Now, I’ll make an admission here. I have a deep love and admiration for Merry Hell, the self described folk rock good time charabanc from the north west of England, and that’s because of how they made me feel, just for a brief moment, a bit like John Peel! A few years ago, when presenting on an online radio show, they sent me a copy of their CD, Bloodlines, filling me with the confidence that what I was doing was both worthwhile and being heard; a confidence that continues to drive me with this website and the radio shows I present for, now, on Radio Bicester. And therefore, I will wish to return that compliment to this band, to let the world know that what Merry Hell produce is both worthwhile and a must hear for all appreciators of good music.

But, as a reviewer, I’m not here to blow smoke up anyone’s backside, my role is to give an honest appraisal of the work I am listening to. Lucky for us all, though, the CD that dropped through my letter box, Anthems To The Wind, is to the normal high standards I’ve come to expect from the band. And most of that comes from the attitude that goes into creating and performing the songs collected here. Falling back on their immense reputation as a live band of an engaging and joyful enthusiasm this album pulls in the listener in the same way Merry Hell’s live shows do, the way your imagination takes you to places, the snug of your local, the village hall dance, a country fete, makes this album an immersive experience; close your eyes and its as if you have this 8 piece acoustic line up set up in your front room with you.

Whilst, however, Merry Hell are a band to which you cannot help but tap your feet, whistle along to and dance with, they also have a message. Sometimes it’s obliquely done, masked with dry wit or laugh out loud humour in equal measure (the fabulous track 8 ‘The Butcher And The Vegan being a sublime example), on other occasions its more obvious. But the band are never preachy, never too in your face: however, their message gets through with a gentleness, a kindness that somehow makes what they are saying that bit more important, a bit more relevant. And in a world where often musical acts fall into one of two camps; that of the radio friendly bland in the extreme or shouty and aggressive Merry Hell strike a happy medium that fits and has a place in the world that deserves to be heard more.

If you are a fan of well played, well written and brilliantly performed folk music, you really do need to  buy this album on its release on the 26th November. As the band themselves say, this is their ‘celebration of magical experiences, joys and passions,’ which is the overwhelming and beautiful emotion I felt as I immersed myself in this album. The band have sung and performed here ‘loud and proud’ and wish to see how ‘far they travel.’ Well, if there is any justice in the world these songs deserve to travel far and wide, to be enjoyed by many and to be a success; Merry Hell work hard and deserve the accolades they must surely get. And if you do jump aboard the Merry Hell charabanc be prepared to fall in love with 12 wonderful songs and a band of great honesty, integrity and, most importantly, talent of the very highest order.

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