Reg Meuross at Ryburn Folk Club

We always expect to see a drop in audience numbers when the summer weather kicks in, but there was a a good crowd to see Reg Meuross on the last day of May. It included a few people who had travelled a way to catch him and as I had never heard Reg before, I thought that was a good sign.

The night was well supported with the usual residents and one surprise visitor, former guest at the club Matt Quinn, relaxing a bit after a hectic tour with The Dovetail Trio. His song The Serving Man was collected from Sussex singer Ethel Powell who resided in his home village of Portslade. Tim Edwards squeezed in a final May Song and Annie Dearman was joined by Steve Harrison and Chris Coe separately for Rosemary Lane and Broadstripe Trousers. Sue Burgess’ sung story Locks and Bolts contrasted nicely with Huw Evans’ spoken story about a bus load of cyclists en route to a meeting point.

Reg Meuross is an extraordinary song writer. His songs are on the gentle side but always have something to say – sometimes social and/or political comment and sometimes just cleverly observational about the human condition. His introductions and explanations are very long and detailed and normally one would be thinking “Come on, get on with it” but not so in this case. The back stories are as important and gripping as the songs themselves. We needed to know the circumstances leading to him singing a song about Dick Turpin in a relevant cell in York Gaol, about the fight undertaken by Headscarf Lily and the other fishwives of Hull to get safety measures in place on the trawlers carrying their menfolk out to sea.

An odd bit of information came allied to his song about Tony Ben’s Tribute to Emily Davidson, the suffragette who hid in a cupboard in the House of Commons on census night so she could state that it was her address. When Tony Benn installed a commemorative plaque in the cupboard may years later he was assisted by Helena Kennedy QC and a young Jeremy Corbyn. The touching back story to The Band Played Sweet Marie told of the fate of a violin belonging to a musician of the band on The Titanic.  My Name Is London Town generated complaints when it mentioned a fishmonger in Smithfield Meat Market, except such a thing did exist.

Using both strummed and claw hammer techniques, Reg plays a 1944 vintage Martin guitar which he bought as a wreck and had restored. Given the wartime circumstances of the Martin factory it was likely that it wasn’t made by a man and this is set out in his song The Hands of a Woman.

It would take too much space to comment on all of his songs, but being something of a political animal, I am delighted to have discovered Reg Meuross and hear the title track from his forthcoming album, Faraway People, which name checks a number of people off Calum’s List, people who died after being pronounced ‘fit for work’ following an ATOS assessment. I fully expect the track to be banned by the BBC like his other song, England Green, England Grey.

I can recommend Reg Meuross!

Johnny Adams

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