Merry Hell

Venue: The Globe
Town: Glossop
Date: 10/12/15

Bare stone walls, a slate roof, middle of winter, if it sounds bleak it's not. We are warmed by numerous real ales at under £2 a pint, a highly prized vegetarian menu where the substantial and delightful mains are under £4. You could therefore be forgiven for thinking we had time travelled back to nineteen hundred and frozen to death. We haven't, this is Glossop.

This is the Globe, considered by the Guardian to be the best small "roots" venue in the country. Who are we to argue? Certainly not the sold out, packed to the rafters (the sound engineer climbs a ladder to his loft to monitor levels) audience. They are here to see the act rated the "best group at the Globe". They are here to see the exuberant, energetic, folk with attitude, Wigan based Merry Hell.

There's a buzz in the bar, old, and yet to be, friends meet, exchange their stories about the band and their path to one of the hottest rated groups on the current folk circuit.

Upstairs Merry Hell take the stage, Virginia and Andrew Kettle sharing lead vocals as they rattle through the set familiar to most present, the band are "Dreaming Of The Time" before demanding that they don't want a "Morning After" until they've had a night before. It's a sentiment that raises the crowd, gets toes tapping and puts a smile on the faces of those present. You can almost see the "oh yes please" flash across the eyes of the head swaying audience.

A metaphorical "Summer Is A Coming In" gives way to mandolin playing Bob Kettle's reflective take on war in the guise of "Old Soldier" before the greedy bankers are the next target to feel the ire of Merry Hell through the song "Crooked Man". This is music for the masses, common targets hit with unerring accuracy.

The pace is slowed as Virginia extols her idea of downsizing with the gorgeously impossible not to sing, or at least sway along to, "Bury Me Naked". There's always hope as Andrew offers solace with "Lean On Me Love" a tale of always having somebody there to help through those darkest hours.

A brighter picture still is painted with the wistful "I Hope You Don't Mind (If I Fall In Love With You)" which leads into a violin solo from Neil McCartney, the intro to the bands latest album "The Ghost In Our House".

The rest of the set from the acoustic line-up which features Nick Davies on bass along with Neil and the four Kettle's is spread across their three albums to date, stories of opposites that attract (Butcher And The Vegan), of lazy partners (Bakers Daughters), hard times (No Money), of ignoring the influence of advertising (Loving The Skin You're In). You are dragged in to the music, you sing along, it's infectious, you have a good time.

And in a nutshell that's the Merry Hell message, they connect with stories and songs that strike a chord in the hearts of their listeners. Whether it's from the pen of John Kettle or Bob or Virginia there's something for everyone here, something you can associate with, sympathise empathise to. But on top of all that it's about having a good time, inclusive music in which nobody is left behind.

Another great fiddle intro and Merry Hell's second encore "Let The Music Speak For Itself" does just that. It gets us up on our feet, we dance, it's a fitting climax to a great night out.

A night which started with local singer songwriter Lee Bardsley who fully deserved the enthusiastic support he was shown, he is a guitar playing enigma, a man who can write a classic song yet seemingly struggle to use a guitar stand in the sound check. Definitely worth a second listen!

Ian Cripps

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