Steve Knightley knows how crucial stories are, and – along with the likes of Spiers and Boden – Show of Hands safeguards a tradition which continues to bubble away out of the public eye providing intelligent, subversive counterpoint to so much mediocre, comfortable, meaningless toss. And while Messrs Spiers and Boden resurrect folk tales and songs of England’s past, Show of Hands are guardians of the modern, and their songs slot right in to the richest of folk traditions, chronicling the times we’re living through in uncompromising frankness.
The best example on Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed, is ‘The Napoli’, a modern-day tale of looting which taps into the dark history of our coasts, a history littered with piracy and wrecking. It’s an uncomfortable reminder if you “scratch Joe Public” we’re still a nation of wreckers, looters and thieves just beneath the surface and the history we think of as being so far behind us in these times of mass technological change is only one storm and a foundering ship away. And in that context it becomes more complicated to consider the blunt accusatory tone of the title track which points a finger at the bringers of financial doom and the culture of greed.
It’s a dark, brooding ripper of an album from the trio of Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes, impressively produced by Megson’s Stu Hanna and supported by an impressive cast, the most obviously noteworthy of whom is Jackie Oates on the traditional song ‘The Keys of Canterbury’. Oates’ vocals provide a stunning contrast to Knightley’s and lift the whole album.
From the traditional shanty ‘Lowlands’ (which also appeared recently on Rogues Gallery), which sets the brooding tone, to the personal odyssey of ‘Drift’, it’s an album set deeply in something ancient, but is through and through modern.
Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed is released on 26 October.