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MEGSON - Good Times Will Come Again

MEGSON - Good Times Will Come Again
EDJ Records EDJ021

This duo from Teesside has won all the accolades – and a good number of the awards – going. And deservedly so. When I reviewed their last-but-one album in these pages a couple of years or so back, I was bowled over with their performance skills, and perhaps a trifle unfairly mealy-mouthed about their skills as song writers. Though that said, I was emphatic that they had fine songs in them, for it was they who had written one of the greatest songs I have heard in my whole life in any genre: the staggeringly brilliant The Longshot.

And having listened to all 42 minutes of this very enjoyable album a full three times, I think my general conclusion remains pretty much the same as last time. That is to say the vocals and instrumentals are top notch: Stu Hanna is a multi instrumentalist of distinction; wife Debbie’s accordion (and her gorgeous vocal harmonies) always connect to one’s heart; and the duo is joined on this album by John Parker on double bass and Patrick Duffin on percussion.

This, their eighth album, is a collection of their self-penned songs covering largely topical subjects from zero hour contracts to Redcar steel closures, via escalating house prices freezing out a whole generation of young people from home ownership.

But there is one song here that could have come from any age: the beautiful The Bookkeeper which is about a subject as old as Time, viz. that of unrequited love (or more accurately, unspoken love until it is too late). It is my favourite cut on the album. It just takes it by a short head from the immensely moving Patterns: a song that captures the cruelty of workers losing their job in an area where the steelworks was the major employer, and where getting a new job becomes progressively more difficult as the months turn into years, and one gets into the new familiar daily pattern that long-term unemployment brings.

I think we should credit the Hannas here. Their two songs about the steel job losses are blessedly free from easy agitprop pointing at faceless bureaucrats, who may or may not be responsible for the collective trauma at Redcar. I salute them for that.

How much more impressive they are, than were the football club they support (note I say club and not team: for the players are very fine indeed). One of the most nauseating spectacles in recent years was seeing the club stage some huge Save Our Steel displays at the Riverside, with the players wearing SOS t-shirts, and a group of local Redcar steelworkers taking to the pitch to thank the club and the fans for their support, against the backdrop of a moving video film about the steelworks. And then the club helping - through its website - coordinate Boro fans in shining their camera flashes at Old Trafford last October, to show solidarity with the steelworkers.

This is the same club that built The Riverside Stadium in 1995, with ... wait for it ... German steel. Thank heavens for folk like Megson, who shun such hypocrisy and decide to call it like it is.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.