Daily Dose: ‘The Old Soldier’ by Merry Hell

Picture this: I’m a young kid whose main experience of music was the cassette tapes that were in my parent’s car. One of these little shrines of music was a tape by a band called “The Tansads”, who were from Wigan, never went far nationally (there is a notable book about their struggles called This is Pop: The Life and Times of a Failed Rock Star, written by the bassist, Ed Jones), and were difficult to find much information about other than that. We did try a couple of times, but this was in the pre-internet era, and while all of my family loved that tape to a greater or lesser extent, we never discovered much else. Flash forward however many years later to adult me, doing some stand-in steward work at the Beverly Folk Fest, and the last band of the night, whom I’d never heard of, are preparing to start. The band set up, got ready, started to play. And then they started to song.

It was The Tansads! It was the bloody Tansads!

Well, not exactly, but you can imagine my childish excitement regardless. Five members of the Tansads (including the core of the three Kettle brothers) had decided to, after a series of reunion gigs in 2010, kick on under a new name “Merry Hell”, actually taken from the Tansads song ‘Separate Souls’, as it turns out. They got some new songs, new ideas, and it would appear a whole lot of new impetus, putting out three albums from then to now and apparently becoming a mainstay of the festival circuit. I discovered this all subsequently, but I was pretty thrilled at seeing them regardless, even if it was all songs I’d never heard before (they were really good live). Anyway, this is an old style romantic folk banger, and a bit of a peace anthem to boot. It’s from their most recent album The Ghost In Our House and other stories…, and it’s a good listen. They did it live and I loved it, it was even more potent given that the audience could see they were putting a lot into it, which was really lovely. Provided you can temper your cynicism for a bit, there’s still a bit of power in folk music.


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