Album review: SHOW OF HANDS – Battlefield Dance Floor

SHOW OF HANDS - Battlefield Dance Floor

Hands On Music [Release date 27.09.19]

Show Of Hands – Steve Knightley and Phil Beer – have been making music since 1987, going on to become one of the biggest folk bands around today (they have sold out the Royal Albert in London on five occasions to date). On this album they welcome back long time third member Miranda Sykes (double bass, vocals) and new member, percussionist Cormac Byrne.

‘Lost’ is a moving tale of masculine despair in the maritime world. One of a few songs on here to benefit from the keyboards playing of Matt Clifford (he’s worked with the Rolling Stones amongst others).

The title track is a rousing drinking based song, looking at how the soldiers and generals made merry on the eve of battle. Musically it sees Morris mixed with Bhangra, thanks to the band working with Johnny Kalsi and the Dohl Foundation.

This partnership really comes into its own ‘Mother Tongue’, one of a growing canon of songs taking Brexit as their subject matter. The singing of Shahid Khan and percussion programming of Johnny Kalsi add a little bit of extra magic to the tradtional folk music.

Elsewhere there is a lovely cover of Richard Shindell’s road song ‘Next Best Western’, Phil Beer’s guitar playing adds a mellow blues/country feel to the song. ‘First We Take Manhattan’, originally written by Leonard Cohen about spies and the Cold War, still rings true, particularly in the light of the incident at Salisbury.

Little bit of fun and light relief on ‘Dreckley’, a tale where the pull of Cornish life could wreck a Lodon based relationship. The backing vocals are aided by the Bridge Hill Shanty Men who pop up on a couple of other songs on the album.

One of the folk albums of the year and more importantly an album with cross-over appeal that should see Show Of Hands win over a whole host of new fans. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie


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