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SHOW OF HANDS - Wake The Union

SHOW OF HANDS - Wake The Union
Hands On Music HMCD36

Naturally cautious about concept albums, as statistically I have more duds than flyers in my collection, I was worried at first that this mixture of Steve Knightley’s songs and American folk influences may have been tainted as such. Not a bit of it. This is classic SOH fare, with esteemed contributions from Martin Simpson (slide guitar), Paul Downes (tenor banjo), Seth Lakeman (bouzouki) and Andy Cutting (melodeon) among others. The transatlantic threads get tangled in parts – what seems at first a classic piece of Americana, a song about hurricane Katrina, was penned by Devon’s Chris Hoban (and is one of the best songs on the album). Now You Know is classic Knightley, in the Are We Alright vein. Aunt Maria stems from Shrewsbury’s January 2012 Cecil Sharp Project, and along with the assembled multitude of musicians, including the aforementioned Simpson/Cutting ensemble, the core band members shine throughout.

Dylan’s Seven Curses gets a refreshing airing, and there’s a continuation of the Arrogance Ignorance And Greed theme in Company Town.

If this is, as they claim, a 20th anniversary album, I suddenly feel older than my years, having introduced Beer and Knightley at Folk At The Fleece in Kendal during what must have been one of their earliest SOH gigs – several years before Miranda Sykes joined the ranks. The latter now has her feet well ensconced under the SOH table, and is a full member rather than guest – and thoroughly deserved. Her contributions on double bass are solid gold. Phil Beer is rock steady on a multitude of instruments, as ever.

As usual the packaging is excellent – indeed a lyrics book where us mere mortals can actually read the words without the need for a microscope. Just shy of an hour long as well, with every track a gem in my book. Keep up the good work guys…

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.