REG MEUROSS  England Green & England Grey  HAT007   *****
Mick Tems – Folk Wales
Reg is without a doubt one of my favourite songwriters; he elates and moves me, he crafts such perfect songs and composes a plethora of maddening melodies that, try as you might, you can’t get them out of your head. Beware earworms! He’s also a thoroughly nice and modest guy as well, and his live set is entrancing. Do go and see Reg, and I bet you a pound to a penny that he will sell you this, his newest and best album – I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
He has opted for a full band sound this time, and the musicians (who include drummer Roy Dodds, bassist Simon Edwards, keyboards and accordion player Mike Cosgrave and backing vocalist Jess Vincent) explode into ‘What Would William Morris Say’. Reg uses persuasive and intelligent words to pit himself against the juggernaut of powerful capitalism; Morris was an Victorian artist, designer and socialist pioneer, and his most famous scence fiction novel, News From Nowhere, told of a socialist who awakes to find himself in a future society based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. There is no private property, no big cities, no authority, no monetary system, no divorce, no courts, no prisons and no class systems; this society is able to function because the people find pleasure in nature and pleasure in their work. Morris published News From Nowhere as a direct answer to Looking Backward, a book that warned against the kind of state socialism that Morris hated.
This album is a strong and eloquent protest which studies the fag-end of the bullying, arrogant Government which seized power after the last broken and discredited election, and the emergence of extremist and shadowy right-wing factions, such as UKIP. The title track is an affirmation of Reg’s love for his country, which is slowly being eroded away by greed, selfishness and intolerance – and, just for the record, there can be no doubt that people in Wales, Scotland and the North of Ireland are experiencing the same dank smell of injustice, too. Reg highlights the tragedy of dementia in ‘Counting My Footsteps To You’, scores a knockout chorus punch with ‘River, Rail And Road’ (which, in an ideal world, would be a Nashville smash-hit), enlists five-star harmony singer Jess in another gob-smacking chorus on ‘They Changed Her Mind’ and salutes his folk roots in ‘Lovesick Johnny’, the wonderful Jess well to the fore.
Ever the riveting storyteller, Reg recounts the tale of the Titanic disaster and the lost violin in ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie’, and marks the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War with ‘The Ballad Of Flora Sandes’, the only woman, daughter of an Cork Anglican vicar, to fight in “the war to end all wars” – this time in as captain in the Serbian Army. Reg has got the magical knack of researching rare vignettes and bringing them to prominence by crafting a scintillating, memorable song with a champion hook-line to wrap it up – and long may he flourish.