‘The Long Way Home’ from Show of Hands - custodians of England’s musical heritage and culture

(December 22, 2015)

There’s not much that hasn’t been written about Show of Hands, and equally there’s little more that long way home show of handsneeds to be said. Icons of English folk, the partnership between Steve Knightley - he of the inspired lyric and expressive voice that never fails to catch your soul and Phil Beer – masterful and intricate multi-instrumentalist, have always delivered unflinchingly sparkling albums. Their latest release (due 15 January 2016) ‘Long Way Home’ takes them on yet one more step on their journey through English folk. For sure, there have been some musical diversions along the way, but this album quite literally takes the road home as Show of Hands confirm their position among the prime custodians of England’s musical heritage and culture.

They open proceedings with the tale of ‘Breme Fell At Hastings’ as Anglo Saxon England, its culture and identity collapsed beneath Norman rule, from there Chris Hoban’s ‘Hallow’s Eve’ recalls a time before American ‘trick or treat’ swamped the ancient culture of Hallowe’en. The eternal longing of ‘Hambledon Fair’ gives way to yet more anthemic Knightley song ‘The Long Way Home’ - destined to become another live favourite, you can almost see the audience swaying. The traditional ‘Twas On One April’s Morning’ gets the expected treatment, while ‘The Old Lych Way’ recalls another English tradition ahead of the sorrows of transportation told through ‘Virginia’ and a reverent dedication to John Harrison the determiner of longitude, ‘John Harrison’s Hands’.

‘The Long Way Home’ features five stunning songs from Knightley, some expressive reflections on tradition plus compositions from Andrew Cadie Chris Hoban, Dick Gaughan and Brian McNeil. There are probably not enough words to describe the contribution that Knightley and Beer have made to English folk music without bordering on repetition, suffice it to say that were praise measured in stars alone then this album gets five, no argument, no debate.

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Review: Tim Carroll

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