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v - Emergency Lullabies 

MERRY HELL - Emergency Lullabies 
Private Label MHMCD00120 

There is one sense in which the pandemic has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand it has been a nightmare for the creative sector, making it close to impossible to make a living, with only the most hesitant signs of that situation improving. On the other, those who struggle on can find a new sense of purpose. Among the first of whom that can be said is the well-established Wigan band, Merry Hell. 

Already survivors of the break-up of more nationally known Tansads, their sixth album marks a return to their full, eight strong line-up after a largely acoustic intimate predecessor. Appropriately for a combo made up mainly by the Kettle family, they work up an immediate head of steam. 

The opening Go Down Fighting could be vintage Oysterband, with all the bite and vigour that implies. Chumbawamba, in their Readymades phase, would be another reference point, but Merry Hell are a distinctive voice as well as a timely one. Nowhere is that more so than in their love song to the NHS, We Are Different, We Are One, or Younger Than You Were, about the mysteries of attraction in later life. A personal favourite, though, would have to be Sailor - not to be confused for a moment with Rod Stewart's Sailing - an irresistibly catchy track that is already my tip for best new song of the year.

The whole body of work, though, is an early candidate for one of the most worthwhile small things likely to come out of this dismal time.

Dave Hadfield


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine