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England Green & England Grey – a review from FolkWorld, Germany

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

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REVIEW England Green & England Grey – Malcolm Carter, Pennyblack Music

“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. ”

Malcolm Carter
Pennyblack Music

www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Review.aspx?id=9752

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REVIEW by Tim Carroll FolkWords: England Green & England Grey, Reg Meuross

For many, the songs of Reg Meuross are the hinges upon which swing the doors of perceptive English folk. We have accompanied him along paths less travelled exploring echoes of society, politics, history, people and places. Now with ‘England Green & England Grey’ his deft lyrical touch and moving vocals lead us through more opening doors to show what lies behind. There remains the accustomed perception and unnerving fearlessness to examine the minutiae and bring it to the surface. There are no obscure touch-line observations but out-on-the-pitch, down and dirty in the mud empathy. It’s easy to identify with these songs because they strike where we live, some with acid-sharp observations that hit harder than expected.

The intense poignancy of social and historical observation flowing through ‘What Would William Morris Say?’ evokes a feeling of irreplaceable loss, especially with the inclusion of quotes from ‘The Message of the March Wind’. The sense of laying waste is palpable – combine a melody to die for, evocative vocals and the undiluted power of the lyrics ‘… they smashed the piano, no money for bands, karaoke led the way, bland leading the bland’ and you have a true folk milestone. The theme repeats through the title track ‘England Green and England Grey’ – an eternally English folk song, and a sad indictment of a nation losing or forgetting its cultural heritage, but laced with a tinge of faith. If ever there was a song to make us want to fight for ‘what’s right’ then this is the one.

With a precise poetic touch and a rich vein of storytelling, his songs form imageries to be remembered. ‘Tony Benn’s Tribute to Emily Davison’ is a perfect example, telling the tale of a secretly-erected plaque respecting the memory of a dedicated suffragette. ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie’ is no less powerful, were the loss of the Titanic not sad enough, permeating down to the personal narrative of bandleader Wallace Hartley tears at your heart. Meuross also espouses narratives of personal tragedy, from ‘They Changed Her Mind’, an incredibly sad tale of individuals confined in institutions by a society that refused to understand and ‘Counting My Footsteps To You’ reflectingthe overwhelming desperation of dementia.These narratives carry characters and relate experiences that create such powerful visual impressions they make this album theatre for your ears. Writing of this calibre demands a deep understanding of a myriad facets within the human condition.

Meuross doesn’t simply write songs raging against the powers that be, he doesn’t adopt injured political ire or preach pointless platitudes. He recalls sacrifice forgotten, rights lost, the rule of injustice, personal pain and resolute hope. And if we don’t listen, the erosion might continue unabated. Aside from being a stunning album, ‘England Green & England Grey’ prompts us to save what’s going before it’s gone forever.

Find ‘England Green & England Grey’ here: www.regmeuross.com

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

LINK TO REVIEW ON FOLKWORDS WEBSITE

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Review – England Green & England Grey FATEA Magazine John Knighton

http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine/2014/RegMeuross.html

Reg MeurossReg Meuross
Album: England Green & England Grey
Label: Hatsongs
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.regmeuross.com/
“It was only last year when I had the pleasure of hosting a concert in Bedale, North Yorkshire featuring as quietly spoken singer-songwriter called Reg Meuross.

And what a concert. Sublime songs from start to finish. A consummate storyteller who held the audience in raptures. So it was with a tinge of excitement (quite a rare thing these days…) I received Reg’s latest offering.

It has been said that Reg Meuross is one of England’s finest songwriters who deserves wider exposure. I have to agree.

This album is packed with gems. From the jaunty opener What Would William Morris Say we are taken on a journey that introduces us to Tony Benn, John Bull, Cecil Sharp, political comment, dementia, the Titanic and the wonderful story of Flora Sandes – the only British woman to officially fight in the first world war.

The title track, a modern anthem for these times, packs a punch with its spiky commentary accompanied by a lilting tune:

“How can a man respect a man who steals his house and sells his land,
And takes the wages from his hand to pay his own expenses,
The NHS our England’s jewel is bartered by Westminster’s fool,
To justify his public school and military defences”

Throughout Reg is ably assisted by a wonderful supporting cast. Jess Vincent’s backing vocals and Phil Henry’s dobro shine through.

I particularly enjoyed Counting My Footsteps to You – a song which tries to make sense of dementia – a subject close to mine and many other’s hearts – a simple DADGAD arrangement allows the poignant words to resonate.

The closing track tells the story of Flora Sandes, a St John’s Ambulance volunteer who travelled to Serbia and was enlisted in the Serbian Army.

It is great credit to Reg that he had me surfing the Net to find out more about Flora. A truly inspirational story.

It’s a shame the wonderful lyrics are not included with the CD. The packaging is minimal. But they are available on Reg’s website – www.regmeuross.com – and I heartily recommend you check them out. Here you will also find tips on how to play the songs.

A wonderful collection of songs that deserve to be heard across the land.

Most definitely recommended.”

John Knighton

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England Green & England Grey – album review Telegraph – Martin Chilton

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“In What Would William Morris Say?, the opening track of Reg Meuross’ tenth album, the singer-songwriter quotes from the Victorian writer and campaigner’s poem The Message of the March Wind:

‘Join hope to our hope and blend sorrow with sorrow,
And seek for men’s love in the short days of life.’

What makes England Green & England Grey such an interesting album is the way Meuross blends hope and sorrow. There is optimism and pride about England’s sweeter things (such as the music of Cecil Sharp), and anger and laments over modern-day corruption, inequality and greed (the MPs expenses scandal gets a mention).

Musically, the album stands up – which is no surprise given the quality of performers involved. Meuross, who sings and plays dulcimer, banjo and harmonica, is joined by Philip Henry (dobro); Roy Dodds (drums); Simon Edwards (bass guitar); Mike Cosgrove (keyboards, accordion); Jess Vincent (backing vocals, shruti box); and Chris Haigh. They create a special melodic treat in the six-minutes-long River Rail & Road, and you can sense the vibrant atmosphere there must have been during the recording on The Grand Cru Barge in London’s St Katherine’s Dock.

The song are not all political, though, and the duet love song Lovesick Johnny brings out the tenderness in Meuross’s voice. My favourite track was The Band Played Sweet Marie, about the violin given by Maria Robinson to her fiancé, Wallace Hartley, the bandleader on the doomed Titanic.

Meuross, incidentally, also runs songwriting workshops, including one in France in October and his native Somerset in November.

LINK TO FULL REVIEW HERE

 

 

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Review ENGLAND GREEN & ENGLAND GREY by Tamsin Rosewell Radio Warwickshire

The first review of England Green & England Grey and it’s a beauty:

“This collection of songs is beautiful; fascinatingly lovely and utterly captivating.

….music that explodes into a thousand pretty flowers to seduce you, and then pricks you all over with tiny thorns to remind you that where there is beauty there is also pain.

This album is an important one; for his careful political expression alone, we should hold this artist in high esteem. 

…. this is social philosophy as it should be: politics expressed with love and emotion

……the lyrics are so well chosen that, even when you’ve listened a dozen times and begin to think that you know this song now, they continue to unfurl themselves, petal by petal, to reveal nuances of narrative and depths of colour that keep on surprising you. The storytelling is superb……

It has a pastoral quality too; ( but for me it) [that] evokes the jewel-coloured, shadowy and torn landscapes of William Blake and Samuel Palmer, full of religious dread and political turbulence.”

FULL REVIEW by Tamsin Rosewell:

http://radiowarwickshire.com/reg-meuross/

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Reg Meuross gig at Sidmouth Parish Church was magical

Sidmouth Herald review by Paul Strange

This impromptu gig – arranged by singer-songwriter Reg Meuross and Sidmouth parish church – had a marvellous spirit to it, and offered a few surprises.

Not an official Sidmouth FolkWeek performance, the fringe event was a fundraiser for St Giles and St Nicholas.

Held in the splendid medieval church (rebuilt in Victorian times), the musicians gathered on a makeshift stage across the transept. The gig’s unique, intimate setting and the building’s natural ambience added greatly to the performance, quickly enthralling the packed house.

Church warden Gerry Shattock introduced the show, explaining that the “stellar line-up” had been pulled together at short notice by Reg, a respected stalwart of the acoustic scene since the late 1980s. There was also a loose theme to the show. My Jerusalem was a programme of original songs about England and the English people.

Occasionally solo, often accompanied by Beth Porter on cello, Reg took us through a number of his favourite self-penned compositions, old and new. His songs are carefully constructed, often short stories set to music, and his lengthy introductions helped to explain the pieces

Highpoints included the delicate and brooding opener A One-Way Ticket To Louise, the memorable My Name Is London Town and the delicate The Band Played Sweet Marie, inspired by the violin played by Wallace Hartley, the band leader of the Titanic, as the great liner sank.

Then came the first of the surprises. Multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer – one half of roots duo Show Of Hands – gave us a short and rewarding set. One of his more unusual choices was Graham Gouldman’s Bus Stop. The Hollies had a big hit with it in 1966, but shorn of its light pop arrangement, the song took on a plaintive direction, driven on by Phil’s insistent strumming.

The second big surprise came with the arrival of folk singer and fiddle player Jackie Oates. She also performed a short set – including an intricate Flower Of Northumberland – and was clearly enjoying the occasion, becoming more confident as the show progressed.

When all four musicians joined forces – including a splendid rendition of The Drovers Road – the sound was magical, but for me, the most memorable moment was in the second half. Jackie’s a capella version of The Nightingale was achingly beautiful, her pure, soaring voice perfectly suited to the occasion. Stunning stuff indeed.

Paul Strange  READ FULL REVIEW HERE

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Noel Cowley Reviews the My Name Is London Town Gig at St James’ Piccadilly 28 Sept 2013

Reg Meuross – My Name Is London Town

Saturday 28th September 2013

No finer setting could there have been. Reg Meuross launched his new single My Name Is London Town in St James’ Church, Piccadilly this evening. Tucked away inconspicuously only yards from the neon and bustle of London’s famous thoroughfare, this 17th century Christopher Wren church was the venue for a flawless, seamless concert by a master of storytelling in song. As did the craftsmen of old carve ornate designs into the oak pews from which his audience listened, so did tonight’s performer weave beautiful and varied melodies through each of his songs.

In his rich tenor voice Meuross sang songs from his 20 year solo career accompanied initially by just his stylish acoustic finger picking.
Later Emma Hooper and Bethany Porter added gorgeous colour, shade and rhythm on viola and cello respectively for the second half of of the concert. Jess Vincent, who earlier had played a fine support set of songs from her new album Seesaw Dreams, made the trio a quartet for the encore, augmenting the layers of music further with her vocals and baritone ukelele.
My Name Is London Town continues a tradition in English folk that every couple of decades comes up with a song capturing the ever changing nature of this city at a given moment in time. So to Ralph McTell’s 1960s Streets Of London and Richard Thompson’s Sights And Sounds Of London Town from the 90s we can now add this definitive portrait of life in London in the 21st century.
Like each song of London before it, this one provides an update on themes that remain constant through the generations. Multiculturalism is as much the heartbeat of London now as it’s always been: “I’m the Union Flag, I’m the red, green and gold… I’m the dome of St Paul’s and the Regent’s Park mosque.” Now, as ever, the financially rich and poor are thrown together daily: “I’m the sharp suited broker who steals like a fox, to the stock exchange floor to sell coffee and corn… I’m the bundle of rags in the Oxford Street doorway”. New as it is this song already has the feel of a classic to it and sits very comfortably alongside its great predecessors.
Reg Meuross is known for writing songs that trace the social history of England, both modern and olde. Dick Turpin, one of history’s favourite outlaws, had his reputation as a dashing hero shredded tonight in the revisionist tale Lizzie Loved A Highwayman, in which the infamous Essex man was revealed to be a brute and a murderer. The story was told through the eyes of the woman who loved him, who he let down and left behind, and in this song we heard the essence of why Meuross is so admired as a songwriter. What stays with you  is not so much what happens in the stories as how his characters are affected.
My own highlight tonight was the new, as yet unrecorded, Sweet Marie. This incredibly tender and poignant song based on the story behind a violin recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic is rooted in historical fact but again this is merely a means by which Meuross puts the listener in touch with the universal emotions of love, grief, joy and sorrow.
My Name Is London Town is taken from the album Leaves and Feathers

READ THE ORIGINALL REVIEW HERE

 

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Maverick Magazine – Leaves & Feathers Review by Alan Cackett Sept/Oct 2013

An exquisite album that features the words and voice of Reg Meuross, a skilled guitarist and fine singer-songwriter

Vastly underrated as a singer, songwriter and guitarist because he is too ‘nice and pleasant’ in his vocal delivery, Reg Meuross is without doubt one of the UK’s finest ‘unknown and under-appreciated’ singer-songwriters. Those who get him are growing in number, but after more than 20 years of traversing these Isles, playing low- key gigs, he has more than paid his dues and fully deserves wider public recognition. This is his eighth album and was recorded at the famed Abbey Studios in London. Despite the use of such a prestige location, nothing is over-done here. There’s no pompous attempt to play up to the surroundings, instead gentle acoustic guitars, dulcimer, banjo, harmonica and cello flourishes lend just the right layers to the superbly-written songs.

The songs could best be termed short stories set to music. But unlike most story-telling songwriters, Reg clothes his stories in memorable melodies, coming up with tunes that infiltrate the mind as the lyrics affect the heart. It’s a compelling combination that only a very few singer- songwriters achieve time after time. As this album plays through it becomes more and more difficult to pick one song out at the expense of any of the others. I will say that If You Wanna Be Mine has a powerful and poignant poetic tone that illuminates more about the nature of love and relationships in a few minutes than several books on the subject ever could. The sad tale of Weary Jane is concealed by the melodic arrangement that makes the story even more poignant. My Name Is London Town is a clever and very intelligently written song, yet still has much heart and soul within those lyrics that will embrace you with pride tinged with sadness and regret for what we have lost in the march of progress.

A genuine triple threat as singer, songwriter and guitarist, Reg Meuross has produced a minor masterpiece. The combination of the introspective lyrics and rich musical textures should please those looking for something that is mellow without being insignificant or dull. Above all else, this is an intimate album that should be widely embraced by all and sundry.

Alan Cackett

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Leaves & Feathers Review by Mike Davies NetRhythms Feb 2013

Responding to demands from his fans, the Somerset singer-songwriter decided to have his new album reflect the intimacy of his live shows where he either performs solo or accompanied by Bethany Porter on cello. And, although he also enlisted Lili Meuross and Jess Vincent to provide backing vocals, that was the stripped back format he adopted for these recordings, with Reg playing guitar, dulcimer, banjo and harmonica.

As such, in tandem with those ash and honey vocals, the album glows with a soothing homespun warmth, wrapping the listener in its cloak of stories. Variously steeped in reverie or melancholy, they are, to one extent or another, love songs. Some, like the wistful thoughts of home road song Ticket To Louise, the distances apart All I Really Want Is You and the broken relationship I Need You are straightforward, others less so.

Loss and longing weighs heavy on many. Emily’s Pages (where he sounds a lot like Don McLean) imagines the poet Emily Dickinson’s unhappy in unrequited love, though the identity of the ‘Master’ (Benjamin Newton, Leonard Humphrey or one of the other older men she referred to as such) remains respectfully unknown.

The minstrel styled Weary Jane with its beautiful backing vocals, seems to be sung in the spirit of a sailor looking on at the woman from he’s now divided by death while Come Back To Me is a portrait of a widow sadly reflecting on the day her husband died in a car accident.

One Cold April Morning may even be the same person, some years on, missing her children and a family split by death and divorce, her new weekend lover unwilling to make the commitment she desperately needs.

Accompanied by rippling guitar arpeggios, I Saw A Woman is a strange lyric, the singer observing the subject lying in a field, laughing and crying, only to see another man watching too, later encountering her in a bank and noting the dirt under her fingernails.

Putting a different spin on romance, the resigned and achingly sad If You Wanna Be Mine might be described as a masochist’s love song as, the accustomed to hurt narrator sings ‘if you want to take my heart you’ve got to take your time, you’ve got to break my heart if you wanna be mine’.

The remaining three numbers are love songs of a different nature, to place rather than person and veined with political comment. Addressing both the bank scandals behind the economic collapse and unjust and unnecessary wars, My Jerusalem’s a lament for the ‘broken promised land’ of Albion, its fields stripped and hapless soldiers sacrificed by those in ‘pretty suits of blue’ and, sung in the first person.

Having evoked William Blake, his spirit also informs My Name Is London Town, a haunting bittersweet love letter that embraces both ‘the bundle of rags in the Oxford Street doorway’ and ‘the cry of the Smithfield fishmonger at dawn’, the dome of St Paul’s and the Regent’s Park mosque. But if London is ‘your vision going up…your nightmare coming down… the Westminster fool…the Pentonville clown’.

Meuross also applies the metaphor to I Am The House, a hymn of solace and comfort for lives wounded, lonely and lost that may imply religious imagery (are those angel wings he’s wearing on the sleeve, illuminated against the cosmos?) as he sings ‘I am the light that doesn’t end with the sun’ or interpret the bosom of home and hearth as the weary traveller’s rest, the ‘safe harbour’ from our fears. Either way, it fills your soul with peace, the sort of song you might want to hear on your deathbed.

I confess that, while musically love at first listen, it took longer than usual to get into the songs themselves; after several plays they are now as much a part of me as breathing.

Mike Davies February 2013

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  • Upcoming Gigs

    1. Reg Meuross at the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket

      November 18 @ 7:30 pm - 10:45 pm
    2. Reg Meuross at The Great British Folk Festival

      December 2 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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      December 8 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
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