Merry Hell – Let The Music Speak For Itself: Album Review

Raise your teacups and glasses! A comprehensive Merry Hell retrospective that sends out a glut of their trademark messages of positivity.

Release Date: 12th May 2023

Label: Merry Hell Music

Format: digital / 2CD

With message #1 coming from the environmentally friendly, plastic-free, recycled card 6-panel digipack, the title and contents carry a bold and proud message #2. Let the music speak for itself indeed, and should you be unaware of the Merry Hell philosophy, it’s all about fervent messages of hope for our troubled times. And Lord knows, we have enough of those in one form or another.

The set comes as a career-defining retrospective that contains 28 tracks; any chronology cleverly sidestepped with the contents sequenced to represent what they call “the feng shui of a live show.” Changes in mood and tempo that you’d expect from a night with the Merries. It’s what the Springsteen fans would call a marathon 28 song set. And while the tempos and the moods may change, the one constant is the uplifting charge that’s the very pulse and heartbeat of Merry Hell.

The messages carried on their most recent albums, Bloodlines, Anthems To The Wind, Emergency Lullabies and all that came before (all the way back to the crusty Folk Punk of The Tansads) are condensed into a cherry pick of merriment. The trick is to allow yourself the time to sit down and play through the full two discs to appreciate what’s been cleverly crafted. Discipline down to no flitting between tracks, no skipping and no break, except maybe to swap over the CDs and do the usual interval toilet break.

Hitting the ground running, the Folk Punk rush of Drunken Serenade sees spirits lifted to the sky from the off and the first of a series of rousing choruses all primed for belting out with gusto. With Merry Hell, you’re never more than a few bars away from a singalong chorus opportunity or from the ground held by The Levellers and Ferocious Dogs of the world. No concession to being cool or being sold down the river.

The set caters fully to the band’s ability to morph from the mighty force of an electric big band to a trimmed-down acoustic version; Man Of Few Words, Stand Down and the short run at the end of the collection provide a come down rather than a full on hoedown. However, the sharp focus is on Folk rollicking and rolling through the set, shapeshifting styles from the tried and tested Folk Rockers to bluesy and bluegrass, jiggy and jiggly and fist-pumping Bon Jovi-esque stadium belters. No pretensions or frills and how many bands can you list that namecheck a crusty bloomer in one of their lyrics?

Among the hits (ie, the better known showcase songs) there are reminders of a few under the radar numbers such as The Gentle Man (one that REALLY should be on the setlist for Cropredy this year). Not ashamed of their fledgling efforts, as one of their earlier album title says, blink and you’ll miss it, but be thankful for a gentle nudge. And when the day comes that a Merry Hell tribute appears, their anthems sung by friends, peers and admirers, it really should be John Jones/Oysterband who take on We Are Different, We Are One.

The strong vein of passion that runs through the selection is matched by the rousing of emotions, tingling of spines and rising of goosebumps. The mission to rise up and forsake the olde English tradition of chair dancing uninhibitedly shared.

With their very own MerryMeet under their belt, the band is set for a Summer and Autumn round of festivals and general spreading of merriment. Their latest serves as an introduction should anyone be shamefully unaware of the band by now, or as a considered reminder of Kettle & Co vibrant joie de vivre………… Twelve years, six albums, hundreds of gigs and more to come. The Folk Rock charabanc rolls on!

Heyup, she rises – can’t resist sharing personal fave, Baker’s Daughter:

Merry Hell online: website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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