Posts Tagged ‘steve knightley’

Top of the World: Show of Hands – Wake the Union

Posted on January 3rd, 2013 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Words by Nathaniel Handy

State of the Union address from veteran folkies

The latest album from Devon duo Steve Knightley and Phil Beer exhibits their trademark concern for making folk music speak to a wider audience about today’s issues. Wake the Union is only their latest rousing album title intent on reviving a dissipated sense of pride and community in an increasingly fragmented land. 

Alongside long-time collaborator Miranda Sykes on double bass and vocals are a gaggle of other top talents. Fellow Devonian Seth Lakeman lends his services on the opener ‘Haunt You’, which he co-wrote with Knightley. There is also Martin Simpson on slide guitar, Andy Cutting on melodeon, Bellowhead’s Paul Sartin on cor anglais and Cormac Byrne on percussion. 

The strong transatlantic strain that runs through this album is in part a response to recent work with Canadian banjo player Leonard Podolak, who appears on the album, and US folk singer Richard Shindell, whose track ‘Reunion Hill’ is covered. There are live favourites re-worked well in the studio: ‘Now You Know’, ‘Stop Copying Me’ and the arrestingly simple ‘Coming Home’. There are a few great covers:  Dylan’s ‘Seven Curses’ and Chris Hoban’s ‘Katrina’. And there’s possibly the duo’s strongest state of the nation anthem yet, the understated and consequently hard-hitting ‘Company Town.’

As usual, there is a joyous sense of the band speaking to an existing community of fans, one that has been alive and growing for many years now. This is most obvious on the reflective closer, ‘Thanks’, concluding another fine excursion down the A303 into the great state of Devon. 

TRACK TO TRY: Coming Home

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Show of Hands, Cecil Sharp House, October 12 2012

Posted on October 17th, 2012 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Back in April this year Show of Hands played a sell-out gig at the Royal Albert Hall – not bad for a couple of folk musicians from Devon. On Friday night they packed out another hall, this time at English folk’s home, Cecil Sharp House – a fitting venue, given Knightley’s involvement in the Cecil Sharp Song Project in 2011. The rousing support set was by North Americans Matt Gordon and Leonard Podolak (one of Knightley’s companions on the Cecil Sharp Project) who managed to warm up the crowd nicely, with some participatory arm and thigh slapping, otherwise known as hamboning.

Cecil’s House may not match the sophistication and prestige of Albert’s Hall but what it lacks in size and equipment, it more than makes up on in warmth of atmosphere. Phil Beer and Steve Knightley were joined onstage by singer and double-bass player Miranda Sykes who is so much a permanent Show of Hands fixture these days, it somehow feels wrong to call them a duo.

With no introduction, they kicked off the show, accompanied by dazzling onstage lighting, with ‘Haunt You,’ a song Knightley co-wrote with Seth Lakeman for his Poor Man’s Heaven album.

Like the fellow West Country singer Lakeman, Show of Hands boast an incredibly loyal fan base who do enjoy a sing-a-long and happily participate whenever they’re invited by Knightley to do so. There’s no doubt that much of Show of Hands’ material is eminently singable. Knightley is a highly talented songwriter who has a great knack in addressing serious and pertinent issues with really catchy lyrics – whether it be about the global banking fiasco, ‘Arrogance Ignorance & Greed’, which won them the Best Original Song Award in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2010 or ‘Roots’ which has become their signature song and riposte to the former Labour Culture Minister Kim Howells’ description of hell as being “three folk singers in a pub.”

Towards the end of the show, they were joined by Podolak and Gordon, on banjo and harmonica, bringing a lovely sound and different twist to ‘Aunt Maria,’ one of the songs from the Cecil Sharp Project.  They’re currently on a 28-date tour of the UK – no venues as grand as the Albert Hall – but top-class performances are guaranteed whichever venue they play.

Show of Hand’s new album Wake The Union is out now and will be reviewed in the next issue, #89.


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Steve Knightley named Songwriter of the Nineties

Posted on September 26th, 2012 in News, Recent posts by .

Steve Knightley and Phil Beer - Show of Hands Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightley has been named the ‘Songwriter of the Nineties’ by BBC 6Music broadcaster and songwriter Tom Robinson on Steve Lamacq’s Rock College show. Knightley’s nomination follows that of Dylan, Bowie and Prince for the 60, 70s and 80s in a search to find the best songwriters of the last few decades.

Robinson said that the pop world had splintered into countless new genres in the 90s and the evolution of the music industry meant that, “by the 90s no one songwriter would ever again influence the whole future direction of popular music – but this also meant that for artists at the lower end of the food chain, DIY was now a viable career option.”

For Robinson, Knightley personifies the DIY 90s having built “a vast array of fans, touring relentlessly, by-passing big cities and the entire music industry” before finally making a London debut in 1996 at the Royal Albert Hall. Robinson recalls his first encounter with Knightley and multi-instrumental wizard Phil Beer’s tight folk duo, Show of Hands. They were the supporting act on a UK tour with Robinson: “In the interval they set up a CD stall and relieved our audience of all their spare cash plus money they didn’t have, having thoughtfully brought a credit card machine with them!”
Show of Hands have just sold out the Royal Albert for the fourth time, following on from a double win at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.” (Best Duo and Original Song for ‘Arrogance Ignorance and Greed’). Their latest album Wake the Union, marking the 20th year of Knightley and Beer’s incredible partnership, is released October 15, featuring 11 new Knightley songs.
Hear the segment on Steve Lamacq’s Rock College show at 33 mins in here:


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Cecil Sharp House 2012 concert series

Posted on January 19th, 2012 in Recent posts by .

The English Folk Dance Song Society (EFDSS) at Cecil Sharp House has another great series of unique concerts lined up for us. Here are the highlights…

First up are the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops – they’ll be kicking off the Spring/Summer season on January 23 with their modern takes on traditional string tunes.

Next in line is the Cecil Sharp Project on January 27. The project has received critical acclaim from the Guardian, who gave it an excellent four stars. The work is a memoir to Cecil Sharp – be sure to check it out. Musicians include Steve Knightley, Jackie Oates, Andy Cutting, Caroline Herring, Jim Moray, Patsy Reid, Leonard Podolak and Kathryn Roberts. On the following day, January 28, Caroline Herring and Kathryn Roberts will be pairing up for an exclusive concert.

Fans of Bellowhead will be pleased to hear that Sam Sweeney will be returning to the stage at Cecil Sharp House again on February 15. He had a brilliant time during his last gig with Rua Macmillan, to the point where his fiddle snapped! It didn’t keep him from playing though. This time he’ll be playing for the launch of his new album, with former colleague Hannah James.

Then Lucy Ward will be supporting Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow on April 25. She was nominated the 2012 BBC Folk Award’s Horizon category, so this is guaranteed to be a good one. The House will then host Irish singer Cara Dillan the following day. She’s considered to have one of the most stunning voices in traditional music, so make sure you don’t miss her on April 26.

Folk and hip-hop will collide on May 19 – this should be interesting! Chris Wood (BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year) will be collaborating with rapper/singer Dizraeili (BBC Radio 4 Poetry Slam award winner). Finally, Oslo Jammerkor will be making their London debut on April 29 and they’ll be joining the Cecil Sharp House Choir for a collaborative performance.

Also, don’t forget the Folk Rising evenings throughout the season, which will be bringing the best acts in emerging folk music to one of London’s most celebrated venues.

For more details on the Cecil Sharp House concert series, please visit the EFDSS website.

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