‘Wenlock Hill’ from Merrymouth - a remarkable album(April 07, 2014)
Back in early 2012 Simon Fowler formed Merrymouth and released an eponymous folk album, now there’s the follow up on the way called ‘Wenlock Hill’. And it’s just as riveting and genre breaking, and once again, there will be those that perpetuate the ‘folk-not folk’ debate saying it doesn’t fit into clear definitions of folk. Do you know what? I don’t care and neither should anyone else. It’s a remarkable album.
‘Wenlock Hill’ is positively awash with startlingly attention-grabbing songs, potent lyrics and arresting melodies. Definitely not background music, this album demands attention and rewards with wide and varied experiences and a range of influences - the poetry of AE Houseman, the murder of John Lennon, with self-penned and cooperative tracks and inspired covers of songs from Stone Roses and The Stranglers. If you could call it anything a ‘complete album’ would be most appropriate.
The ‘Wenlock Hill’ title track, inspired by the poems ‘A Shropshire Lad’ is a hook-laden slice of driving pop-edged, folk rock, and a perfect opener to ensure your ears are ready to receive the rest of the album. Tune in to the jaunty presence of ‘Salt Breeze’ complete with waves and seagull effects, and it’s impossible not to absorb the combined exuberance of Chas Hodges’ piano and John McCusker’s violin or reflect on the poignant understanding of‘Blink Of An Eye’ and you’ll become a convert.
Stripping down The Stone Roses’ ‘I Am The Resurrection’ to simple lead piano, finely placed strings and subtle harmonies reveals the depth of emotion often missed in its original format. While the adaptation of The Stranglers’ ‘Duchess’ observes a well-known song and then takes it in directions that you feel it should have gone years ago. A similar re-energising and heart-rending direction change applied to Roger McGuinn’s song about the death of JFK with ‘He Was A Friend Of Mine’recounts the murder of John Lennon. The range and breadth of ‘Wenlock Hill’ is vast, encompassing much in its embrace, from the Bealtlesque echoes and orchestral sweep of ‘That Man’ to the inspired folk rock drive and violin accented ‘If You Follow’.
Merrymouth is Simon Fowler (vocals/acoustic guitar) Dan Sealey (vocals/guitars) and Adam Barry 9piano/hammond/accordion/vocals) and on ‘Wenlock Hill’ there are guest appearances from Chas Hodges (piano) and John McCusker (violins) plus Catherine Harper (cello) Andy Derrick (trombone) Hugh Thomas (clarinet) Anthony Jones (muted trumpet) and Nick Lyndon (double bass).
You can find Merrymouth here: merrymouthband. ‘Wenlock Hill’ is due for release on 5th May 2014 through Navigator Records.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll