Saturday 28th September 2013
No finer setting could there have been. Reg Meuross launched his new single My Name Is London Town in St James’ Church, Piccadilly this evening. Tucked away inconspicuously only yards from the neon and bustle of London’s famous thoroughfare, this 17th century Christopher Wren church was the venue for a flawless, seamless concert by a master of storytelling in song. As did the craftsmen of old carve ornate designs into the oak pews from which his audience listened, so did tonight’s performer weave beautiful and varied melodies through each of his songs.
In his rich tenor voice Meuross sang songs from his 20 year solo career accompanied initially by just his stylish acoustic finger picking.
Later Emma Hooper and Bethany Porter added gorgeous colour, shade and rhythm on viola and cello respectively for the second half of of the concert. Jess Vincent, who earlier had played a fine support set of songs from her new album Seesaw Dreams, made the trio a quartet for the encore, augmenting the layers of music further with her vocals and baritone ukelele.
My Name Is London Town continues a tradition in English folk that every couple of decades comes up with a song capturing the ever changing nature of this city at a given moment in time. So to Ralph McTell’s 1960s Streets Of London and Richard Thompson’s Sights And Sounds Of London Town from the 90s we can now add this definitive portrait of life in London in the 21st century.
Like each song of London before it, this one provides an update on themes that remain constant through the generations. Multiculturalism is as much the heartbeat of London now as it’s always been: “I’m the Union Flag, I’m the red, green and gold… I’m the dome of St Paul’s and the Regent’s Park mosque.” Now, as ever, the financially rich and poor are thrown together daily: “I’m the sharp suited broker who steals like a fox, to the stock exchange floor to sell coffee and corn… I’m the bundle of rags in the Oxford Street doorway”. New as it is this song already has the feel of a classic to it and sits very comfortably alongside its great predecessors.
Reg Meuross is known for writing songs that trace the social history of England, both modern and olde. Dick Turpin, one of history’s favourite outlaws, had his reputation as a dashing hero shredded tonight in the revisionist tale Lizzie Loved A Highwayman, in which the infamous Essex man was revealed to be a brute and a murderer. The story was told through the eyes of the woman who loved him, who he let down and left behind, and in this song we heard the essence of why Meuross is so admired as a songwriter. What stays with you is not so much what happens in the stories as how his characters are affected.
My own highlight tonight was the new, as yet unrecorded, Sweet Marie. This incredibly tender and poignant song based on the story behind a violin recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic is rooted in historical fact but again this is merely a means by which Meuross puts the listener in touch with the universal emotions of love, grief, joy and sorrow.
My Name Is London Town is taken from the album Leaves and Feathers