In a previous blog – “A Life In (Folk) Music” – I mentioned some early influences who inspired me to become a folk musician. As I developed a repertoire of “Celtic folk songs” to perform, there were a few select artists whose song selection (and/or songwriting) and presentation spoke to me vividly and, since this is my blog, I’d like to pay tribute to one of them here, and I’ll discuss some others in the near future.
Show of Hands
Steve Knightley (singer/songwriter) and Phil Beer (singer/multi-instrumentalist) – sometimes with Miranda Sykes, who I jokingly say has my job (playing bass and singing harmony) – make up Show of Hands – for over twenty years the premiere purveyors of acoustic folk music in Britain.
About twelve years ago I luckily stumbled upon their web site whilst seeking out songs to sing. And did I ever find songs! The first album I bought by SoH was called Folk Music. It’s now out of print, but it contained songs which are still in my repertoire: John Riley, Broomfield Hill, Black Waterside, Mary From Dungloe, Matt Hyland. And this wonderful album of mostly traditional songs only whetted my appetite for more. The next album I bought (I think it was simply called Show of Hands) was primarily Steve Knightley penned originals and I was well and truly hooked. His song Exile is one my favourite songs to sing.
I’m not only a fan of their music, but also of their business model. They perform live at folk clubs, town halls, auditoriums and festivals the length and breadth of England. And, every five years or so, they book the Royal Albert Hall in London for themselves and sell it out! They’ve won awards from the BBC, among others, not only for their music but for their social and environmental activism.
I probably don’t have the words to convey what their music – and their example – has meant to me. They are as important to me now as the Beatles were way back when. Talking of which, you should hear SoH’s version of George Harrison’s If I Needed Someone.
I hope you will give Show of Hands a listen. They deserve to be a household name on both sides of the pond.
Click this link to browse Show of Hands albums: Show of Hands Music.