A fixture on the adjacent “festival fringe” of Fairport Convention’s annual Cropredy extravaganza each year, Wigan-based folk-rockers, Merry Hell, have finally made it to the main stage and will appear there this August. With impeccable timing (and something that will sell like hot cakes at this and other festivals this summer, I’m sure) the band have released their first ever ‘best of’ compilation.
Emerging back in 2010 from the ashes of 90s folk-punk outfit, The Tansads, the band weren’t quite sure how things would take off but six albums later Merry Hell have more than proved themselves and there’s no shortage of strong material for a proper career retrospective.
Never afraid of wearing their hearts on their sleeves and standing up for what they believe in, Merry Hell have developed a strong niche as purveyors of rousing folk-rock anthems with socially-conscious lyrics, all delivered with characteristic good humour, energy, verve and passion.
In compiling the album the band had some assistance from fans, alongside each individual band member also choosing their own particular favourite. The result is a whopping 28 tracks over two discs and, for me, there’s plenty of personal favourites among the final selection: from the ecologically-themed paean to decluttering, ‘Bury Me Naked’; to the band’s self-proclaimed “alternative national anthem” ‘Come On England!’; to the rousing ‘Leave It In The Ground’ from the climate-themed Emergency Lullabies album.
With over half of the members of the eight-piece band also being songwriters, Merry Hell explore a variety of styles and influences in their output and so it’s not all rousing, amped-up sing-alongs, albeit that is very much their forte. The compilation has its mellower, tender moments, too, such as the beautifully-poignant acoustic number, ‘No Place Like Tomorrow’.
Whether you’re a long-term follower of Merry Hell or just discovering them for the first time at a festival this summer, Let The Music Speak For Itself is a strong compilation which is sure to find favour with fans both new and old. Role on Cropredy!
Released: 12th May 2023 http://www.merryhell.co.uk/
Band photo credit: Jenfoto
May 26th: Chester Folk Festival
June 3rd: Wessex Folk Festival
June 16th: National Forest Folk Club: Moira, Leicestershire
June 18th: Beardy Festival, Shropshire
July 14th: Folk On The Farm Festival: Anglesey
July 28th: Chickenstock Festival: Kent
July 28th: Trowbridge Festival
July 29th: Oswestry TBC
August 5th: Grayshott Folk Club: Hampshire
August 6th: Wickham Festival
August 10th: Fairport Convention’s Cropredy Festival, Oxfordshire
August 24th: Towersey Festival
August 28th: Towersey Festival
September 10th: Swanage Festival
September 14th: Hungry Horse Festival, Ellesmere Port
September 16th: The Peace Through Folk Gathering, Staffordshire/Peak District
October 4th– 10th: Costa Del Folk Festival: Portugal
Album review – Merry Hell ‘Emergency Lullabies’
Album review – Virginia Kettle ‘No Place Like Tomorrow’
DVD review: Merry Hell ‘A Year In The Life’