Currently in the midst of what might be termed a triumphal progress rather than a farewell tour, Phil Beer and Steve Knightley have a track record that’s more than impressive. Achievement was first celebrated on ‘Roots’ back in 2007, now they’ve served notice they’re no longer gigging – taking an indefinite break – ‘Roots 2′ serves as a timely reminder of their achievements in more recent years. Indeed it would be no exaggeration to say they’ll leave a significant void, their music, daring spirit and altruism marked Show Of Hands as quietly impressive and influential.
Wrapped in a substansial package which gatefolds out and accompanied by a booklet dense with information about who did what, played what and when, names abound Seth Lakeman, Jackie Oates, Johnny Kalsi, Phillip Henry, Hannah Martin as well as third Hand Miranda Sykes, reflecting Show Of Hands’ support for emerging talents as well as a cavalier desire to push the accepted boundaries of acoustic music. Thirty one tracks spread over two CDs makes choosing highlights from such an embaressment of riches a fairly futile exercise, the songwriting of Steve Knightley has never lacked social conviction and just the right amount of protest, ‘Country Life,’ ‘Arrogance, Ignorance & Greed,’ display a melodic anger and justifiable indignation at change and behaviour which is not held to account. Never shy of their native traditions there are folk songs here gently reworked, ‘T’was On An April Morning,’ ‘The Keys Of Canterbury,’ ‘Hambledon Fair’ all proudly display degrees of Trad. arr. credential. Covers too are part of their mindset, ‘First We Take Manhattan,’ is a long way from Leonard Cohen or Jennifer Warnes for that matter but it remains an effective piece as does ‘Reunion Hill’ from the pen of Richard Shindell, American both, anglicised superbly by Beer & Knightley.
A huge tip of the hat goes to Mark Tucker, whose recording, production and general studio running about has helped lift the music herein to another level which makes its imapct all the greater. The cover a monatge of images associated with the band and releases which make up the track listing neatly reflects the musical tapestry found within. In reality despite all the talk of farewell and leaving neither Phil Beer or Steve Knightley are going anywhere, they’ll still be making extraordinary music in other settings with other people and likely with each other under diverse names. Seriously, they could end up having a bigger influence now they’re retiring one name yet are released to operate with sights set wide.
Memories are made of this.