Megson request that you join them on a journey of contradictions and conversations. From Victorian domestic disagreements to 21st century martial arts misadventures, all the perplexities of the human condition will be laid before your ears.
Stu and Debbie Hanna (aka Megson) began writing and collecting the songs for ‘Contradicshun’ about two year ago when they stumbled across the title song, an obscure composition by Geordie Victorian balladeer Joe Wilson in ‘Tyneside Songs, Ballads and Drolleries’ (1870). This song sparked the idea to write and collect an album of songs with the subject of contradictions and conversations. Exploring the ‘two sides of the same coin’ theme.
The music was recorded in their self-built garage studio as well as a cobbled together studio in their beloved 2002 5 berth Avondale Dart caravan. The acoustics of the caravan brought out the best of the banjo and fiddle on the album though the sound of passing postmen and local wildlife can no doubt be faintly heard in the background.
This is their 9th studio album and 13th record produced for their own cottage industry label EDJ Records & Production which has produced and released albums for Benji Kirkpatrick, Kelly Oliver, Show Of Hands, The Young 'Uns and Lucy Ward amongst many others. Lyrically this is their most ambitious album to date, every word finely tuned to fit the meter, music and narrative & drawing inspiration from classic folk songsters like Ewan MacColl, Pete Seeger and Vin Garbutt.
Again this is an album rooted in Megson's native North East with many of the songs taken from 19th Century Tyneside manuscripts like ‘Rhymes of the Northern Bards’. But unlike other Megson album there is also a nod to their East Anglian residency with a song about a fictitious Cambridgeshire Judo team.
Joining Stu & Debbie are the always excellent John Parker (Nizlopi) on Bass, session musician Patrick Duffin (Percussion) and their neighbour Paul Youdan (Backing Vocals). Since releasing their last album ‘Good Times Will Come Again’ in 2016 Megson have been nominated for their fourth BBC Radio 2 Folk Award and have performed over 200 packed out shows across the country.
The album opens gently with ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably’, a soul searching exchange about the humdrum ‘hamster wheel’ of life. The title reminded me of the start of every ‘Listen With Mother’ radio show in the 1960’s. The mandolin sparkles in the powerful title track ‘Contradicshun’, a 19th century plea for harmony rather than discord which was written by Joe Wilson. A song as current ow as when it was written almost 150 years ago.
Another song which is right on point is ‘The New Girl’ a touching story of migrants viewed with suspicion by some when they travel to a new country. Despite the fact that many of our towns and cities have been built by the self same people. ‘All of us are travellers stumbling through life’ explores the idea than we are all citizens of both somewhere and nowhere. Very little is known of the lyrics of ‘Voice Of A Nation’ found in the 1812 collection ‘Rhymes Of The Northern Bards’. The arrangement scorns the democratic system of the time and backs the parliamentary reform call which culminated in a cavalry charge on more than 60,000 people in the 1819 Peterloo Massacre.
Although at first unlikely bedfellows in ‘Toast :Jackey and Jenny’, Stu and Debs have combined a hearty drinking song with a cautionary temperance song written by James Rewcastle in the early 19th century, It compares the pro’s and con’s of both viewpoints. Which side will you support? More tea vicar?
With Debs taking the lead and drawn from ‘The Northumbrian Minstrelsy’, the elegant and eloquent ‘I Drew My Ship Into The Harbour’ is a night visiting song gone wrong. A must see live track is ‘Two Sides Of Every Conversation’ a humorous and clever exchange between a married couple who recall key events in their relationship let say……rather differently. Wry and quirky but very funny, The type of song which Stu and Debs really excel..
‘The Keach In The Creel’ (or caught in the basket) is a traditional Child ballad. It recounts the story of a bonny lad lowered in a basket into his lover’s room. It sees Stu on banjo & mandolin and Debs on accordion. For all those who love Megson’s excellent ‘The Longshot’, the next track the ‘Barrington Judo Club’ could be your new favourite. Giving a nod to their East Anglia stomping ground, Stu takes the lead in a song which follows the wiitty, clever but fictitious story of a local Judo club and their day to day struggles. Watch out for the punchline. ‘A Week Away In The Caravan’ is a semi autobiographical story from Stu and Debs holiday memoirs and dedicated to all fellow caravan owners,
A Megson album is always the hallmark of high quality cleverly written and arrangement folk music, full of heart. social conscience and a keen sense of humour. Another big winner from Stu and Debs.
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