REVIEW Reg Meuross new album ‘December’ PENNYBLACK MUSIC

“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.

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Reg Meuross Singer Songwriter Storyteller