Megson at The Cut Art Centre, HalesworthSupport: n/a
April 28, 2023 at The Cut Art Centre, Halesworth
Described by Robin Denselow on theguardian.com as “the most original duo on the British folk scene”, Megson released their first album in 2004 and their most recent, What Are We Trying To Say?, earlier this year (1). Now based in Cambridgeshire but originally from Middlesbrough and Billingham (of which I know nothing except that which Interrobang have told me via their track of the same name!), Megson is comprised of married couple Debbie and Stu Hanna; the duo perform and have recorded a mixture of traditional and self-written songs, with Deneslow reflecting on their 2014 album In A Box that the “best songs are their own” (2).
Folk music isn’t really something I’m familiar with, (I’ve seen Seth Lakeman, is he folk?) but I did like this description on makingmusic.org.uk: “Folk music is often thought of as being the music belonging to ‘the people’. It has been historically used as a reflective term to distinguish certain types of music from those associated with institutions such as royal courts, the church, or Western classical music” (3). Music of the people, music from below, reflecting people’s experiences and concerns. Sounds promising.
So, Megson were playing the local arts centre on Friday 28 [April] and I went along not really knowing what to expect but hoping it wouldn’t be boring and they were. . . Excellent!
The set was mainly self-penned with a few traditional songs and a cover of Chris Rea’s ‘Road to Hell’, and it was very much music of the people. Their songs engaged with the range of pleasures, hopes and problems familiar to most of us; from the mixed experiences of a caravan holiday to ‘Generation Rent’ off Good Times Will Come Again. Stu switched between guitar and mandolin with Debbie playing accordion on a few tracks in a set that could best be described as low-key protest music. Their between-song chat and intros at times expressed an understated, humorous but very real dissent against the current socio-political state of the UK, while the tracks ‘We Are Better Than This’, ‘Generation Rent’, ‘The Good Times Will Come Again’, ‘Road To Hell’ and a traditional folk song ‘Four Pence’ all dealt with current (and historical) struggles of the working class. Interestingly, when Stu introduced their last track ‘Good Times Will Come Again’ as something to hope for after the next election, an older audience in a Tory safe seat applauded! Promising!
Makingmusic.org.uk goes on to comment: “The flexible and democratic nature of folk music as owned by the people though, as well as shared and created through each individual personal experience, has given it a political dimension that persists today” (3), Megson are proof of that claim, their songwriting dealing with the mundane and everyday but also engaged with contemporary working class experiences and struggles in a way that parallels Ruts DC.
(1)Denselow, Robin. 2010. ‘Megson: The Longshot’ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/jun/03/megson-cd-review
(2)Denselow, Robin. 2014. ‘Megson: In A Box review-folk songs with a fascination for history’ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/may/15/megson-in-a-box-review
(3)’An Introduction to Folk Music’. 2018. https://www.makingmusic.org.uk/resource/introduction-folk-music