The Dreamed and the Drowned is the latest release from the masterful songwriter Reg Meuross. Unlike previous releases this album dips into his unreleased songs, compiled by Stephen Jordan at The Bodleian Music Library, University of Oxford. The songs date from 2006 – 2011. Stephen had this to say about the collection:
Some songs don’t stay still long enough and scamper off, some are dazzled by the dragonfly’s  gleam. Some songs are right books put on the wrong shelves…
The beauty of selecting from a back catalogue results in not only an eclectic album but one which exposes the talents of Reg Meuross beyond what you have heard before on Dragonfly and All this Longing which we reviewed at the beginning of this year.
The storytelling begins with the opening title track about Betty Corrigan, an unmarried girl from the island of Hoy in the Orkneys. She falls pregnant by a sailor in the 19th century. When he fails to return she is banished by the islanders to the desolate moor. The isolation drove her to commit suicide before her child was born. As with all of Reg’s songs he adds detail that connects the listener to the plight of that person. You feel her loneliness before she is even banished as she sees her neighbours cruel and pious faces staring at her, she knows what awaits her. He leaves you with a question: did she die for love or shame? The sailor later returns and builds a monument to honour her, long after the islanders have forgotten her lost soul and that of her unborn baby.
The album features a many of British folk music’s leading musicians including Sarah Allen (Flook), Miranda Sykes (Show of Hands), the very in-demand cellist Bethany Porter and Roy Dodds who also co-produced the album with Reg. The results are of the highest calibre, the songs are so potent they deserve nothing less.
Reg Meuross is one of life’s great observers, his ability to visualise events from history and breathe personality, hope and sorrow into them is astounding. His delivery is also one of the most moving I’ve heard. He covers disasters such as the 2009 Cumbrian floods (Mr Rain the Tailor), the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand (For You) as well as more personal moments. The Curse of Memory, is a song about a relationship breaking-up inspired by the experience his daughter went through at the end of her first relationship. I don’t want to give the impression that all the songs on this album are depressing, they’re not. Many of them are very touching, the songs don’t wallow in misery, they get you to observe situations from a different angle, from an elightened viewpoint. They leave a long and lasting impression on the listener.
One of most moving and shocking songs is Jenny’s War. A fitting tribute to two Falkland Islanders, Jenny and Tony, whom Reg met when he played some gigs there. They lived in a farmhouse at Bluff Cove there when the Argentinians invaded. Tony’s cattle were decimated by landmines and he was ordered to clear the corpses himself. His wife, Jenny, was marched and imprisoned in the schoolhouse with neighbours for most of the occupation. Reg asked her what she took with her and she said all she could think of was birth control pills:
‘don’t forget your pills Jenny, don’t want no bastard son.’
The song also paints a very vivid image of the invader:
‘did you see the soldiers sandled feet, their old and rusty guns, their hearts are not in the fighting Jenny, there’s no place to run…’
Reg takes the song a lot deeper and beckons the question that was on many Islanders lips:
‘the ministers and Generals Dream of empires overthrown, why can’t they play their games in peace, sort it out at home, leave us folks alone.’
There is no doubt after listening to this selection of Reg’s unreleased songs that my view of him being one of our best singer/songwriters of our time is reinforced still further. The man is an exceptional teller of tales, a true voice of the people!
The CD was released on July 1st, and is only available from gigs or directly from Reg’s website in a Limited Edition of 1000 numbered and signed copies, so order it now!
photo credit: Robert Markham (copyright 2008)
Upcoming UK Gigs
July 21st – Band gig – What’s cookin’ leytonstone
July 22nd – Village Pump Weekender – trowbridge
July 29th – Solo at The Ram Club, Thames Ditton, Surrey