It seems hard to believe that husband and wife Stu and Debbie Hanna, better known as the folk tour deforce duo Megson, have been performing together since 2003. Back then they were known as ‘The Ghost of Meg’ and their first performance was at a community festival in Sheffield. They remember it well, not least because it rained and only five people turned up…but they still enjoyed it! To say a lot has happened since then is somewhat of an understatement. They released their first album ‘On the Side‘ in 2004 under their now familiar title of Megson and the album rapidly won fans not least of all Radio 2 DJ Bob Harris and then rising star Seth lakeman, they’ve been on an upward spiral since!
In 2007 they turned professional releasing Smoke of Home an album that got a lot of airplay on Folk Radio UK at the time becoming a firm favourite of listeners. Megson approached folk music with a new youthful vigour conjuring a sound unlike any other and lyrics that remained wedged in your memory as they depicted tales from the industrial lands of Northern England….
“Mary woke in Billingham on a cold and smoggy morn; put her clothes in an Asda bag and left her parents home” (from Smoke of Home).
As well proving to be great song-smiths with a social conscience they also showed a prowess at breathing new life into old songs such as Tommy Armstrong’s Durham Gaol, a classic re-working and still one of my personal favourites.
Fast forward one year and the release Take Yourself a Wife left an indelible mark of progress which the likes of The Observer recognised clearly praising their presence on the folk scene as a force in the current folk revival. The album featured great collection of songs written by songwriters from the North-East of England, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The album title track was a great tribute to Elizabeth Tweddell (1824-1899), the only female songwriter to feature on the album who was also a rarity of her time. Their choice of songs were steeped in working class history and struggle which had you delving into the liner notes to learn about The Oakey Strike Evictions and the musician James Robson, a musician in the Jacobite Army who sang songs through his prison bars for money.
2010 saw the release on The Longshot with more praise from the likes of Songlines who described them, rather fittingly, as “A Marriage Made in Heaven”. As their annual Festival circuit grew so did their fans who fell for their striking arrangements and down to earth tales. They struck a chord with both the young and old cutting through generations and demonstrating an huge appeal as well as an endearing stage presence.
Just as big things took place in the folk world for them so it did in their personal lives with the arrival of a baby girl in 2011. But that was hardly going to apply the brakes on their wagon as they trundled on with the release When I was a Lad in 2012, a collection of children’s folk songs that led to the formation of the Family Folk Show series. Alongside this and family life we began to notice Stu’s name cropping up on a large number of albums as he became a promoinent producer for many, including: Lucy Ward, Faustus, The Willows, Mawkin Causely, The Young’uns, The Cecil Sharp Project and Show of Hands.
Now if all that is not something worth celebrating then I don’t know what is. Their new album Megson – Live is just that…a celebration. A very worthy one for they are without doubt one of the most innovative duos on the British Folk scene today. The album captures the spirit of the duo on stage as well as the magic between singer and audience, especially on tracks such as Tally-I-O the Grinder which includes a great sing-a-long.
In short, this is a superb Album, no Megson fan should be without it!
Song of the Day: Everynight When The Sun Goes In
Stu kindly agreed to give Folk Radio UK the free pick of a track to premier today…it was no easy task I can tell you! But I settled on one in the end which really moved me: Everynight When The Sun Goes In, an old song that’s from English Folk Songs in the Appalachian Mountains (Sharp Collected from Mrs. Effie Mitchell, Burnsville, NC 1918).
01. Working Town
02. Follow It On
03. Fell To The Breeze
04. The Longshot
05. Working Life Out
06. Smoke Of Home
07. Little Joe
08. Everynight When The Sun Goes In
09. Baby & The Band
10. Jenny Jenkins
11. Fourpence A Day
12. The Riddle Song
13. All The Shops Have Fallen Down
14. The Old Miner
15. Just Stay
16. Tally-I-O The Grinder
Sat 21st – BOGNOR REGIS, South Downs Folk Festival
Fri 11th – MAIDENHEAD, Norden Farm Centre For Arts
Sun 13th – THE NEW FOREST, Forest Live at Fordingbridge
Mon 14th – COLCHESTER, Colchester Arts Centre
Fri 18th – DURHAM, Gala Theatre
Sat 19th – BURY, The Met, 0161 761 2216 ***SOLD OUT***
Sat 26th – MARKET HARBOROUGH, The Jubilee Hall
Mon 28th – CAMBRIDGE, The Junction
Wed 30th – BIRMINGHAM, The Red Lion
Thu 31st – MOLD. N WALES, St Marys, Cilcain
Sat 7th – TURNERS HILL, Turners Hill House Concerts
Sun 8th – HITCHIN, The Sun Hotel