The name Megson has always sounded to me to be the type of name that a stadium rock band might use rather than a husband and wife folk duo, but apparently Stu and Debbie Hanna named their act to immortalise a dog they used to own. It is two years since they last played at the Ram Club, and four years since I first saw them play there. Their current tour comprises 19 dates, so who knows how many people they have met in the intervening time, but when I saw them in 2015 and asked if they had any objections to me filming their gig they remembered me from 2013, and when I went to ask them this time, I hadn’t even framed the question and they gave me permission to film because they remembered me from before. Always amazes me what brilliant powers of recall musicians have. I guess it is obvious that you need a good memory if you are going to learn the music and lyrics to dozens of songs, but I still think that this is pretty amazing.
The evening opened with a couple of songs from Bob Wood. The first “Heavy Horses” and the second “All That You Ask”. Burns’s night is almost upon us, so, knowing Bob, I would have expected that he would have chosen a couple of Burn’s songs, but I don’t believe that either of these were penned by the Bard of Ayreshire.
The role of Master of Ceremonies is shared between Peter Whitehead and Bob’s wife, Maggie. Normally if Maggie is introducing Bob she will usually find some witty way of insulting her husband, but because he was introduced by Peter he obviously felt un-insulted, so he added his own insults. He had recently played another folk club and had been introduced as “The evergreen Bob Wood”. Clearly you don’t call a young performer “evergreen”, so Bob realised it implied that he was over the hill – evergreen is one stage below gangrene.
After Bob Wood, Peter introduced Bob Walton - “We’re not just a one Bob folk club”. Bob Walton started by saying people wondered why he played traditional folk songs. The reason was that he enjoyed the high body count. The first song he played, sadly in his opinion, didn’t have too high a body count, but it was about problems with elected C-sections. I like a man who enjoys his work.
Megson, though, were the main part of the evening. I’m not sure whether the club had to turn anybody away, but it was extremely full. I believe that several of the gigs on their current tour have sold out already, so if you were planning on seeing them, don’t waste too much time before buying your ticket.
Just as Maggie often denigrates Bob in a light hearted way, Stu often seems to be the butt of Debbie’s humour. The previous time I saw Megson at the Ram Club, Debbie delighted in telling us that though they’d had plenty of time to organise packing for that tour, Stu had somehow still managed to come out with “those” shoes. Realising that if he didn’t say anything this time that there was a good probability that Debbie might similarly attack him, he announced that there had been a bit of a disaster and they’d nearly had to cancel the gig, but he had somehow managed to forget his hairspray.
When Stu introduced their song “The Bookkeeper”, a track from their latest album, he explained that they didn’t write many romantic songs as he wasn’t very romantic. To his feigned disappointment, Debbie agreed with him.
Debbie also threw a quick humorous dig at the audience as well. To introduce the song “Old Folk’s Tea”, she stressed that they didn’t write the lyrics to that song. If they had written them they would not have implied that people were old at the age of sixty. She could clearly tell looking at the audience that you could be sixty and still be young.
Both Debs and Stu sing, so their songs are often characterised by two part harmonies. Stu plays guitar, mandolin and banjo (he also plays violin and mandola but on tour it’s probably quite difficult to transport everything), and Debs plays accordion and penny whistles, so they cover quite a variety of different genres. Their songs often have deep political themes, but usually with a light-hearted humorous background.
After the birth of their daughter, they noticed that the was little on the folk scene that attracted young children and parents of young children, so a few times a year they do a concert strictly for young children and parents, and produced an album, “When I Was A Lad” full of folk songs aimed for children. At the Ram Club, as most of the audience were of an age slightly above the pre-teens, they only played one song from that genre, the delightful “Baby And The Band”.
At the age of three, their daughter asked when could she join the band, and Stu, thinking she’d forget soon enough, told her – not till she was six. Trouble is, she is now five and a half and counting down the days. Could be a family crisis coming soon.
Another genre though that they excel at is the ballad – usually heart-breaking. On their new single they have a song called “The Morning Mist” which, in my opinion, is exquisite. Put in a request at the start of the show for them to play this live, but sadly it isn’t in their set list. Not yet anyway. I think that later in this tour it could well be added, so do look out for it. They did get to play “Patterns”, about how the patterns of people’s lives change when they lose their jobs, “The Old Miner” and “Follow It On”, which I could well add a codicil to my will that this should be played at my funeral.
The Old Miner
The Bonney Lad
The River Never Dies
In A Box
Take Yourself A Wife
Old Folk's Tea
The Long Shot
Baby And The Band
Follow It On
The Smoke Of Home
Good Times Will Come Again
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