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Reg Meuross

The Roots Music Club, Doncaster
Friday 25 March 2016

This unassuming venue, originally established to cater for the social needs of the local Ukrainian community of Doncaster, seems an unlikely place for a Somerset-based musician to launch his brand new album, but that's precisely what Reg Meuross did tonight. A 460 mile round trip, made all the more difficult by the singer-songwriter suffering from the latter stages of a virus, which Reg explained "feels like an African evening going on in my head, with cicadas chirping away right here" pointing to his forehead. If that wasn't enough, Reg went on to inform his audience that he had accidentally put petrol into his diesel-fuelled car back in Somerset. "God knows what damage I've done" he pondered, going on to say "I don't like the silence in this room at this stage, it's slightly worrying." This slightly embarrassing topic would pop up now and again during the course of the night.

So with a fuzzy head, which actually took nothing away from the performance at all, along with the worry about his diesel-starved car outside, the popular singer-songwriter appeared on stage at the Roots Music Club this evening ready to entertain a very healthily packed audience here in Doncaster. His new CD DECEMBER would feature quite heavily in the set as well as one or two more familiar songs from his impressive back catalogue. For someone obviously suffering from something he would rather not be suffering from, Reg was on his usual top form both in voice and in his guitar playing, which was made all the more pleasing by having a recently restored 1944 Martin at his disposal. This may in fact be one of the reasons Reg chose Doncaster for his Northern album launch, as Stu Palmer, the luthier who restored the guitar, not only works just around the corner from the venue and runs the sound desk for the club, but was also a member of the support band Americarnage tonight.

Playing just the one set, Reg opened with a tribute to William Morris on what would have been the leader of the Arts and Crafts movement's 180th birthday with What Would William Morris Say? Settling into the set with such familiar songs as Tony Benn's Tribute to Emily Davison and the seemingly contentious My Name is London Town, Reg worked his way towards introducing a selection of songs from the new album that was being launched up North tonight. Referring to the content of the new album as "miserable love songs" as opposed to the familiar story songs, Reg pledged to drop them in every now and then so as to avoid hitting the audience with "too much misery in one go".

The first new song Reg introduced was in fact the album opener, the Leonard Cohen-flavoured When You Needed Me, which was immediately followed by the tender coupling of I Want You and She Knew Love, two songs that immediately tug at the heart strings. Conversely, the next song was destined to put pressure on other emotions currently being felt in society, a song that addresses the current ludicrous austerity measures, Far Away People, which was probably even more poignant to the people in this neck of the woods. With some fine singalong songs towards the end of the set including The Goodbye Hat and England Green and England Grey, both of which encouraged some enthusiastic audience participation, the focus was pretty much on the new album, with most of the new songs performed tonight with the obvious exception of Christmas Song, and all played in precisely the same way they were in the studio, one man and one rather beautiful guitar. Reg concluded the set with an audience request, The Man on the Moon.

Singer-songwriter Bob Chiswick was the master of ceremonies tonight, his warm humour and casual manner making the evening flow well from the outset. Earlier in the evening he introduced the local five-piece band Americarnage, led by the aforementioned Su Palmer with his old friend Mick Swinson on guitar, Mike Miller on dobro, Mick Jackson on bass and John McKevitt on harmonica. The band performed tasty arrangements of such songs as the Dylan staple Don't Think Twice it's Alright, Goebell Reeves' Hobo's Lullaby and the standard Fix Me a Pallet on the Floor amongst others. Sandwiched between Americarnage and tonight's main guest was Sheffield's own Shaun Hutch, a hard-working singer-songwriter and interpreter of traditional folk songs, who tonight played a short and engaging set, which included such songs as The Banks of Loch Morlich, The Wish and Jock Stewart.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky