Hull and beyond, people who lost loved ones in the tragedy, and who were moved to tears when this album was premiered in a live setting in January. Meuross has achieved something rare and important: he has reanimated a valuable piece of history, and he has done so with great sincerity and emotional depth. 12 Silk Handkerchiefs is a fitting tribute not just to Lillian Bilocca, but to the power of individuals to bring about change for the better.

 

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REG MEUROSS new album review from Dutch music mag RootsTime

First review just in for REG MEUROSS’ eponymous release via Stockfish-Records, from Belgian music magazine Rootstime. Thank you Valsam.
 
UK Album Launch gig is Friday 13th July (limited copies of the CD will be available for sale at the gig). TICKETS HERE
Online order from Germany HERE
 
“Love, death, political events and social themes are the subjects of the songs of English singer-songwriter Reg Meuross from Somerset. He is a modern folk troubadour who pays a lot of attention to his lyrics and has already won several prizes in his own country for his songs and albums, in addition to the general appreciation he has earned for his work. Several music critics think that elements from the sound of great folk singers like Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen can be heard in his music. Why do not we know this active musician for several decades in our regions, you might wonder? We have not been able to come up with a real answer to this, but we can now make up for this together with you by listening to the songs on his latest album “Reg Meuross” recorded by the German record label “Stockfisch Records” by musical talent-discoverer Günter Pauler which will be brought onto the market next month.
 
Reg Meuross has a beautiful voice and he is an absolute master-narrator in his songs, something beautifully illustrated in “Good With His Hands”, “The Man In Edward Hopper’s Bar” and “Jesus Wept” about a soldier who was unjustly shot for desertion during the 1st World War. And there are more stories in “Looking For Johnny Ray” about the famous singer of the world hit “Cry” and in “The Band Played” Sweet Marie “, a story about the woman who bought a violin for her fiancée, the bandleader of the orchestra that played on the ‘Titanic’ and drowned while playing, according to the myth. In the simple but sincere love song Reg Meuross excels, like “One Way Ticket To Louise”, “For Sophie (This Beautiful Day)”, “I Need You” and the closing track “Worry No More”.
 
‘Stockfisch Records’ has re-recorded all of these songs and provided great orchestration for the songs in the studio. The excellent SACD sound (= Super Audio CD) of this recording makes for an especially enjoyable hour of folk songs by Reg Meuross and for a very pleasant introduction to the work of this  English songwriter from Somerset.”
(partial translation from Dutch – full review HERE)
 
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“Songs that needed to be heard” – Maverick Magazine reviews Songs About A Train by Reg Meuross

Nick Dalton reviews Reg Meuross SONGS ABOUT A TRAIN Hatsongs Records 
“Songs that needed to be heard” 

Songs that needed to be heard. This set (hot on the heels of the impressive FARAWAY PEOPLE) is actually a bit of a scrapbook, a collection of songs written and recorded between 2013 and 2017 yet otherwise unreleased….the result (which comes as a signed limited edition) is impeccable – and you’d never know it wasn’t recorded as an album.

As a solo artist, Meuross sometimes finds himself overshadowed in his work with others (as half of the inspired Panic Brothers and as part of Hank Wangford’s travelling band). Yet over the years he’s made something like a dozen delectable solo albums, a singer-songwriter who often drifts into folk and country, something very English yet taking on the world. This set (hot on the heels of the impressive FARAWAY PEOPLE) is actually a bit of a scrapbook, a collection of songs written and recorded between 2013 and 2017 yet otherwise unreleased (the second such set following 2011’s THE DREAMED AND THE DROWNED).

photocredit Pete Grubb

It kicks off with the delightful ‘Letting Go’, a low key band a air with bassist Simon Edwards and drummer Roy Dodds (both ex-Fairground Attraction, the latter also a Langford teammate) and keyboards by Rabbit Bundrick, once of Free, now a Who stalwart). Other than that it’s simply Meuross on acoustic guitar on wistful, delicate tracks such as ‘Little Acts Of Vengeance’ and ‘Martin’, adding harmonica on ‘The Angel Maker’ and switching to banjo, gently-plucked, on the title track with its air of a dustbowl soundtrack. ‘Idaho’ is a perhaps the most overtly country, melancholy and beautiful, something you could imagine of a jukebox in a roadhouse along a lonesome road. Produced by Meuross and Dodds, the result (which comes as a signed limited edition) is impeccable – and you’d never know it wasn’t recorded as an album.

Nick Dalton

Maverick Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

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Fatea Magazine album review: Songs About A Train by Reg Meuross

FULL REVIEW ON FATEA WEBSITE

What a time it is to be a Reg Meuross fan, with three albums released in just over a year. Two of these, December and Faraway People, are highly acclaimed parts of a trilogy, the title track of the latter winning Song of the Year at the recent Fatea Awards. Songs About A Train in part answers the question of what happens to the tracks that don’t make the final release; the ones that slip down the back of the sofa. The last compilation of unreleased material resulted in The Dreamed And The Drowned, with Head Librarian at the Bodleian Music Library Stephen Jordan helping to bring that album to life. While Jordan sadly passed away in 2015, this album is a nod of appreciation to the man that said, “some songs are right books put on the wrong shelves.”

In many ways you know what you’re going to get with a Reg Meuross album; gorgeous and moving songs, full of heart and soul. Yet every release is distinctly unique. Songs About A Train is less political than Faraway People, though it has lost none of the humanity. Three of the collection had an airing at last year’s album launch, and it is wonderful to see them getting on an album. A Quiet Night is performed on Reg’s trusty Appalachian Dulcimer, and is an understated joy. The World Being The World was birthed by a somewhat nihilistic quote from Ian McShane on the TV show Deadwood. Fortunately the track is a little more optimistic. Then there is the title track, which opened the album launch, played on banjo if memory serves, and is destined to become a favourite.

Reg’s storytelling talents are also front and centre here, with two songs in particular
standing out. The Angel Maker features the story of Amelia Dyer, possibly the most prolific serial killer of all time. She was hanged in 1896 after murdering up to 400 children. Martin celebrates St Martin, a Roman soldier who renounced wealth and status to promote peace and charity. He is famously depicted as having cut his cloak in half to clothe a freezing beggar, and then saw Jesus wear the same cloak in a vision, after which he dedicated his life to those in need.

As with The Dreamed And The Drowned, you never get the sense that this is an album of mismatched songs. All the tracks fit together, as if they were destined to share the same album. A 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, and his Two Albums Tour this year is going to be unmissable. There are only a thousand copies available of the new album, so get yours quickly before they are all snatched up.

Adam Jenkins

BUY ALBUMS HERE

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Maverick Magazine album review: Faraway People by Reg Meuross

Reg Meuross: FARAWAY PEOPLE
Hatsongs Records HAT011
***** Distinctive English voice sings songs of misery and pain. Maverick Magazine

This is the sort of album that is like an invitation to an intimate acoustic gig in your own front room when you know you are going to hear superb biting songs with no frills laced with reality and commitment.

The arrangements, delivery and music are pure English folk and Reg calls up the ghosts of the likes of Nick Drake and classic Roy Harper. These songs though are songs for today and sketch out the lives of characters that we see on our streets and see on out televisions everyday. Sometimes these characters are demonised and abused but Reg’s gentle voice brings out their humanity and we see the starkness and brutality of their shattered lives.

This is clearest in the wonderful opening title track that tells us of the reality behind the headlines as Reg uses the names of real people plucked from the newspapers in our shameful national press. So we hear about Stephanie Boterill who “lived only on custard while her small income pays for a bedroom unused” . Then there’s Julian Little sitting with his unused wheelchair wasting away neglected, forgotten and abused by a system that doesn’t care. These songs aren’t for the faint hearted and they underline the brutality of a world where people seem to have forgotten how to care as Reg sadly sing “You’ll be unfit to work when you’re dead”.

Reg doesn’t let us forget that this kind of brutality isn’t restricted to one country as he recalls the events of Ferguson, Missouri almost four years ago when Michael Brown was shot dead by a white Police officer. His classic song THE LONESOME DEATH OF MICHAEL BROWN echoes Bob Dylan’s song about the death of another black life, Hattie Caroll, more than 50 years ago. We are forcefully reminded that despite civil rights and “black lives matter” it seems sometimes that things don’t really change. In REFUGEE Reg skilfully personalises the lives of an unnamed family as they try to build lives after leaving their own lives behind in one of the too numerous shattered countries across the globe. In LEAVIN’ ALABAMA we hear the ghost of Hank Williams talking to Dylan talking over songs about “whiskey God and women”, a great old yarn that can’t help but make you grin. We end on the sad tale of PHIL OCHS AND ELVIS EATING LUNCH IN MORRISON’S CAFE where we see a couple eating a lunch feeling bruised and battered by a life gone wrong.

It all sounds like depressing stuff and at times it really is but if there’s any redemption here it’s perhaps that if we can see these lives being shattered and the world looks as though it’s spinning out of control we might be able to raise our selves and actually do something about it. It isn’t often that a mere song can install these lofty thoughts but Reg Meuross manages to do that right here with these eleven songs his acoustic guitar and a sweet sweet voice. Buy the album, see the tour and do yourself a favour.

Greg Johnson

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Faraway People album review by Mick Tems for Folk Wales

Verdict: every song from the gentle, enchanting genius is worth its weight in gold. Just buy it!

I love and respect Reg Meuross for his crystal-clear honesty, his memorable hook-lines, his thought-provoking, quiet verses and his burning desire in taking on and pointing the accusing finger at the bullying corporate organisations, the avaricious money-lenders and the lying politicians. Faraway People is the second of his solo album trilogy, following on from his beautiful and deeply poetic December. He reminds me of that old Victorian hymn: “Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, oh, still small voice of calm” – however, Reg’s real armaments are his hard-hitting songs, each one eloquently filled with smoking anger and injustice.
He says the Tory dogma of austerity is a lie: “It’s the way the Government justifies the constant shift of money, power, property and resources to the corporations, to the banks, the foreign landlords and investors, the chemical companies, and themselves. The only austerity is that which our own Government impose upon us for the sake of greed and power. We don’t live in an age of austerity – the most expensive rental property in London will cost you £90,000 a week. We live in an age of arrogant greed and gross inequality.”
Reg wrote the title track ‘Faraway People’ after studying the Hephaestus website, which included a long list of all the people who had died directly as a result of austerity measures, cuts to their benefits by ATOS or because of the bedroom tax. He says: “The names are real and just a tiny few of the many who have suffered.” The Grenfell Tower fire outrage (when many lives were lost on account of the cheaper cladding, which saved the rich London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea £300,000 and was patently not fire-proof) came too late for the album, so Reg has added this verse while singing the song live: “They cut the police and they cut down the firemen / With the money they save they fill their own urns / The corporates thrive and their friends rise to power / While the food banks increase and the tower block burns.” The toxic fall-out continues: London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to send in the commissioners, Tory leader Nick Paget-Brown’s and chief executive officer Nicolas Holgate’s resignation after being pressured to do so by Government communities secretary Sajid Javid, the revelation that a Grenfell fire victim was still being charged for council rent and a Tory councillor’s scoffing that the erroneous deduction was “a tiny thing”. The official death toll has been put at 80, but it keeps on inexorably shooting up.
The writer, journalist and radio presenter Mike Davies offered to write the Faraway People sleeve notes, and he says: “The big picture is important, but sometimes you only get there via the small details. None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty, some you may recognise, others not, but all those mentioned in the lyrics have died as a direct result of the government’s cuts to incapacity benefit. They are the faraway people, but they could be your neighbour. They could be your family. They could be you.” And what of the Government’s constant bungling and inflexible ineptitude? There’s a very pungent quote from the BBC debate series, Question Time: “Theresa May couldn’t negotiate herself out of a paper bag.” Reg puts in the knife with a line from the title song: “The scandal of governments unfit to govern… you’ll be unfit to work when you’re dead.”
Reg is not only a mesmeric singer-songwriter; he’s a wonderful storyteller, too. He weaves his tales in this ancient venerable art, then polishes them up by composing the most captivating tunes you ever heard. He doesn’t mince words – ‘Angel In A Blue Dress’ is his salute to the nursing profession, now battered and bruised by Government policies; ‘The Lonesome Death Of Michael Brown’ recounts the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer on August 9, 2014; ‘For Sophie (This Beautiful Day)’ is his tribute to Sophie Scholl, daughter of a liberal politician and a student of Munich University, who was executed by guillotine with her brother Hans for distributing leaflets denouncing the Nazis’ mass murder of Jews in 1943; ‘New Brighton Girl’ is a message of loving hope in a would where cynicism and despair seem to be the norm’ and ‘Cicero’ is Reg’s reworking of the eleven comments on occupations and social status, as pronounced in 43BC by the titular Roman philosopher. As Mike said, lawyers, doctors, politicians, bankers and the conscienceless rich might want to skip this one.
‘Refugee’ concerns Ahmad Al-Rashid, a Syrian Kurd and a former English Literature student, who fled Aleppo in the Syrian Civil War. He worked for the UN in Iraq’s refugee camps, until the increasingly volatile situation caused him to flee again. His video footage, documenting his journey to the UK, became part of the award-winning BBC-2 documentary Exodus. He works for organisations advocating refugees’ rights, and Reg invited him to give a talk. Out of that talk, this song was born.
Reg writes a plethora of absolutely stunning material, and included in the album is ‘Leavin’ Alabama’ (the poet Dylan Thomas and country star Hank Williams, both hard drinkers, never met but died within a year of each other; this is an imaginary conversation between them) and ‘Phil Ochs And Elvis Eating Lunch In Morrisons’ Cafe’ (a bizarre but true tale when Reg and Hank Wangford decided to visit a cafe. In walked an Elvis look-alike and, unbelievably, a character who was the spitting image of Ochs. Both sat down together at a table; you could not make this one up!) Verdict: every song from the gentle, enchanting genius is worth its weight in gold. Just buy it!
MICK TEMS – FOLK WALES
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Faraway People album review by David Kidman for Fatea Magazine

Time and again, Reg proves himself one of the key songwriters of our age, and Faraway People is (even on the briefest of acquaintances) bound to be judged among his finest collections.

I’ve been singing Reg’s praises for a number of years now, and even ten albums into his solo career he’s still coming up with the goods with perennially strong and distinctively compassionate songwriting. His 2015 album December was the first in a trilogy of releases conceived in response to those who’ve seen him performing live and want to hear him that way, just one voice and a guitar unadorned by studio treatments or distracted by complex arrangements and crowds of extra musicians. Faraway People is the second in that trilogy, and adheres to the same laudable credo – with minor concession in the shape of very occasional self-augmentation on banjo or harmonica. And, like its predecessor (and indeed, those albums before it) there’s an even consistency both in the writing and the performing, both in terms of style and quality. And there’s a curious thing: for I’ve happened to seriously cross swords with fellow-listeners of reliable musical taste, who have – unaccountably – remained steadfastly resistant to Reg’s talent, citing that very consistency as a major factor in why they don’t “get” his music. Their personal predilection may be for a more overtly dramatic delivery, a more radically challenging musical personality – against which Reg’s assured, smooth, softly melodious, easily accessible and yes, relatively gentle style might initially seem uneventful, bland even. I stress the word “initially”, for just a little effort (and a second playthrough) will enable an open mind and allow Reg’s lyrics to begin to make their mark. For his performing style is indeed deceptive, whereby he cradles his often extremely hard-hitting observations in a thoroughly congenial musical language that makes good, clever use of memorable hooks and refrains and seemingly effortlessly earworm-catchy progressions. Reg’s emotional commitment is second to none, though, and he shows a sincere and entirely genuine concern for the plight of ordinary people that runs right through his lyrics.

Faraway People’s title song brilliantly exemplifies the above; here Reg takes a number of “case studies”, referencing undisguised real names of people who’ve been let down big-time by the ineptitude, inaction or just plain uncaring attitudes of successive governments. Reg doesn’t need to point the finger, for the facts tell it all in his commentaries – he’s even written an extra verse for this song in the wake of the recent Grenfell Tower fire (you’ll hear him perform this at a live gig). Other songs on the album deal, through retelling of, or reference to, specific real-life stories which bear a universal relevance: Refugee, For Sophie (This Beautiful Day) and The Lonesome Death Of Michael Brown all provide particularly poignant examples of this method. Such songs unashamedly tackle contentious issues and harrowing experiences, and are handled with extreme sensitivity and an unusual degree of insight into personal situations. Angel In A Blue Dress perfectly voices the thoughts and feelings of a nurse in the NHS whose job is made all the more difficult by persistent cuts in cash and resources – and yet it’s not an angry tirade, more a sanguine statement of resilience and coping that rings so very true, all expressed with tenderness and economy in well under three minutes. At the other end of the temporal spectrum we find the near-eight-minute Cicero, which is probably equal-parts commentary and philosophical tract; this song takes the idiom and call-and-response/refrain structure of Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (itself borrowed from folk-balladry) to voice, and expand on, eleven comments on occupations and social status by the Roman philosopher Cicero. And it’s a magnificent focal point and centrepiece to the disc.

Balancing the songs of right-minded protest and political commentary, Reg also pens some highly affecting love songs (another trait he shares with Dylan…). Three of Faraway People’s tracks (New Brighton Girl, In Your Arms and In Dreams) come into this category, and celebrate (respectively) the power, the glory and the intense (though bittersweet) reassurance that romantic love can bring. There’s also a third aspect of Reg’s songwriting that can often overlap a little with the others – Reg has an acute eye for observation of humanity, and a gift for quirky depiction and interpretation of real or posited or imagined occurrences. Faraway People contains one example of each of these: the cheekily-titled Phil Ochs & Elvis Eating Lunch In Morrison’s Café (you couldn’t make it up!) based on Reg’s own close listening-in to this emblematic encounter in a motorway service area, and Leavin’ Alabama (a kind of “historical fantasy” which cleverly imagines a barroom meeting between Dylan Thomas and Hank Williams that could almost have actually happened!).

Reg’s songwriting gift is such that even if you don’t get some of his actual temporal references and direct namechecks his message is clear and its communication unobscure(d). Time and again, Reg proves himself one of the key songwriters of our age, and Faraway People is (even on the briefest of acquaintances) bound to be judged among his finest collections.

David Kidman

To purchase Faraway People the album click HERE

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The Living Tradition reviews ‘December’ by Reg Meuross – Dave Hadfield

Reg Meuross - The Living Tradition  2016 Folk

“This tradition is in good hands… Reg Meuross doesn’t regard himself as any sort of traddie – and yet he can command a front cover and an interview in a magazine like this. Perhaps, as he hints in that recent article, he has been building a tradition of his own. After all, the idea of crafting your own songs and taking them on the road is one that goes a long way back. That, in a nutshell, is what Meuross does; he is one of those artistes who has always been there… doing what he does.”

FULL REVIEW: Reg Meuross doesn’t regard himself as any sort of traddie – and yet he can command a front cover and an interview in a magazine like this. Perhaps, as he hints in that recent article, he has been building a tradition of his own. After all, the idea of crafting your own songs and taking them on the road is one that goes a long way back. That, in a nutshell, is what Meuross does; he is one of those artistes who has always been there, on the fringes of the scene, doing what he does.

This, as seems to be the current fashion, is a stripped-down production; just him, his guitar and the occasional trill of Dylanesque harmonica. The guitar is particularly well-recorded; mind you, it must help when it’s a 1944 Martin.

Reg Meuross DecemberHis songs are deceptively simple and, despite the onset of middle-age, are largely preoccupied with the years of growth and discovery, and his digging a little deeper in his personal life history. There is a ration of poignancy and regret, and which song gets through to you the most clearly will inevitably depend on your own experience. I don’t know how many votes Smarter Than Me will get as a favourite track, but it hits the mark for me with the aid of hindsight. Of course they were, all the girls I loved, smarter than me.

Others will find their own highlights and insights and plenty to reflect upon. It matters little that his rather ethereal voice has the occasional scrap of sandpaper in it now. This tradition is in good hands.

Dave Hadfield

www.regmeuross.com

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Dai Jeffries reviews ‘December’ by Reg Meuross

Reg Meuross’ new album is a back-to-basics affair; one man, his acoustic guitar and harmonica and ten songs. It’s remarkably refreshing – I don’t know Reg’s music as well as I should but I think that will change very soon.

Link to Folking.com

Reg Meuross 'Demember' album review David Kidman FateaThe opening song, ‘When You Needed Me’, is catchy and clever but I can’t help but think that he’s being rather knowing. He puts all the solo singer-songwriter tropes in this song – hints of Paul Simon, a dash of Bob Dylan and a wash of Leonard Cohen – as if to say “that’s what you expected, now let’s get on”. He follows that with ‘I Want You’, a love song with a great sense of intimacy, and this, you feel, is his real voice. That voice returns in the single, ‘The Hands Of A Woman’, a delicate ode to love that suddenly explodes with bitterness. The pattern is repeated with ‘In My Heart’ but this time the emotion is sadness rather than anger.

Reg is a master of melody, something of a lost art these days. ‘The Day She Never Cried’ is a perfect example of a sublime tune matched with great words and ‘The Night’ is a series of word-pictures that pull you in to snapshots of the world. Some of these songs are drowning in regret – ‘When You Needed Me’ and ‘Smarter Than Me’ are self-deprecating while ‘The Day She Never Cried’ obsessively picks away at the scars of a failed relationship. At least I think that’s what it’s about but the writer stands apart as if denying responsibility.

The album being called December it has to end with a ‘Christmas Song’ about one of the people forgotten at the festive season. Reg could take a very jaundiced view but, as with the rest of the album, the mood is one of regret and is surprisingly tender. This is a fine collection of songs which conceal great depths within their simplicity.

Dai Jeffries

 

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