Merry Hell – Emergency Lullabies: Album Review

Merry Hell follow up their Hourglass trilogy of single releases with their usual Sunday release of Emergency Lullabies. An album that inspires love and togetherness and one that brings a sackful of hope.

Release date: 8th November 2020

Label: Merry Hell Music

Format: CD / DL

The Kettles & Co are regular items At The Barrier. Go round Wigan (or the ATB pages) and you’re never far from a Kettle.

Three of the tracks from Emergency Lullabies have already hit the stands as the Hourglass Trilogy. A musical trio that swayed from joyful to powerful and togentle. Sister Atlas, Leave It In The Ground and Emergency Lullaby gave a flavour of what to expect if you don’t already know the Merry Hell MO.

So we have an album that’s come together in the French Jura mountains and a studio in Wigan and the inevitable remote recording methods that are now an industry standard. The slow ‘uns (songs to soothe) and the fast ‘uns (songs to energise) come thick and fast.

An inspirational, fist-pumping Go Down Fighting is the sort of rabble-rousing opening you need to fuel the fire in your belly. “We’ve had better luck and better days,” they claim but refuse to be thwarted. I can see/hear Oysterband covering this one. Paired with Neil McCartney’s storming bluesy fiddle-led romp, Leave It In The Ground (and with what comes next…), it’s an irresistible and attention-grabbing opening gambit.

Virginia Kettle’s Three Little Lions (from Albion…) sounds eminently ‘folky’ with another rousing cry of “Wake this Nation from its sleep” added to the “call to the North and the North will come,” which is more than just a nod to Game Of Thrones I guess. A brooding Lakeman-esque rootsy fiddle guides the tune along until a guitar solo the likes of which I’ve not heard on a Merry Hell song before, takes no prisoners. By heck, wring that neck. Think Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain and you’re on the right lines.

Virginia’s is a strong presence on Emergency Lullabies. She’s in her element, conducting proceedings and adding a light musical hall theatricality to Violet and then penning a country hoedown on Younger Than You Were, exchanging vocals with Andrew as the couple in the song celebrate their joie de vivre. A song that’s a testament to the old adage about being ‘as young as you feel’…followed swiftly by another ‘age’ observation on I Don’t Want To Be Cool (check our review of Emily Breeze’s Confessions Of An Ageing Party Girl…)

Bob Kettle’s Sailor is cut from similar cloth. A track packed with earworms (“Oh, sailor sailor“) and guaranteed audience participation when the day should come and a particularly rhythmic chance to become part of the choral throng with the “You steamed away on the rolling waves, That took you far from home” line.

All sorts of little thoughts pop into your head as you dance along, swing your pants or just plain old jump about and shake whatever’s handy when you get the inevitable urge. The Byrds guitar lines that introduce Sister Atlas as our planet answers back; the melancholy mood on Moonlight Parade yet, as ever, with an optimism – the smiles/sorrows, joy/tears, an old broken body/an old shining soul carried by the gently swaying waltz. A mention too in dispatches to the massed voices of The Key Workers Chorus and The Social Isolation Choir who add their contribution with similar gusto

While there’s plenty on which to reflect, what Emergency Lullabies does is gift us with a stirring, Springsteen-style, dose of uplifting positivity. Raise a glass and raise your spirits!

Listen to Leave It In The Ground here:

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