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MERRY HELL - Bloodlines

MERRY HELL - Bloodlines
Private Label MHMCD0116

There is something admirable about Merry Hell's insistence on being heard on its own terms, not as a feint echo of The Tansads. The Wigan-based outfit built some sturdy bridges between the folk and punk scenes in the 1990s. With five of the old gang on board, Merry Hell is its natural successor, but they don't take a free ride on their old name.

There are some telling differences of line-up and approach for this, their fourth album. Both new recruits – Virginia Kettle, wife of John from the original cast-list, and fiddler Neil McCartney – are kept busy and make a considerable impact.

All eight of them have a turn with lead vocals in this democratic ensemble, with Virginia's Sweet Oblivion leaving a particularly strong impression. It's as good a set-closer as you could wish to hear, so much so that it would be a shame to dilute it with an encore.

With sentiments like: “Let's mosh and twist and do-si-do for all that we are worth”, Merry Hell is staking out a territory that will feel familiar to Tansads fans, but doing it in its own way. There is a touch of the anthem-like quality of Oysterband in other tracks, like the opening We Need Each Other Now, or the plaintive Sailing Too Close To the Wind, by two of the three Kettle brothers in the band, John and Bob. The bloodlines are still strong, but this is distinctive stuff, and it stands up to scrutiny on its own terms.

Dave Hadfield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.