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- WHY I DO…. Reg Meuross writes a guest editorial for Living Tradition
REG MEUROSS — WHAT I DO: “It may be that before I die the gift to do what I do will escape me or be used up. If that time ever comes I hope I can still be grateful for what I had and rest easy in the knowledge that I made songs for the right reasons, and I brought pleasure to people’s lives with them and even encouraged and inspired them to think or feel in a different way and possibly even make their own songs.” regmeuross.com Continue reading →
- WILLIAM BREWSTER DREAMS OF AMERICA by Reg Meuross
I played this song in a Hotel Room Guerrilla Showcase at Far West songwriting conference … Continue reading →
- What can a song do? The Power Of Music, Reg Meuross: Nurse – Angel In A Blue Dress
“What can a song do? I hope at the very least it will offer some acknowledgement to these people who are doing one of the most vital jobs there is, under extreme pressure and in near impossible conditions. I also want to draw attention to the crisis in the NHS.” Reg Meuross new single: Nurse — Angel In A Blue Dress Continue reading →
- WHY I DO…. Reg Meuross writes a guest editorial for Living Tradition
“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.
His 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.
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
The 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.
“….the gentle enchantment – and yes, genius – of Reg Meuross.”
Link to Fatea Magazine
“What is it about west-country-based singer-songwriter Reg? Ten albums into his career, and he’s still turning out timeless, classy, stylish songs, yet he doesn’t appear to be as universally appreciated as IMHO he should be. With each successive album, I find myself asking the same question but failing to find a logical reason for his comparative lack of recognition; however, to maintain a best-kept-secret status is an achievement in itself, and one not to be derided or devalued.
Reg’s debut solo albums, released in the mid-to-late 90s, were masterly examples of one-man-and-his-guitar songwriterdom at its very best, containing collections of superbly crafted songs (replete with brilliantly observed lyrics and memorable melodies) that should have instantly earned Reg a place in the pantheon of great singer-songwriters of the decade – and, I wager, would have done so if they’d appeared a couple of decades earlier, around the start of the 70s. Now I don’t mean to imply that, for all its classic qualities, Reg’s work is in any way dated, or derivative, or retro pastiche. He takes inspiration from the singer-songwriter greats, sure, and there’ve been moments when several of these figures will have been namechecked (or soundchecked!). No – instead we’re talking resonance here: homage, albeit subliminal or subconscious. Not imitation, but genuine and natural artistic expression emanating from a man who’s absorbed the lessons of the masters and gone on to create his own engaging brand of meaningful commentary. And it might seem something of a paradox that, despite the plethora of potential namechecks evoked, Reg’s own “voice” is distinctive and unmistakable, once heard and assimilated. His style is thoroughly accessible, his performance mode assured, accomplished and refreshingly plain-spoken, and his singing voice, though gentle and light-textured, is yet capable of an intense emotional honesty.
All of the above traits are on full display on December, Reg’s latest album of new songs on which he comes full-circle to his no-frills vox-and-guitar beginnings, given a refined yet commendably straightforward production (by Roy Dodds) that allows full concentration exactly where it’s required with no distractions, replicating the legendary intimacy of his solo gigs and responding directly to the countless requests for a record that “sounds just like what we’ve just heard”(though in terms of ambience and intense communication with the listener, I hasten to add, rather than any hint of auto-pilot regurgitation of past glories).
Armed with only his trusty, newly restored 1944 Martin guitar (and very occasionally dusting off the harmonica), Reg treats us to a lovingly configured sequence of songs that reflect with trademark integrity and compassion on matters of love and life: the good times and the bad, and – most tellingly – the multiple contradictions and complexities which only actual experience can bring. As in The Hands Of A Woman, one of December’s standout songs, a masterpiece of thoughtful ambiguity whereby the carefully-chosen words illustrate simple truths, as the singer’s direct experience of the physical world is felt to mirror his emotional state as it progresses from reassurance and hope to doubt and turmoil during the course of a relationship. The album’s opening statement, the regretful When You Needed Me, is set to a rippling wistfulness that’s inescapably reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, while the delicate, affecting yearning of I Want You transcends easy nostalgic reminiscence with the unalloyed beauty of its melody. This is followed by a brace of portrait-songs that almost incidentally demonstrate Reg’s talent for getting inside his characters: Man In A Boat, which sways companionably with the motion of the waves, and the insightful (yet almost guilty) detachment of The Day She Never Cried. Smarter Than Me continues the theme of regret from earlier on the disc, but with just a trace of self-pity perhaps. The impassioned, quite unbearably sad In My Heart and the more hopeful Let Me Forget (which together arguably form the album’s emotional centre) attempt, through pleading and self-examination, to find some kind of reconciliation upon the failure of a relationship. The Night is an impressionistic procession of images that might be felt to derive inspiration from Townes Van Zandt, while finally Christmas Song takes a tender and sympathetic slant on an all-too-familiar seasonal scenario.
Simple, affecting, and compellingly engaging expressiveness, couched in curiously memorable understatement and timeless melodic flair: therein lies the gentle enchantment – and yes, genius – of Reg Meuross.”
David Kidman – Fatea Magazine
LIVE GIG REVIEW fromthewhitehouse
Saturday 2 April, early days still in the December solo album tour, singer-songwriter Reg Meuross kicked off this Bristol gig with What Would William Morris Say?, a song from previous album England Green & England Grey. It’s a strong opener, and not for the first time the obvious answer came into my head, that Morris, a passionate believer in good social values and in usefulness and beauty in all man made things, would have been very happy sitting with us in that packed Folk House listening to songs from this extraordinary songwriter and observer of life, people and the world. Reg’s songs, even the most powerful and political, all have a beauty and authenticity that leads us gently, and we follow willingly and trustingly, sometimes into very dark places.
Reg is such a seasoned and relaxed performer, with such a wide repertoire of songs to
chose from, that he is able instinctively to craft each gig to suit the venue and the audience present. Many of these December solo gigs start with a set of songs from his back catalogue: songs rich in stories and characters from history and from today. This evening the characters brought into the room included (as well as William Morris) the late great politician Tony Benn, suffragette Emily Davison, and one of the shell shocked soldiers shot for ‘treason’ in WW1, Harry Farr.
Next, the lyrics and Blakean references in one of my all time favourites from the Meuross collection, My Jerusalem, sent shivers through the Folk House air ‘They talk of dreams and pastures new, But power’s dark breath corrupts their lungs’, but nothing could have prepared us for the impact of a new song… brand new and not even on the new album… Refugee. Reg, along with Jess Vincent and other songwriters, musicians and commentators, has been involved in the recent Concert To Calais tour to help people in the Calais camp, and he was moved by this as well as by talking to and hearing the terrifying stories about the journey of a young brave Syrian man (known in the UK as Jack Ar) who has fled the horrors of war, to write Refugee. This was the first ever live performance of the song, and the words and melody went deep. We are not talking here about a historical song where we can complacently look back and think ‘oh wasn’t that terrible’. This complex and shocking war and destruction is ravaging the lives of so many thousands of men women and children and it’s happening now. The chorus ‘Refugee, refugee now he’s just a refugee’ reminding us we should not use labels. These are people, we are all people.
I think that Reg was aiming to lift us by playing Man In The Moon, and there is a lightness in the rhythm and melody of this oft requested song, but my heart was still with the Refugee, and the song led me to the thought of us all looking at the same moon, but so many people not being allowed the hopes and freedom that we can take so for granted ‘got no choice, when you’re a refugee’. I think I was still in that space throughout the next favourite, My Name Is London Town, and until Reg brought us back to Bristol with Redcliffe Boy. This is one of those where he has researched thoroughly into official records rather than accepting romanticised folklore, and this song tells a truer story (but still compelling) of the life and death of the poet Thomas Chatterton. Reg had spoken earlier in the day to Laura Rawlings on BBC Radio Bristol, explaining he has always had a natural curiosity (his mother told him he always asked the same question three times) and likes to unearth truth and debunk myths, not to spoil romantic notions but in a quest for authenticity in storytelling.
After a well earned interval Reg returned to the stage with songs from the new album December, and he delivered all 10 of these heart achingly beautiful songs with no talking in between. In contrast to the stories and audience engagement between songs in the first set, Reg now engaged in a very different way. “All around me quiet except the sound of my heart breaking” from When You Needed Me just about sums it up. These are songs that are new (written and recorded in just two days in December 2015) and yet I feel I’ve known them my whole life, they’ve been hiding somewhere in my bones, under my skin and in every tear I’ve ever shed. They are songs of heartbreak, and Reg delivered each one beautifully. I was trying to make notes, but really all I wanted to do was sit and indulge fully, sinking into the beauty and the sadness of these songs. Even the Christmas song holds heartbreak and homelessness.
When the tenth song was sung, after the spellbound silence of the audience sitting like children waiting bated breath for each new story, the radiant warmth of their loud applause and cheering was an extraordinary thing to experience.
I have been working with Reg for 3 years now, and I thought I knew his work pretty well.. but there is real magic in this latest and very reflective album, and the way these December solo gigs bring new and old together all the love invested in his newly restored 1944 Martin Guitar, the characters, heroes (past and present) and storytelling of his past 10 albums..
Great reviews are coming out for this album, and I can completely understand why the comparisons are too: Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paulo Nutini, Cat Stevens, Tom Paxton, Paul Simons, Al Stewart, Jackson C Franks, REM. I hope this will lead many more people to explore the wonderful wealth of Reg Meuross songs.. and that the comparisons will one day give way to recognition to Reg Meuross for being Reg Meuross. No one does it better.
Katie Whitehouse To find out more and for live dates: www.regmeuross.com Get in touch to book Reg for gigs, festivals, songwriting workshops, house concerts, interview and live sessions email@example.com
“While comparisons to Cat Stevens, Paul Simon and others have been made in the past, Meuross has carved his own niche, partly because of his vocals – it’s impossible not to be drawn to him when he sings and he makes every word believable – and partly because few can set a whole story to music within the space of three minutes which Meuross does, seemingly with ease. Meuross, quite simply, is one of the best.”
Malcolm Carter LINK
A new album from Somerset-based Reg Meuross is always more than welcome but when said album features ten new songs which are presented purely solo, just one voice, guitar and harmonica, shorn of any overdubs or studio tweaking you just know it’s going to be just a little more intimate and special than any of the nine Meuross albums that have gone before.
Having had his 1944 Martin guitar restored, Meuross set about writing a new set of songs on the instrument which resulted in two days recording at Roy Dodds’ Kitchen Floor Studio in White City, London. Having a warm, inviting vocal style, Meuross has always sounded like he was singing just to you on his albums and on ‘December’ this is particularly noticeable. Shorn of any embellishments apart from a touch of harmonica on some tracks, the sound of one man and his cherished acoustic has rarely been so affecting. Given that Meuross is one of our master storytellers, the sparse setting afforded to Meuross’ songs on ‘December’ just showcases his craft even more.
There’s always been a little distance between Meuross and other singer/songwriters. While comparisons to Cat Stevens, Paul Simon and others have been made in the past, Meuross has carved his own niche, partly because of his vocals – it’s impossible not to be drawn to him when he sings and he makes every word believable – and partly because few can set a whole story to music within the space of three minutes which Meuross does, seemingly with ease. Meuross, quite simply, is one of the best. Which makes the opening song on ‘December’, ‘When You Needed Me’, a little disappointing on first listen. Throughout nine albums there’s never been a time when the listener has the ‘where have I heard that before’ feeling. Although with some albums and artists it can be fun to play that game with Meuross it never arose; when you heard Reg Meuross sing you heard a song that bore no relation to anything you had heard previously and due to that voice and the lyrical content it could only be one person, Reg Meuross. It’s with some disappointment then that ‘When You Needed Me’ plays a sweeter-voiced Leonard Cohen crosses the mind. Thankfully, it’s the only time during ‘December’ that any artist other than Meuross makes an appearance. While that opening song is as good as any that Meuross has recorded, that one little section when Cohen creeps in relegates it to a good, solid song rather than a great one which is what we’ve come to expect from Meuross now. It’s catchy, lyrically smart and would be a welcome addition to any singer/songwriters canon but this is Meuross and we are now accustomed to his work sounding totally original.
‘I Want You’ follows and it’s pure Meuross. In this bare setting Meuross is in the room with you, his lyrics have even more power and his melodies are even sweeter. As for his vocals, they’ve never sounded so good; so close and with such honesty shown in every line this is what we expected and why we hold this artist in such high regard.
‘Man in a Boat’ conveys the maritime theme of the title perfectly. One of Meuross’ story songs, it’s still a surprise how Meuross can conjure up so many images within a three-minute song. That just one voice and one guitar can paint such a vivid picture is but another indication of how talented Meuross is.
‘The Hands of a Woman’ has been chosen as the lead-off single. While it’s the owner of one of Meuross’ most instantly catchy melodies and is blessed with astute lyrics which have become something of his trademark, there are other songs on ‘December’ that deserve the extra attention that being pulled as a single gains. In fact, it must have been a difficult task to pick a single out from this collection; every song deserves to be heard.
‘In My Heart’ has a melancholy feel. You can almost touch the sadness and longing in his vocals. The closing ‘Christmas Song’ is particularly strong, the harmonica-led ‘Smarter Than Me’ is, right now, the favourite. Meuross reflecting on his shortcomings is going to strike a chord with many of his listeners. The opening line, “The road runs like a ribbon to the sky/Red and silver lights go flashing by,” paints such a vivid picture as ‘The Night’ unfolds that for the next five minutes you’re part of the landscape Meuross is passing through. Classic Meuross.
By stripping things right back to basics, Meuross has put even more focus on just how talented a lyricist he is, how as a guitar player he is still underrated and how he has one of the most welcoming voices in music today. For all his past achievements and a few moments at the beginning of the set before he found his own voice again, ‘December’ could well prove to be the most rewarding set from Meuross yet.
“Finding inspiration in his newly refurbished Martin 1944, Reg Meuross comes up with a series of luminous songs that cement his place as one the UK’s best songwriters.”
Louder than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews LINK
2016 sees Reg Meuross celebrate his 30th year as a professional musician and there is no better way to celebrate it than with a new album. This release sees the Somerset based musician go back to the basic approach of his first solo albums with just him and his guitar (a beautiful Martin 1944 that we have to thank for this new collection of songs). Recorded over two days on December the 3rd and 11th last year at Kitchen Floor Studio in White City, the record is a carefully crafted collection of tunes that if released 45 years ago would have placed Reg amongst the greatest of the singer-songwriter movement.
Alas in this day and age of crassness, his affecting tunes don’t get on the main airwaves but for all those that will be brave enough to brave the diktat of modern radio and investigate “December”, they will be treated to what could be considered as Britain’s answer to the legendary Townes Van Zandt. The record starts with “When You Needed Me” where Reg’s assured picking and gentle voice accompany a tale of lost love and regrets. The sea shanty “Man in a Boat” is an instant folk classic while “The Day She Never Cried” is refined songwriting at its best, probably the aural equivalent of drinking a 20 year single malt whisky.
Like his 1944’s Martin guitar, Reg’s song are carved out of fine wood, no fancy frills, just melodic tunes with finely written lyrics. “Smarter Than Me” with its harmonica intro sees a man reminisce about his shortcomings and his aspirations while “The Hands of a Woman” is Reg’s lover letter to the opposite sex. The force of a great singer songwriter is to be able to convey emotions through his songs even though he is singing about fictional characters and situations and Reg’s is definitely one of them.
“…sounds like a forgotten American 60s classic, with echoes of early Dylan, Tom Paxton and Leonard Cohen” LINK
FULL REVIEW by Robin Denselow
A very English Kind of Americana
Reg Meuross is one of the more versatile, under-sung survivors of the English acoustic scene. In the mid-1980s he formed the Panic Brothers with Richard Morton, mixing Americana with humour and slick harmonies. Then came the Flamingos, Hank Langford, and solo albums that included the quietly angry England Green & England Grey. Now, following a Panic Brothers Reunion (and rereleases of their 80s recordings) comes his first “completely solo album” of new songs. They are pained and personal rather than political. When You Needed Me sounds like a forgotten American 60s classic, with echoes of early Dylan, Tom Paxton and Leonard Cohen, and is followed by folk-country weepies such as Let Me Forget and Christmas Song. He is backed only by vintage guitar and harmonica, and despite the American influences there’s no hint of an accent in his no-nonsense, intimate vocals.
“Imagine John Prine’s Hello In There crossed with REM’s Losing My Religion. It’s that good. As is everything here” LINK
FULL REVIEW by Mike Davies
Knowingly channeling Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye on reflective opening lost love number When You Needed Me,Reg Meuross’ 11th album marks a return to the one man and a guitar format that initially inspired him and which is the template for his live shows. Having had his 1944 Martin guitar lovingly restored by master craftsman Stuart Palmer in San Jose, Meuross took himself off to London where, over the course of two days, he recorded the songs that make up this collection, straight to the mic, with longtime associate Roy Dodds behind the desk.
The opening track from December sets the pervasive musical and lyrical mood and, along with Cohen, you’ll hear such acknowledged influences as Paul Simon and Bob Dylan in the writing and delivery as the album unfolds. A simple intimate lost love song I Want You (“I want to tell you that I love you, but you don’t want to listen”) is next up, the theme extended through allegory of a doomed castaway (“does he long for the arms of a runaway lover or cannot accept that a great love is over?) in the slow shanty sway of Man In A Boat (which prompts a comparison with the young Harvey Andrews).
There’s a shift of perspective for the circling chords of the poignant The Day She Never Cried, a list of emotional highs and lows that could be seen as either finally overcoming the heartache or making the final surrender to escape love’s loss. Then it’s back to the first person for Let Me Forget, in which the protagonist automatically assumes the relationship will fail, and that life is what happens while you wait for it to do so.
Harmonica enters the mix for Smarter Than Me, a song that underscores those frequent Townes Van Zandt comparisons as he muses on his shortcomings and disappointments (“all my dreams left in a boat that sank before it left the docks”), but comes with a nice twist in that accepting failure seems to be better than “friends plagued with ambition and poisoned by success.”
One of my favourite tracks, The Night is the most obvious nod to Dylan, a series of snapshots of restlessness and disconnections, strum giving way to fingerpicking for The Hands Of A Woman, a song that begins on an upbeat note (“the hands of a woman telling me everything will work out fine”), surrendering to love only to gradually give way to hurt and loss (“You forget about me and the love that slips through your hands”).
In My Heart also tells of romantic disappointment, except here there is no bitterness, no acrimony, just sweet memories of “The times we shared the way I cared. The tender way you cared for me.”
In keeping with the title, the album ends with the year’s first reference to the festive season, Christmas Song, though, also in keeping with the prevailing mood, this isn’t one full of comfort, joy and glad tiding. Rather, in its images of cardboard boxes and soup vans, it’s about those fallen on hard times, a song veined with wearied regret and a warning not to make the same mistakes as the singer as it ends with the lines “Hold on to your sweetheart buy her ribbons. Strong may your children grow. Don’t ever be lonely take her dancing. Spare me some change before you go.” Imagine John Prine’s Hello In There crossed with REM’s Losing My Religion. It’s that good. As is everything here.
Review by: Mike Davies
Thank you Michael Moll LINK TO REVIEW
This is apparently already the 10th album of brilliant singer/songwriter Reg Meuross – and amazingly this is the first time I have heard of this Englishman. The self-penned songs on this album are about big topics – be it about the tragic nature of dementia, Tony Benn’s secretly erected plaque to commemorate the suffragette Emily Davison, the lifes of inmates of a mental asylum in the 1950s, an account of the only Englishwoman to engage in active combat in WW1, or, in the title track, an observation of traditional English values and today’s society and politics.
Despite focussed on difficult societal issues, Reg’s songs never sound dogmatic; they have a warmth in the way they observe the world, and Reg’s singing voice emphasises this warmth further. The lyrics are superb in the way that they tell stories that evoke emotions, yet the songs still can make enjoyable and light hearted listening. Backed by guitar/banjo, accordion, drums/percussion, dobro and fiddle, the music has a contemporary yet folky and definitely English feel to it. The press notes do not exaggerate with their statement that “Reg is one of this country’s greatest songwriters at the very top of his game”, and I feel glad that, after nine albums, I have finally discovered him.
© Michael Moll
“it’s the lightness in Meuross’s voice that brings his tales to life and draws the listener into his songs…. He shows that there’s no need to shout to be heard”
“Eighteen months after the release of ‘Leaves and Feathers’, the last album from British singer/songwriter Reg Meuross, the track ‘I Saw a Woman’ which was a highlight of that collection, still sends shivers down the spine; it’s a chilling tale at odds with the gentle, inviting vocals that Meuross tells all his stories in. Meuross isn’t the only artist who, just when you think they’ve peaked, produces another set that can now be defined as their best yet, but with ‘England Green and England Grey’ Meuross leaves the listener in little doubt that there are few singer/songwriters who currently come close.
‘England Green and England Grey’ is an important album; as the title suggests it’s Meuross’s thoughts about his country, and, as usual, with his work Meuross articulates the feelings of many of his countrymen while never once making the listener feel that he is preaching. Those warm vocals often belie the sharpness of the lyrics which make Meuross’s work that much more attractive than that of his contempories. Often labeled as folk music Meuross is so much more than that; with each passing album his work can be compared to that of other artists who are grouped into that genre but really don’t belong. While the pair are miles apart in their vocal style, the work of Billy Bragg comes to mind time and again while listening to ‘England Green and England Grey’. Although Bragg’s foghorn of a voice has matured nicely through the years and developed into that of a gruff but kindly, wise old uncle, it’s the lightness in Meuross’s voice that brings his tales to life and draws the listener into his songs.
England’s decline is the subject of the opening ‘What Would William Morris Say?’, an unexpected lively start to the album with Mike Cosgrave’s accordion somehow adding to the Englishness of the song. The pub sing-a-long chorus is irresistible, you’ll be singing along by the end of the song while recognising that lyrically Meuross has yet again summed up the feeling of the nation perfectly – “We used to go out in our town/We’d go to the pub ‘till the pubs shut down/They smashed the piano/No money for bands/Karaoke led the way/The bland leading the bland” before getting more serious and raising the issue of replacing farming communities with industrial complexes. It’s a strong opening shot that leaves the listener in little doubt that while lyrically thought provoking Meuross hasn’t lost his talent for flowing melodies to dress his acute observations in, and that ‘England Green and England Grey’ is going to be a intriguing journey.
‘Tony Benn’s Tribute To Emily Davison’ follows, another jaunty cut, this time dominated by rolling piano as Meuross fascinates us by singing about suffragette Davison who died after throwing herself under the king’s horse in June 1913. Tony Benn erected a plaque to Davison on the broom cupboard where she hid on the eve on the national Census in 1911, and it was this act that inspired Meuross to write the song. The song throws up another repercussion of listening to Meuross; those without any knowledge of Meuross’s subjects will spend not a little time researching the topics and characters in his stories eager to learn more. Such is the power of this artist’s work.
The title track is classic Meuross; without preaching he paints a vivid picture of what England meant to him and how it is slowing slipping out of grasp. Set to yet another irresistible melody lines like “Shut the factories/Shut the mines/Punish those fell on hard times?While they honour them who do the crimes/The greedy men of England” display the talent Meuross has in articulating the feelings of the everyman. Meuross does, however, conclude that “there is none so sweet as England” again reflecting how many of us feel. With heavenly vocals from Jess Vincent, not only on this song but spread throughout the album, it’s the song to go for if Meuross is a new name to you and you’d like a taster of this exceptional storyteller’s work.
Elsewhere Meuross turns his attention to a sufferer of dementia in ‘Counting My Footsteps to You’, while Meuross’s outstanding guitar playing is given a chance to shine on this track it’s the heartbreaking tale that touches the listener the most. It’s pointless to take a few lines of the lyrics and reproduce them here; they are available on the Reg Meuross web site and really deserve to be read even if the album doesn’t make it into your player, Meuross captures the awfulness of this illness so well; the way he sings “I can’t find my way home” will have anyone who has been in contact with those suffering from dementia reaching for the tissues.
‘They Changed Her Mind’ covers the reopening of a mental asylum that had remained unused since the early 60s and the discovery of suitcases containing the personal effects and details of some of the inmates. Again Meuross delivers a chilling tale, Phil Henry’s dobro adding much to the atmosphere and Vincent’s backing vocals once more embellishing the overall sound. It’s another breathtaking piece of music.
But for all the sensitive performances and subject matter Meuross and his band show they can still inject the urge to dance in the listener on songs such as ‘Sing To Me a Working Week’ with accordion and banjo adding to the party atmosphere.
There is much to be digested on ‘England Green and England Grey’, we haven’t even touched upon songs such as ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie’ a waltz based around the discovery of the violin given by Marie Robinson to her fiancé Wallace Hartley who was the bandleader of the Titanic, or ‘The Ballad Of Flora Sandes’, the only British woman to officially serve as a World War 1 soldier; again you’ll be thankful for the invention of the internet.
Meuross delivers his stories with so much conviction and passion yet still his vocals never lose their gentleness. He shows that there’s no need to shout to be heard and with a first class bunch of musicians fleshing out those unforgettable melodies which compliment his astute lyrical talent ‘England Green and England Grey’ should be heard by all music lovers, not just those interested in the folk and singer/songwriter genres Meuross is often grouped in with. ”