Essential album for lovers of folk music that can proudly sit among the great albums of that genre.
In an age the general public, as we are led to believe, only listen to a song for 20 seconds, gets bored and then moves on to the next one, it seems out of sync to have a 28-track double CD released and be heard. Well if you are one of that ‘ 20-second’ listening people then it is your loss not to treat yourself and book a couple of hours of downtime to listen to this wonderful retrospective album drawn from Merry Hell’s previous six from start to finish.
Don’t expect a chronological order to these songs by the way. They flip from one album to another but it works well. It gives the listener a similar experience to a live concert (and Merry Hell are an exceptionally good live band as everyone who knows their name would surely know) not knowing what to expect next.
So how is the album laid out? Well, interspersed with those catchy sing-along songs such as ‘Bury Me Naked’, and ‘The Baker’s Daughter‘ you also get the social commentary songs such as ‘Stand Down’, ‘The Coming Home Song’ and the comedic tune of ‘Let’s Not Have a Morning After (Until We’ve Had a Night Before’ (a song that Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues would have got to number one if only it had been possible for them to do it). The aforementioned songs are just some of the highlights of Disc 1 which also opens up with the Springsteen (ish) ‘Drunken Serenade’, as powerful an opener as any that the Boss puts out on his albums.
The strength of the band (and there are many) is the variance in the range of genres that still sound like the same band even though they have their feet in folk, gaelic music, sea shanties or powerful ballads.
Disc 2 (with its 14 tracks as well) keeps the quality control very high throughout as well with ore anthemic songs such as ‘We Need Each Other’ and ‘When We Meet Again’, and comedic song ‘Violet‘. There are Gaelic influences in ‘No Place Like Tomorrow‘ while ‘Drunken Serenade’ turns up again in a more folky arrangement. Lyrically the songs read like poetry, graceful and elegant in a style reminiscent of the great tradition of classic folk songs. Here is the opening lines of ‘Come On England’:
“Many miles I have wandered on the paths of my homeland, by rivers, through woodland and by the seaside.
On its streets, I have seen those with greed and hate in their eyes and those with their hearts and their hands open wide”
This is a band of individual talents and family that together make an ensemble to be reckoned with. The Kettles (John, Virginia, Andrew, Bob) and a host of others too numerous to mention individually have created a catalogue of essential albums for lovers of folk music, of which these 28 tracks showcase the depth of quality that each musician contribute to a fabulous retrospective album. Treat yourself and get a copy.