REG MEUROSS - The Barlow Institute, Edgworth

This was a night we’d all been looking forward to, since he did a Zoom on-line gig for us during lockdown. That had been good but this was to surpass all expectations. I’ve seen him several times before, even at a Costa del Folk performance in foreign parts, so I was delighted to be manning the sound desk tonight. Lovely guy, easy to work with and with a very understated but commanding stage presence. He even let me play his guitar, an old 1944 O-15 mahogany Martin, which he found battered and unloved in a San Jose, California music shop. This seems to be his constant companion on gigs and complements his singing perfectly. He came to the scene in 1986 with the Panic Brothers and played for a while the Country legend Hank Wangford. He’s a mean harmonica player too, very reminiscent of a certain Mr Dylan.

Dandelion Train proclaim themselves to be a raggle-taggle multi-instrumental acoustic folk mix of musical genres, songs, tunes and original compositions of Dandelion Train themselves. This is a mastery in understatement. Their gentleness and modesty comes across in their performance. They are Sue Kennedy, Gerry Kennedy and Steve Higgins. With Sue's beautiful haunting voice, flute and whistle playing, together with expert musicianship on guitars and harmonica from Gerry and Steve, this trio deserve acclaim and much more recognition. Their appeal is wider than just folk circles. There is something indefinable and magical about their act, as shown in Sue’s “Fairy Song” and in "Women of Ireland" which was especially well-performed. They finished their set with their own lovely version of “Wild Mountain Thyme”. A most moving performance.

A full house at the Barlow was firstly entertained by Watch The Wall, a very competent local band, Nick Mallion, Brian McGuire and Kathy McIver, who have a great set of self-penned and trad songs and tunes, well executed on guitar, mandola and fiddle.

Then on came Reg for his first set, using his trade mark one mic set up, which worked perfectly and made it an easy night for me. He started with a song of William Morris, the Victorian designer, hardly needed an intro, the song said it all. I won’t list all the songs but each one a classic, prefaced by a succinct and often amusing intro. He could be a stand-up comic!

My particular favourites were “Lizzie Loved a Highwayman,” about the fabled, but miss-reported Dick Turpin, “My Name is London Town”, classic song about the big city. The Titanic Violin (“The Band Played Sweet Marie”) finished the first half, not a dry eye in the house, as they say!

The Barlow is a great venue for music, whether groups or in this case a solo Reg Meuross, who was perfectly at home here and had the audience in the palm of his hand. I’m sure he felt his journey from Somerset was worth it, we all did.

Another great set of thought-provoking songs took us all too quickly to 11pm. Songs about Hank Williams ,“Leaving Albama”, “Row, Ida, Row” a famous lady lighthouse keeper who saved many a life. Great singalong choruses, the audience were in good form. Isn’t it great to be out again?

He finished with “England Green” which is becoming a standard, with of course, the obligatory encore, “Shine On” with some beautiful backing vocals from a 60 strong choir, or should I say, audience. Thanks Reg, you’re a class act. Do get to see him if you can, you won’t regret it.

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