Live Reviews

Merry Hell, Pelican Babies – Over Hulton Folk Club: Live Review

Merry Hell, Pelican Babies – Over Hulton Folk Club – 18th January 2023

What a bumper start to the New year, a packed house bursting at the seams and two Wigan bands to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.

To ‘keep us all aglow’ were opening duo Pelican Babies (acoustic guitars, harmonicas and didgeridoo)whose gentle harmonies were suffice to warm up any snowy freezing evening. they warmed themselves up with a melodic version of Midnight Special before the mellow ballad Tender My Regrets. The stompy and catchy Lizard Skin was dedicated to ‘lizard people’ whose approach to life is to see life through different eyes. Common thinking though, is that the world locally and nationally is ready for change so as a metaphor for new ideas to rescue us from the mess as their The King Will Rise Again expressed that opinion. Again their harmonising skills were to the fore, reminiscent of the skiffle days, which probably sparked an interest in music for many in the audience, they paired Pick A Bale o’ Cotton and the gospelly Down By The Riverside.

They concluded their short set, which flashed by, with the help of a didgeridoo, which Neil sitting near me said made them sound like Simon and Garfunkel meets an infamous antipodean entertainer!!! Their performance merited a longer  listen and hopefully that opportunity will arise soon….. if only they’d move around more!!! (only joking, stay exactly where you are!!!)

After catching Merry Hell at The Barlow at the end of 2022, another local show so soon afterward is hard to resist.

Hitting the stage wearing a customary wonderful array of hats from Virginia’s red woolly bonnet to Bob Kettle’s top hat, Merry Hell stormed us with music you could not possibly avoid moving around to unless you are musically numb. The rousing opener We Are Different We Are One set the tone for a rollicking evening mixed with amusing interludes. There’s A Ghost In Our House was followed by the whimsical Bury Me Naked during which we were encouraged to  sway safely under Health & Safety guidelines. Enough of us took the risk before the delightful Lean On Me  Love dedicated to those who need some hope and support calmed us down!

The theme of environmental issues always raises its head these days and sensitively Leave It In The Ground was dedicated to the young who are inspiring us all to be more aware of climate change. Complementing this theme came a song to pay tribute to the heroic Greta Thunberg, Sister Atlas. True Grit and a patriotic spirit was encouraged in Come On England. Fervour was once again calmed by the sensitive acapella sung Coming Home Song. Virginia had the stage to herself with lovely Violet to finish the first half, showcasing her wonderful solo self.

Not only do the band exert a strong closeness between each other musically and socially but they extend this to their loving followers who were many in the room tonight whether jigging along at the sides or singing along or swaying (safely!!).

Togetherness could be the watchword of Merry Hell:  Join Hands and We Need Each Other Now personify this message especially when the audience participated in a 3 part acapella in Don’t Say I Say Us. As much as we enjoy snowy winters Summer Is A-Comin’ had us thinking of warmer and better times. Before we knew it, Virginia announced the last couple of numbers. The lively jig Baker’s Daughter and finale One More Day Without You preceded the encore Music Speak For Itself ….. and this evening it certainly did… in bucket loads! There wasn’t a dull, dreary, dirgy moment, which is often enjoyed in some folk circles. The whole evening was jaunty, jolly and sometimes thought-provoking, but most of all fun!!

Their stirring whirlwind of a show is full of warm camaraderie between themselves mixed with top quality musicality without any particular member dominating the floor. Simon Swarbrick has blended in quickly with his tantalising violin jigs which at one point took on a psychedelic/transcendental touch and was much appreciated by band and audience. Andrew Kettle’s dry perfectly timed northern wit and banter between the band shows he is an accomplished frontman which endears him to audiences of all sizes.

There may be some apprehension within the band for their much deserved appearance on the main Cropredy stage in  August but worry not you will have thousands on their feet in that famous Oxfordshire field come rain or shine. Can’t wait. Roll on Crop!

Corrie  announced the bookings for the coming year. What a treat is in store.  

2023 will see the return of Cobalt Tales, a huge hit  December, who make an appearance in June; Richard Digance, Chris While and Julie Matthews, as well as Geoff Lakeman are amongst the many stunning nights to look forward to. For full list of artists and dates visit the OHFC website or pick up a flyer at the next  folk Night on 1st of February when  Louise & Chris Rogan are welcomed to the OHFC stage.

Merry Hell online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Pelican Babies online: Website / Facebook

If you would like to keep up with At The Barrier, you can like us on Facebook here, follow us on Twitter here, and follow us on Instagram here. We really appreciate all your support.

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