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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Reg Meuross Singer Songwriter Storyteller