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MERRY HELL - Anthems To The Wind 

MERRY HELL - Anthems To The Wind 
Private Label MHMCD02018 

Notwithstanding Merry Hell’s fearsome reputation as a barnstorming live act with a truly electric presence, they’re also a band capable of considerable subtlety and all the while a fertile breeding ground for no fewer than three brilliant songwriters (siblings Virginia, Bob and John Kettle, each with an individual yet complementary style and stance). Merry Hell’s fifth album presents them at the meeting-point of folk club and festival stages, delivering a set of acoustic-based (but emphatically not underpowered) renditions of their own songs, compositions spanning not only the entire past of the band’s existence but also the catalogue of the folk-punk band Tansads from whose remains Merry Hell sprang over eight years ago. No fewer than six of the tracks are fresh, entirely non-redundant revisits of songs from the debut MH album (Blink…); three more come from album two and two from album three – together this demonstrates the enduring power and continuing relevance of these songs.

The abundant clarity of inner balance in support of the songs is key, and the magical, inclusive intimacy conjured by the band when playing live is faithfully captured here. Careful attention to detail is apparent in both vocal and instrumental departments, with thoughtful phrasing fostering a true (not artificially manufactured) dramatic impact; harmonies are considered and weighed. The stripped-down ambience suits the intimacy of the songs, while allowing the lyrics space to breathe (and blossom) with the reduced instrumentation – and yet, their inherent anthemic rousing power is both preserved and enhanced in a manner that way transcends easy crowd-pleasing. What an achievement! And a great introduction to Merry Hell too by the way.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.