Album: Anthems To The Wind
Tracks : 12
Website: Merry Hell
Anthems to the Wind is the new acoustic album from English folk/rock band Merry Hell. The band was founded from the embers of 90’s folk/punk band The Tansads when, in 2010, they decided to get back into music after “rediscovering their musical selves” during a reunion. The name Merry Hell was taken from the lyric of an old Tansads song and they have a growing and well-deserved reputation as one of the best bands on the current folk scene. The Kettle family make up the core of the band with John (guitar), Bob (harmonica and mandolin), Andrew (vocals) and Virginia (vocals and guitar). They are joined by Neil McCartney on fiddle, Lee Goulding on keys, Nick Davies on bass and Andy Jones on percussion. The album comprises of acoustic re-workings of songs from the Merry Hell back catalogue (and a couple from The Tansads too) and was inspired by changed atmosphere of the songs when sung in small clubs.
The album opens with Drunken Serenade (with The Banshee Reel) and it is a good sign of what’s to come. Neil McCartney’s fiddle is to the fore on the reel while the vocals of Andrew and Virginia give the song its raw power. It was inspired by the young Kettle boys listening to the drunks singing as they passed by their window on their way home from the local watering holes.
My Finest Hour sees Virginia introducing her own song as a “message for mothers everywhere” and going on to tell the tale of a couples amorous plans being thwarted by Mum. No Place Like Tomorrow also has Virginia’s vocal to the fore in this lovely, waltz-time song of hope for the future. Andrew takes lead vocal on Over the Border and the stomping Loving the Skin You’re In as the album continues to impress with quality song writing and musicianship. The rousing This Time opens with some fine mandolin work along with the always excellent fiddling.
A stark a cappella vocal from Andrew opens the absolutely gorgeous song Lean on Me, Love. It is a truly beautiful piece and one of the highlights of the album. There are some excellent harmonies and it builds to an almost chant-like section before the spine-tingling finish.
The Butcher and the Vegan tells a story of an unusual relationship in Burnham-on-sea. It has a nice guitar opening and some atmospheric keys over a beautifully performed vocal. It has a slow march feel and tells of life as it is lived by ordinary folk as they go about their day.
The album continues with a couple of older songs, The war Between Ourselves, about resolving little differences in family and community and how that can translate to the wider world and Fear of Falling, a rousing song about having the courage to live your life to the full.
Leave a Light on is another beautifully performed song with both vocalists showing their talents to the full. It tells of a fisherman missing off the Cornwall coast and the effects on his loved ones of not knowing what has happened to him.
The closing track, Satisfied, is a lovely song about being satisfied with life when perhaps you should be striving for more. Its charming melody masks a quite dark sentiment with the repeated line “millions of people lost in the world”.
Produced by John, the album was recorded “75% live” in three different venues with the finishing touches added in the studio. It captures the vital spark of the live performances and has a lovely, intimate feel. For fans of Merry Hell this CD has new versions of old songs that are quite different from the originals and is a must for their collections. For those new to the band, it is a great place to start. It is a sparkling album filled with great songs, performed with genuine warmth and it is a pleasure to listen to.