|Wake the Union|
|Studio album by|
|Released||15 October 2012|
|Label||Hands on Music|
|Show of Hands chronology|
Wake the Union is the sixteenth studio album by British folk duo Show of Hands. Although their fifteenth studio album, it is their eighth in their "canon" of studio albums (albums of new, lyrical material still in print). The release follows the successful Arrogance Ignorance and Greed (2009) and the limited edition albums Covers 2 (2010) and Backlog 2 (2011). Recorded and produced by Mark Tucker, the album takes a strong influence from both English and American folk music and was created as a "journey through of [the two countries'] landscapes united by a common tongue and musical heritage".The album again features their unofficial third member Miranda Sykes. The album was also described by Knightley as a direct continuation of Arrogance Ignorance and Greed, although critics saw it as very distinct in its own right. The album was also a 20th anniversary celebration for the duo.
Released in October 2012 by the band's own label Hands on Music, it charted at number 73 in the UK Albums Chart,some 100 higher places than their only other album to chart at the time, Arrogance Ignorance and Greed. It was released to very positive reviews from critics, with some touting it as the duo's best album. The duo toured in promotion of the album from 2012−14, although several songs from the album had debuted live in 2010. A 7-inch single featuring alternative versions of "Aunt Maria" and "King of the World" was released in 2013, whilst a rockumentary documenting the making of the album, Making the Waking, was released as a double-feature DVD release in 2013 with a concert film taken from the album's promotional tour, Live at Shrewsbury, which was a collaboration with the Urban Soul Orchestra.
Show of Hands released their fourteenth studio album Arrogance Ignorance and Greed in 2009. The album was the second consecutive release by the band produced by an "outside producer", namely Stu Hanna of the English folk duo Megson, with additional production by Mark Tucker. The album followed a painfully emotion period for Steve Knightley where members of his family battled serious illnesses. This led to the album becoming particularly personal and darker than previous Show of Hands albums, aided by Hanna's direct and sharp production. The album was also very politically concerned. The album was released to a positive critical reception, many praising the darker tone to the album, although Phil Beer of the duo stated that the album did not sit well with several fans. The album entered the UK Album Chart at number 170, becoming their first album to chart. In 2010, the duo recorded their second album of cover versions, Covers 2 , for a limited edition release, and recorded a collection of re-recordings of older material, Backlog 2 , in 2011.
Meanwhile, the duo had decided to change their sound for their next release, and to take part in the production of the album, something the duo had not done since Country Life (2003). They decided to re-hire Mark Tucker as co-producer. In January 2012, Knightley took part in the Cecil Sharp Project, a commission that included Knightley to create new material based on the life and collections of the founding father of the English folk revival Cecil Sharp.Knightley's musical focus became more evident in its American influence, and this would dominate the following album. After a year away from studio recording in 2011, the band recorded the album in 2012, over three different recording studios; Phil's Music Room in Devon, The Green Room, Devon and Highlands Farm Barn. The album was mastered at Masterblaster Audio Mastering in Canalot Studios, London. The working name of the album was Who Gets to Feel Good, but was later changed to Wake the Union.
Produced by Mark Tucker, Wake the Union is a crossover between English folk music and Americana and is a non-narrative concept album about the two countries.Born out of the duo's love of both English and North American acoustic and roots music, the album was described by the duo as taking "a journey through the heart of two landscapes united by a common tongue and musical heritage." The album feature themes and styles that alternate between the two countries. The band's website says that the album sees the duo "weave a touch of folk, a hint of blues and a pinch of country" into the album. UK Folk Music noted that "with more than a touch of Americana liberally sprinkled throughout the recording and images of Dust Bowl tumbleweed blowing about courtesy of sampled instruments," the album could provide the band an American breakthrough. Northern Sky observed that although Knightley is known for his "distinctly English songs, the material on Wake the Union tends to straddle the border of what we now know as Americana in places, but with the band's British acoustic roots still showing." The Financial Times said the album shows the duo return with "less anger and more music ranging from jazz shuffles to slide guitar baiting". Folk Radio also observed that some tracks contain influences of the Cecil Sharp Project, a commission that included Knightley to create new material based on the life and collections of the founding father of the English folk revival Cecil Sharp.
Knightley also stated that the album intentionally carries on where the band's previous Knightley-composed album Arrogance Ignorance and Greed had left off.The album was also described by the duo as their "20th anniversary" album. Whilst the duo had become Show of Hands in 1987, it was not until 1992 that they would record their first canonical album. Concerning the album's lyrics, Folk Radio observed that there is "a liberal sprinkling of death and desertion throughout the songs, but this is folk music, the body count is always high." David Kidman of NetRhythms has said that the album contains "acerbic topical and social commentary through historical storytelling to evocative Americana, throwing in traditional-style folk-romance, matters of the heart and work arising from special projects along the way, all the while meaningfully interweaving key influences and inspirations yet making the resultant creations uniquely their own. And that's a hell of a skill to have developed." The album features numerous guest musicians, including the duo's unofficial "third member" Miranda Sykes on double bass and vocals, alongside Martin Simpson, Seth Lakeman, BJ Cole, Andy Cutting, Bellowhead’s Paul Sartin, Cormac Byrne and Leonard Podolak.
Co-written between Knightley and the song's guest musician Seth Lakeman,the opening song, "Haunt You", is a "hard-hitting and spiteful" song with "bitter recrimination". The laidback blues-styled “Company Town” is reminiscent of “Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?”. It features a jazz shuffle that has been compared to Richard Thompson, and has been described as a lyrical continuation of the themes from Arrogance Ignorance and Greed . The song features Paul Sartin of Bellowhead’s Cor Anglais and Paul Downes performing tenor banjo. "Now You Know" showcases the duo's lighter side and was a concert regular for the duo for several years prior to the album's release. David Kidman of NetRhythms described it as "one of Knightley's solid-gold-classic romantic dilemma-songs". "Katrina" is about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and features Leonard Podolak's 5 string banjo and the dobro of Phil Henry creating an ethereal backdrop. The titular river of "Cruel River" is the River Dart and is a re-recording of the song originally featured on Knightley's solo album Cruel River (2007).
"Aunt Maria", which features slide guitar from Martin Simpson, is about the titular Aunt meeting song collector Cecil Sharp. The song originated from Knightley's involvement in Cecil Sharp Project in January 2012, where he developed material with British and American musicians to celebrate Cecil Sharp’s Appalachian song gathering.The BBC said that "Maria allows her song to be recorded and her history told, but is uneasy about the difference in class between herself and Sharp, and anxious that she shouldn’t be the only one to whom the collector talks. “There’s lots more folk like me, sir,” Knightly sings as Maria. “Why don’t you come and see, sir?”." As with "Katrina", the song features Leonard Podolak performing a 5-string banjo. Sykes interjects two verses from the traditional song "Bonnie Light Horseman" into the album's seventh song "Coming Home", "subtly complicating [the] otherwise simple tale of a family’s bad seed." The song is a "telling snapshot of the Afghan war campaign." "Reunion Hill" is about a Civil War window, and is a cover of Richard Shindell's Prairie ballad. "No Man's Land" is a "sparsely-scored genuine-angst-ridden slow-burner" dedicated to the late Jackie Leven.
The tenth track is the duo's cover of Bob Dylan's lesser-known cowboy song "Seven Curses"."Home to a Million Thoughts" is a song of "simple wistful nostalgia" written as a commission for the reopening of Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum. "Who Gets to Feel Good" is a country-waltzer that demonstrates Knightley's" skill in transposing the perils of love to the indigenous American musical idiom". "Stop Copying Me" is a tongue-in-cheek song that turns a suspicious eye on the life virtual and digital. After "King of the World" is the album's concluding song, "Thanks", which was used as the band's concert closer.
Wake the Union was released on 15 October 2012 by the band's own record label Hands on Music. The album underwent long promotional campaigns. "Now You Know" and "Stop Copying Me" were both first played live in 2010, and became concert standards for the duo.Other songs from this album debuted live in August 2012 during the album's promotional tour, including "Haunt Me", which was performed at Beautiful Days during the same bill that included Lakeman. The album was touted as the duo's "20th anniversary celebration". The duo toured in promotion of the album from 2012−2013. The duo made several radio appearances to promote the album, including on Simon Mayo's Drivetime show on BBC Radio 2 on 6 March 2013. In December 2012, the duo appeared on Brooklands Radio's Mainly Folk programme in a special interview feature. "Now You Know" was included on the station's "Mainly Folk Playlist". The duo's performance of "Company Town" on Mark Radcliffe's BBC Radio 2 show was included on the compilation album The Mark Radcliffe Folk Sessions 2013, released in November 2013.
Different versions of the songs "Aunt Maria" and "King of the World" were released as a 7-inch single by Proper Records in 2013.The songs were remixed by their original producer, Mark Tucker, and the single was the duo's first vinyl release. In Autumn 2013, a behind-the-scenes "making of" rockumentary about the album, entitled Making the Waking, was released as a DVD set with a concert film of the duo entitled Live from Shrewsbury. Mark Tucker also provided the role of producer for the documentary. The DVD set, entitled simply Live at Shrewsbury / Making the Waking, was the band's first DVD release since 2007. The Live at Shrewsbury concert is a collaboration between the duo and the Urban Soul Orchestra, who act as the duo's prolific backing band, and was recorded at Shrewsbury Folk Festival. Knightley also released Songbook 5: Wake the Union in 2013 at the start of his solo tour, a songbook containing all fourteen songs he composed for Wake the Union, as well as material from Covers 2 , his solo album Live in Somerset, and The Cuatro Tracks bonus material−seven tracks originally written and arranged for cuatro and ukulele.
The album cover, created by design agency Stylorogue,and Mark Higenbottam, features a cotton-stringed acoustic guitar adorned with various English and North American symbols, reflecting the English and American themes of the album. The symbols featured vary, such as highway road signs (the signs for U.S. Route 66 and the A303), national flags (the United Kingdom and the United States), other national symbols (such as the Statue of Liberty and the Royal Air Force roundel) as well as folk performers, including Woody Guthrie and his "This machine kills fascists" guitar. Elsewhere in the packaging is photography from Rob O'Connor, and the album's lyrics.
The album cover was highlighted in several reviews. Folk Radio said that a glance at the album cover "leaves no doubt as to [the duo's] intention, there’s the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, Woody Guthrie’s guitar still promising to kill fascists, and you can head west on the highway that’s the best, that’s either Route 66 or the A303, your choice. This showcasing of both English and American roots to the music is surely no surprise from Phil Beer given his solo and Phil Beer Band output. But it’s maybe less expected from Steve Knightley, many of whose strongest songs resonate with a sense of place that is not just English but quintessentially West Country."Northern Sky said that "the cover shot of a well-travelled guitar maps out the journey these songs represent with little or no ambiguity." UK Folk Music commended the album cover as "stunning art design". Grem Devlin of The Living Tradition made note of the album's overall packaging, saying "as usual the packaging is excellent – indeed a lyrics book where us mere mortals can actually read the words without the need for a microscope." The album was a runner-up in fRoots ' list of the top five "Best Packaged Albums of 2012".
|The Living Tradition||(favourable)|
|The Daily Telegraph|
|UK Folk Music||(10/10)|
The album was released to a very favourable critical reception. BBC Music were positive about the album, saying that "it’s unlikely to win over many new fans, but those already under the band’s wingspan are, once again, richly rewarded with another thought-provoking collection."The Daily Telegraph rated the album with four stars out of five said "The success of Wake The Union is in blending the band's trademark British folk with Americana. Knightley (part of the trio that includes Phil Beer and double bassist Miranda Sykes) describes it as “a journey through the heart of two landscapes united by a common tongue and musical heritage." The Financial Times published a four star review saying "The duo returns with less anger and more music ranging from jazz shuffles to slide guitar baiting."
Folk Radio said that "Wake the Union comes across as a return not just to their musical roots but also to pleasing this core audience. In contrast to AIG, and previous album Witness, both Phil and Steve took a full part in the production of Wake the Union, alongside named producer Mark Tucker. So, whilst the material ranges widely in its geography, the sound is unmistakably that of Devon’s finest."David Kidman of NetRhythms concluded that "Wake the Union is definitely another milestone in Show Of Hands' already stunningly illustrious career." Pete Fyfe of UK Folk Music rated the album "unreservedly ten out of ten" and said that "personally for me this album really is a turning point in my appreciation for all things American styled and congratulations must go to the other musicians involved in the project." Norman Chalmers's review for The Scotsman singled out "Haunt You" as a song that readers should download and rated the album four stars out of five. Singer-songwriter Mike Harding said on BBC Radio 2 that "they’ve made a shedload of great albums...this is their best album," whilst radio DJ and television presenter Simon Mayo said that "Wake the Union is one fine album". Similarly, the album's producer Mark Tucker said the album had been "repeatedly hailed" as "their best yet". The Daily Telegraph included the album in its unordered list of the "Best Folk Music Albums of 2012". In January 2013, the duo were nominated in the Songlines Music Awards.
The album charted at number 73 in the UK Album Chart,becoming their second album to chart after Arrogance Ignorance and Greed , which reached number 170. Earlier in the week, it had charted in the Midweek Charts at number 35. Nonetheless, the duo were not concerned with charting on the UK Album Charts. When asked by Alt Blackpool if they would hope their following album would reach the top 10, Steve Knightley replied: "No, not at all. It doesn’t mean anything. People get to number one because the record companies give away one free with every one that’s bought so it’s a big con. We’re more concerned with selling to people at gigs and selling regularly at realistic prices so it’s a nice PR thing every now and then but it doesn’t mean much."
All songs written by Steve Knightley except where noted.
|UK Albums Chart||73|
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards celebrate outstanding achievement during the previous year within the field of folk music, with the aim of raising the profile of folk and acoustic music. The awards have been given annually since 2000 by British radio station BBC Radio 2.
Phil Beer is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and one half of English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands.
Beat About the Bush is the fourth studio album by English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands. Originally released by Twah! Records in 1994, it was their debut studio album to be released on CD, following the discontinued cassette albums that are Show of Hands from 1987, Tall Ships from 1990 and Out of the Count from 1991. It was their only studio album on Twah! Records, and was subsequently re-released in 1999 on the duo's own label, Hands on Music.
Show of Hands are an English acoustic roots/folk duo formed in 1986 by singer-songwriter Steve Knightley and composer and multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer. Joined by singer and double-bassist Miranda Sykes for a tour in 2004, Show of Hands continued to regularly perform as a trio with Sykes, as well as in their original format. In 2019 the line-up was further expanded by the addition of Irish percussionist Cormac Byrne.
Steve Knightley is an English singer, songwriter and acoustic musician. Since 1992 he has been one half of folk/roots duo Show of Hands along with Phil Beer. Knightley was named "Songwriter of the Nineties" by BBC Radio 6 Music in 2012.
Lie Of The Land is the fifth studio album by English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands. Following the live band setting of the band's previous album, 1994's Beat about the Bush, the duo sought a simpler sound that featured just themselves, with the duo trying to capture their live sound, which included experimenting with DI units and making the maximum use of pick-ups and pre-amplifiers. The album was produced by Gerard O'Farrell, who by this point had become the band's manager, and recorded in July 1995 in Bredon, Gloucestershire.
Dark Fields is the sixth studio album by English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands, released in 1997 on their own label Hands on Music. The album follows the duo's 1996 performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, a performance which raised their profile. A live album of the performance was released as Live at the Royal Albert Hall in August, becoming the band's best selling album. The duo followed the success with Dark Fields.
Folk Music is the seventh studio album by English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands. After the successes of their 1996 Royal Albert Hall performance and their subsequent album Dark Fields (1997), the duo decided to record a limited edition album featuring the duo's renditions of traditional folk music. It was recorded in September 1998 as a project to connect the band to their roots.
Country Life is the eleventh studio album by English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands. Released in 2003, it marks a departure for the band, with stronger socially and politically lyrics than the duo's previous albums, as well as showcasing the duo exploring a larger musical palette. Some of the album's lyrics concern rural issues which Knightley had taken to heart in previous years, including in the aftermath of their previous lyrical album Cold Frontier (2001). Prior to the release of Country Life, the duo had released an instrumental album named The Path. Both The Path and Country Life were released close together. The album was packaged in a lavish set which included a bonus disc of demo versions and other bonus material. The album's title track was also promoted by the band's first music video.
Cold Frontier is the ninth studio album by English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands. It was recorded in early 2001 on location by the Countess Wear at the River Exe, Exeter, Devon, with Mick Dolan, engineer for Steve Winwood, co-producing the album with the duo. The album features a stripped down, acoustic sound. The duo's website says the album is "possibly Show of Hands’ finest work so far." The album comes with a full colour twenty page booklet, all the lyrics, and comments on the background of each track.
Covers is the eighth studio album by English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands. The album was released in 2000 by the duo's own label Hands on Music. The album exclusively features cover versions of thirteen songs by the duo, chosen and recorded to reflect the band's contemporary musical influences. As such, the album contains no Steve Knightley compositions. The album was recorded over two days in Chudleigh Town Hall, Devon, with producer Gerald O'Farrell, and features only "straight performances", with its songs being untouched by post-production or techniques such as overdubbing or double tracking, presenting a "live" sound. The album followed their limited edition release Folk Music (1998), which featured the band's versions of traditional folk songs, and was the duo's first array into creating an album of music without Knightley compositions.
Seth Bernard Lakeman is an English folk singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, who is most often associated with the fiddle and tenor guitar, but also plays the viola and banjo. Nominated for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize, Lakeman has belonged to several musical ensembles, including one with his two brothers, fellow folk musicians Sam Lakeman and Sean Lakeman, but has most recently established himself as a solo act.
Kathryn Roberts is an English folk singer, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
Witness is the twelfth studio album by British folk duo Show of Hands. The album was recorded in January 2006 at Presshouse Studio, Colyton, Devon, and was produced by Simon Emmerson and Simon ‘Mass’ Massey from the Afro Celts, who helped to incorporate elements of traditional African, ambient and electronic dance music with the duo's characteristic folk style. It was the band's first album in twelve years to use a rhythm section. Lyrically, the album addresses communal and heritage values, and was described by the duo's lead singer Steve Knightley as a "cinematic style journey of the West Country." The album features unofficial third member Miranda Sykes on ten of its twelve tracks.
Arrogance Ignorance and Greed is the fourteenth studio album by English folk duo Show of Hands. Released in 2009 on the band's label Hands on Music, the album was produced by Stu Hanna of the English folk duo Megson, with additional production by Mark Tucker. The album followed an emotionally painful period for Steve Knightley where members of his family battled serious illnesses. This led to the album becoming particularly personal and darker than previous Show of Hands albums, aided by Hanna's direct and sharp production. The album also discusses several social and political concerns, and contains several collaborations with other musicians and vocalists.
Shrewsbury Folk Festival is an annual festival of folk and world music and traditional dance held in the town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England.
Covers 2 is the fourteenth studio album by British folk duo Show of Hands. An official collaboration with double bassist and vocalist Miranda Sykes, who had been the duo's unofficial third member for six years, it is the duo's second album of cover versions, following Covers (2000). The album was intended for "friends and fans" of the duo, and an attempt to record songs that the duo had played live for some time. The album was produced by Mark Tucker and recorded as a mostly "straightforward" recording with little overdubs or extra production work.
Centenary: Words & Music of the Great War is a studio album released in 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. The unique project is a double album by English folk duo Show of Hands; the first disc features war poems recited by Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton set to the duo's music, whilst the second disc features songs inspired by the War, sung instead by Show of Hands' lead singer Steve Knightley.
Backlog 2 is the fifteenth studio album by Devonian folk duo Show of Hands. Following the release of their limited edition "back to basics" cover album Covers 2 (2010), which was intended for "fans and friends" and released in a limited edition manner in a way that would only appeal to fans and friends, the duo wanted to release an album with fan participation. As the duo had retired many of their older songs from live performances, they asked fans on their internet forum Longdogs to select twenty Show of Hands tracks from 1992–2003 that they would like to hear the duo perform and re-record.
Cruel River is the second solo studio album by English folk singer-songwriter Steve Knightley. Knightley had spent 2006 with Show of Hands, his duo with Phil Beer, recording, releasing and promoting their twelfth album together, Witness, which saw the duo explore a worldbeat sound that departed from their usual English folk sound. The album was a success with critics and most fans, although some were perplexed by its direction. During a break in promoting that album with touring in early 2007, Knightley decided to record his first solo album since 1999. Hiring regular Show of Hands collaborator Mark Tucker to co-produce the album with himself, Knightley recorded the album in Presshouse Studios, Colyton in February 2007. The album explores a stripped-back, minimal English folk sound, similar to that of early Show of Hands. Lyrically, the album tackles dark subject matter.