Album: Wenlock Hill
Label: Navigator
Tracks: 11

'Wenlock Hill' is the follow up album to the Merrymouth debut by the three piece country folk orientated outfit put together by Ocean Colour Scene's Simon Fowler and fellow band member Dan Sealey along with keyboardist Adam Barry. Once again, they've put together a thoroughly pleasant and summery sounding record with an ever so slightly…….melancholy might be too strong a word, but more maybe towards the poignant and nostalgic side with an, at times, retro feel - shades of some of the quirkier side of The Beatles and Dylan styled harmonica now and again creeping into the material.

Although the overall feel of the album is towards folkier leanings, with a nod to their eighties and nineties contemporaries, they deliver a string and piano led stripped down version of The Stone Roses' 'I Am The Resurrection' - maybe a strange choice for a cover rather than o for the tried and trusted traditional tunes, but acknowledged that folk singing is all about passing on and keeping alive and interpreting the songs of others, so why not? The same applies for their version of the Stranglers song 'Duchess' - "too great a melody" to miss out on. They talk of it being like a Ray Davies song and it' s certainly delivered in that fashion. Bringing it all back to the folk element, there's the involvement of ace fiddler John McCusker who has assisted on several of the songs.

So apart from the covers, what else do Merrymouth deliver? The title track is a gorgeous and perfect pick as an opening song, being inspired by A.E.Houseman's series of poems 'A Shropshire Lad' - very reminiscent of the big OCS sound. 'That Man' has that Beatles musical feel and lyrical observation of character which you'd find on 'Penny Lane', before moving straight into the music hall delivery of 'Teashop Serenade' - a typically English theme delivered in an unconventional manner in the way the fab four did with their Sgt Pepper material. 'He Was A Friend Of Mine' - not the song covered by Dylan for his first album, contains that similar melancholic and nostalgic sentiment whilst addressing the murder of John Lennon. In fact part of the fun and enjoyment of the album is in trying to spot all sorts of influences - the easy country swagger of 'If You Follow' would be a perfect second single and wouldn't be amiss on an REM album, and there's also the contribution of the legendary Chas Hodges on the singalong 'Salt Breeze' - not that far removed from 'Ten Green Bottles', where you can imagine a class of schoolchildren joining in with suitable actions!

In 'Wenlock Hill', Merrymouth have delivered another impressive piece of work with much to be appreciated, particularly in their not being afraid to celebrate their Englishness and its traditions and hard not to enjoy.

Mike Ainscoe

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Wenlock Hill Trailer

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