|Merry Hell — Head Full of Magic, Shoes Full of Rain (2013)|
Merry Hell — Head Full of Magic, Shoes Full of Rain
Ξ> Folk-rock with punk attitude, northern soul and more energy than you thought possible. From the anthemic to the intimate — a joyous explosion of passion & melody
Location: Wigan, England
Album release: 20 May 2013
Record Label: Mrs Caseys Records
01. Loving the Skin You're In 2:56
02. Dreaming of the Time 3:49
03 Let's Not Have a Morning After (Until We've Had A Night Before) 3:52
04. Bury Me Naked 3:56
05. My First Hour 3:09
06. Emerald Green 3:45
07. Hope You Don't Mind 2:42
08. Waiting for the River 3:53
09. I Never Loved Anybody Like I Love You 3:49
10. Let the Music Speak 3:48
11. Build a Mansion 3:27
12. Roseanna, Let Me In 3:46
13. Lay Your Head Down 3:00
14. Iron Man 3:23
Ξ> John Kettle (guitar)
Ξ> Bob Kettle (mandolin, harmonica)
Ξ> Andrew Kettle (vocals)
Ξ> John’s wife, Virginia Kettle: acoustic guitar and the perfect vocal foil to Andrew’s gravelly delivery to complete the Kettle quaternary.
Ξ> Former Tansads members, Lee Goulding on keyboards
Ξ> drummer Phill Knight
Ξ> and guitarist, Tim Howard
Ξ> consolidate the line-up, which is completed by new boy Andrew Dawson on bass.
Ξ> MERRY HELL is a band founded on the ever evolving Folk tradition — music made by the people and shared by the people. Though our hearts and souls are tuned to the songs which came before us, we bring you new words and music forged from our own experiences, from the lows and the loves of our lives. Our art is energy and our hope is unity. Our pleasure is to please: let the audience be the acid test and let the music speak for itself...
Ξ> Merry Hell is a seven-piece outfit that took its musical cues from the mighty Tansads, not only including six of that cult combo’s members but maintaining continuity while attaining a separate identity — not an easy thing to pull off, but their debut CD Blink… And You Miss It (http://www.allanwilkinson.co.uk/node/2115), released a little over a year ago, was both a triumphant debut and a resounding success, and emphatically not just a one-off flash-in-the-pan, as its followup now defiantly proves. Ξ> Basically, if you’ve any taste for barnstorming folk-rock with a powerhouse charge, excellent musicianship placed at the service of anthemic no-nonsense lyrics unpretentiously detailing simple pleasures and everyday concerns and set to intensely memorable melodies and punchy, attractive and intelligent arrangements… well you’ll be in heaven in merry hell (if you get the drift).
Ξ> Head Full of Magic… takes the already formidable band sound forward with the addition of extra colours (including a guest contribution from Dave Swarbrick on one track), and the conciseness of expression is if anything even more persuasive with the band’s growing expertise. I can’t make up my mind yet as to whether it’s better than Blink…, but it’s certainly a serious contender for the upcoming year-best-of list: a joyous affirmation of the power of music to stir the emotions and uplift the heart and soul, blessed with a fabulously presence-full recording that gives the finest possible definition without losing anything in thunderous impact.
Ξ> Merry Hell make a suitably blistering frontal attack on your senses, a big but fabulously well-controlled sound that captures and enraptures you straightaway with its well-proportioned full textures and masterly attack, and launches headlong into a series of perfectly-crafted songs, every one of which seems to vie for the title of immediate favourite in your affections, full of canny hooks and riffs to die for. Each track is arresting in its own right, but disc opener Loving The Skin You’re In is a perfect demonstration of the band’s skill, distilling in barely three minutes the essence of Merry Hell’s appeal: driving forward-thrust rhythm, confident positive lyric, charismatic upfront, rasping vocal (Andrew Kettle) and perky, quirky — and unforgettable — melody. This is but one of the album’s eight compositions by lead vocalist/banjoist Virginia Kettle, who again shows herself a real force to be reckoned with, whether on the crowd-pleasing Let’s Not Have A Morning After (already a well-established live favourite) and Bury Me Naked, the delicate Emerald Green (a real standout) or the insidiously catchy My Finest Hour — but she’s also still an exceptional singer too (if in danger of being under-used in the lead role). The band’s other songwriters — mandolinist Bob Kettle, guitarist John Kettle and keyboardist Lee Goulding — also do the album proud, Bob’s majestic Dreaming Of The Time being especially impressive. Ξ> I’m glad, too, that the band have addressed charges of skimpy presentation with their debut and this time have chosen to produce a decent booklet that includes the lyrics in full.
Ξ> My only criticism is that the set could perhaps have done with one or two more tender, reflective items for balance. But back to the positive: the big trick is that so many of these songs feel as though you've known them for ages: perfectly coordinated and natural little masterpieces of "the sort of pop that deserves to dominate radio": take Hope You Don't Mind and I Never Loved Anybody Like I Love You for starters, or the self-evident stance of Let The Music Speak — for let's face it, these things still need to be said in this increasingly depressing world, and we're reminded of the need to celebrate these straightforward values.
Ξ> Merry Hell is the sound of open-hearted freedom of expression, honestly and unpretentiously conceived. It's not yet closing time in Accrington, so you can play this CD loud and proud from every possible orifice; it's fair guaranteed to make you feel good! (http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/)
Website: Website: http://www.merryhell.co.uk
Ξ> Formed around the songwriting of guitarist John Kettle and members of his family, the Tansads dispensed a mixture of English folk and pop influences, with a dash of funk. Coming together in 1989, Kettle, his long-term partner Janet Anderton (vocals), his brother Robert (harmonica/ guitar/mandolin), Ed Jones (bass), Bug (drums) and Shrub (keyboards) formed the nucleus of the band. When younger brother, Andrew, was recruited in early 1990, the twin lead vocal sound reminded some of the 70s folk/rock giants. With Dominic Lowe on accordion and brass and percussionist Cudo, the band recorded the self-financed Shandyland in 1991. Lyrically homespun, and tongue-in-cheek, Folk North West wrote: ‘They are our future... and they are absolutely brilliant.’ The album attracted the attention of producer Phil Tennant, and the band was signed to French company Musidisc (who had released the Levellers first album). Subsequent sessions resulted in ‘Brian Kant’ and Up The Shirkers, followed by the recruitment of former Railway Children drummer Guy Keegan. Follow-up single ‘Up The Revolution’ received national airplay and reached the independent and folk charts. By then the sound was harder, and the lyrics contemporary, but still humorous. Extensive touring followed, along with BBC Radio 1 sessions, and further singles ‘English Rover’ and ‘Camelot’. The double A-side ‘Iron Man/A Band On The Rainbow’ was released before the band were signed by Castle Communications on the relaunched Transatlantic Records. The band recorded Flock and released ‘I Know I Can’, but were unable to gain a breakthrough hit. The live Drag Down The Moon was their last release for Castle, following which the band fragmented, with only Kettle and Anderton remaining from the original line-up.
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By Paul Ariss
|Merry Hell — Head Full of Magic, Shoes Full of Rain (2013)|