Reg Meuross describes himself as "Singer - Songwriter - Storyteller". What he should perhaps add to each of those words is "Exemplary", because he is. With a wealth of experience and many years on the road he has a fund of stories and the ability to turn these into songs of great charm and compassion. He's a folk writer in the very best tradition, seeing the small details and small people who are so often overlooked and bringing them to life.
His recent show at Bush Hall, a Edwardian dance hall, gave a perfect showcase, with comfortable seating and an almost sell-out crowd. The set up was simple and understated; Reg, a guitar, a banjo and a mountain dulcimer. It didn't need any more, the man and the music would do the talking. One of his stories on the night was of another almost sell-out crowd. This time it was Luckham Village Hall in Devon, which holds 24 people - he got 22! The next day he went for lunch in a café he can "recommend not at all" and sat at the next table were two people; a woman who could have been Elvis Presley and a man who could have been Phil Ochs. This gave him the idea for a song which in other hands could have lead to a laugh at the expense of his fellow diners but instead "Phil Ochs & Elvis Eating Lunch at Morrisons Cafe" became a delicate song about those who've seen better times, are now fading, but living life their way.
I've already used compassion but I'll do so again without apology. Reg writes powerful protest songs but they're not of the ranting, fist waving type. "Faraway People", which was awarded 2017 Song of the Year by FATEA Magazine, is a perfect example of this. There a sense of disbelieve and sadness that people, in what is a rich country, can be treated the way they are.
These are the voices of faraway people, The man in the street and the hospital bed,
The scandal of governments unfit to govern,
Look down look down look down, You'll be unfit to work when you're dead
The same is true of "England Green and England Grey" where the regret is for a society where corporate blandness has replaced the individual. These are powerful songs but I'd hate to give the impression of a night of introspection and gloom. Reg, dapper in a three-piece suit and tie, has enormous charm and a twinkle is never far from the eye. His story of The Dubliners (or perhaps The Chieftains) at an award ceremony brought howls of laughter. There was even a competition - Spot The Mistake In "My Name Is London Town". I'll admit this is one favourite songs of all time and the best song ever written about London. He includes so many facets, both good and bad, and captures the spirit of the place showing why it always bounces back from tragedy and disaster. As a home town song it received a rapturous reception, as did the whole night. It wasn't an audience, but a group of friends joining another friend in a celebration of music and life in nineteen songs over two sets. Nobody was going to leave before the end, despite trains to catch and morning alarms to look forward to.
It was also good to see a opening support slot for London-based, Catty Pearson (https://www.cattypearson.com/), whose short set of songs about trying to make sense of a world that often doesn't make sense at all were well received and marked her as somebody I want to see again.
Reg is a troubadour, constantly on the road with plenty of dates coming up across the country and I would strongly recommend getting to a show if you can. He'll also be playing at several festivals. Also, if your collection of his many albums is incomplete, six earlier albums have just been re-released and are now available. Details are on the website.
Tony Birch - Words & Pictures
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