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SHOW OF HANDS "Beat About the Bush" Isis Records CDIS05

"Beat About the Bush", is the second recording from Show of Hands, or to be more exact, Steve Knightley and Phil Beer. Steve Knightley's background includes work with rock bands, and Phil Beer was involved with the fairly raucous, Arizona Smoke Review and Albion Band. As Show of Hands they certainly give the impression of being capable of "ripping it up" when the notion takes them, although much of the material is of a reflective nature and most of their performance, a balance of drama and sensitivity.

Among the thirteen tracks there are nine songs by Steve Knightley. All of them commentaries on life and lifestyles. Some with the undercurrent of secondary story lines or oblique points, drawn out by a subtle shift of view. As in "Cars", where the listeners are pulled into this song, berating traffic congestion and the sheer number of vehicles, and are then faced with the questions, "Does anybody walk here? Or anywhere?". Other Steve Knightley songs, "Class of Seventy Three", "Shadows in the Dark", "Day Has Come" and "The Hook of Love" with their strong lyrics and melody lines, work well with their given arrangements, variations on folk leaning towards low key, soft rock. These songs would also do well with a one-singer-and-a-guitar treatment, so expect to hear some of them in clubs. The same songs would not be out of place coming from the likes of Dolores Keane or Mary Black or, for that matter, Bonnie Raitt. Steve Knightley is a very fine singer himself, with an edge to his voice which sounds convincingly born of experience. To some extent Phil Beer plays "supporting roll" on the album and like many supporting players their involvement is not always immediately evident or fully appreciated by the listener, but here he plays fiddle, mandolin, viola, slide guitar and melodeon, all to good effect. Phil Beer is also responsible for a lot of the unseen hard work involved in the development of the material's arrangements.

Show of Hands were at Warwick Folk Festival this August and I was mightily impressed by their performances on the saturday evening. The duo work well together and with this mix of their own material plus a fine set of tunes and a couple of traditional songs including a soulful version of "Blue Cockade", "Beat About the Bush", should appeal to a large and varied range of tastes.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 8 of The Living Tradition magazine.