Words by Kevin Bourke
British folk’s mighty duo
Since joining forces more than two decades ago, Devon duo Steve Knightley and Phil Beer have become not only a major force in British folk but also a genuinely inspiring success story. It has not been frills or fanfares but sheer grit, craft, determination, and, of course, diamond-hard songwriting that has brought them such a fiercely devoted audience and sell-out tours.
Right from the outset it’s clear their intent on this stirring collection to explore ‘the heart and history of England,’ as Knightley’s muscular ‘Breme Fell at Hastings’ makes clear. The song was originally written for the BBC TV series The Great British Story, and presenter and historian Michael Wood puts in a guest appearance; it tells of local farmer Breme, whose death at the famous battle epitomised the loss of Saxon culture and identity.
Elsewhere Show of Hands tackle songs nautical and rural, historical and more contemporary – all of which, in one way or another, reflect a nation’s history and culture. On ‘Walk With Me (When the Sun Goes Down)’, they reference earlier classic Steve Knightley songs ‘Country Life’ and ‘Arrogance Ignorance and Greed’, cleverly putting themselves into the story.