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FEATUTRE HEADING: blah blah balh

 

Feature Intro:After having won the Musician of the Year award at this year’s Folk Awards and playing with almost everyone from Jon Boden and Eliza Carthy to Hannah Ja

 

Feature Interviewer SF: Question

Feature Interviwee BH: answer

 

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Sam Sweeney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHW2

White Horse Whisperers

Reg Meuross: ‘It all started when I acquired a 1944 Martin guitar’

 

On a rare evening this summer when it was warm enough to be outside, I found myself sitting on a wall outside the lovely Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon talking to Dorset singer-songwriter Reg Meuross. He was very relaxed before the gig he was to play there and we talked about December, his new album, his 1944 Martin guitar, his collaboration with Jess Vincent on her new album Shine and all other things folky.

 

RegMeurossPhotoMartinWackenier

Reg Meuross
Photo Martin Wackenier

SF: How did your new album December come to be recorded?

RM: It all started when I acquired a 1944 Martin guitar from San Jose when I was doing some teaching workshops over there. I can’t resist looking in guitar shops and often buy guitars in America, as they can be cheaper. I saw this rather battered Martin guitar and as soon as I picked it up it just felt right. I didn’t buy it, but as soon as I got home I began to regret not getting it. So I contacted a very good friend in San Jose and she kindly bought it for me and stored under a bed whilst I got the money together to buy it. They are not cheap even in poor condition. Lots of people helped me and eventually it arrived. I sent it to master luthier Stuart Palmer in Doncaster and he set about restoring it. When he looked inside it was full of lumps of plaster and looked like it had been stored in a garage. Stuart did a fantastic job in getting it back into use and it is just wonderful to play. So to thank everyone who had been involved in the guitar’s long journey I set about writing a new collection of songs on it.

SF: Why did you choose to record the album with Roy Dodds at his Kitchen Floor Studio in White City?

RM: Roy and I go back a long way to our days in the Hank Wangford band and we are good friends. He has often helped me when I have been struggling to make albums in the past and has always been there to give me advice. I recorded the album in just two sessions over two days, recording straight into a mic with no over dubs or studio trickery. On some tracks I wasn’t even sure what the actual tune was going to be for the words I had written. It sort of just happened, when I got to the mic.

SF: I recently reviewed Jess Vincent’s excellent new album Shine – explain to me how you became involved?

RM: I first met Jess at a festival (I think it was in Trowbridge) several years ago and was immediately impressed with her fine, distinctive voice. We then worked together on several projects and I was pleased to collaborate with her and produce her new album. I actually gave her the words to the title track, ‘Shine’. I had them kicking around for a while, but just couldn’t find a tune for them. This sometimes happens as I have a short attention span for a song or a tune and if it doesn’t come to me immediately I put it away and return to it later. Then I might pass it on, as I did with this track.

SF: You have written so many excellent songs over the years, but do you ever tire of being asked to play the same ones, like ‘Fool’s Gold’ or ‘Jesus Wept’?

RM: It is always nice when people ask me to play songs, but I do tend to rest certain songs from my set and then they are fresh to me when I bring them back. If songs are on a similar topic I will not play them in the same set, so if you get one you won’t get the other.

SF: When you have new material to play how do you mix it into the set?

RM: That is a good question and is particularly relevant to the new album and this tour. I started by mixing them into each half of my set and it went well. Then one night I thought I would play the whole album start to finish and not even do introductions between the songs. So the album became one piece of music. I have to admit I was a little wary about how this would be received, but the audience seemed to like it and the feedback was very positive. A lot of the songs are love ballads and songs about relationships, so in a way they are linked and hang together well.

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So with the interview over I headed off into the packed theatre where Reg, true to his word, performed most of his well-known songs, including ‘Dragonfly’, ‘Looking for Johnny Ray’ and ‘Lizzie Loved a Highwayman’ in the first half. He is a very professional performer and has some superb anecdotes and stories about his family and people he has met on his travels. The Unicorn is such a small, intimate theatre and Reg was soon engaged in conversations with people in the audience, which sparked even more stories. It became more like a house gig than one in a theatre.

Reg explained he had worked with the politician Tony Benn and sung a song about the suffragette Emily Davison as a tribute to him. Apparently Tony Benn had a habit of putting up brass plaques in honour of people he admired, often without permission. The plaque to Emily Davison was put up by Tony in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, but his helper in the deed that night was no other than Jeremy Corbyn!

For the second half, as predicted, Reg played the whole of December without interruption and it really did work. The applause for each song grew and it was obvious the audience, many of whom had never heard the album, were absorbed in the brilliant lyrics delivered by Reg’s fine voice.

With the album played, I think Reg thought he had come to the end of the gig, but the audience wanted more. So off he went to his back catalogue of eleven albums to give us songs like ‘England Green and England Grey’ and ‘It’s me or Elvis’. He finally stopped at around 11 p.m., because he had to, but I think Reg and the audience would have carried on if they had been allowed. I have seen Reg many times before, but never had the pleasure of speaking to him. It was a memorable evening in the company of one of the UK’s top singer-songwriters and guitarists.

Graham Hobbs