Hello and welcome to my Sunday Recommendation. Thanks for joining me. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, stumble upon engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music. This is my chance to bring you carefully curated recommendations of all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday. If it’s folk, or independent, or about wildlife, nature or Orkney, I may love it, and so may you.
Battlefield Dance Floor by Show of Hands
If you follow my blog regularly you will probably be interested in maritime-themed songs of male despair. Or reimagining eve-of-battle drunkenness before Agincourt with a Bhangra beat? Yes, I knew you’d be intrigued. This week’s recommendation is Battlefield Dance Floor by Show of Hands. Show of Hands are a duo who tour as a trio and record as, well, as many hands as they want. The enduring duo is singer-songwriter Steve Knightley and multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer. I say multi-instrumentalist, but every instrument he plays appears to have strings. You may think that’s cheating, but since some of the strings are played with a bow as well as plucked I’ll forgive him. They were born on opposite sides of the River Exe in Devon and went to school locally. On Battlefield Dancefloor they’re joined by Johnny Kalsi, a British Indian dhol drum performer. He’s perhaps best known for being a former member of Transglobal Underground and a member of the Afro Celt Sound System.
Battlefield Dance Floor is the new album from Show Of Hands. It’s available now on CD, 2xLP and Digital: https://smarturl.it/bfielddancefloor
I’ve seen Show of Hands many times live, at small festivals, in village halls, at venues as diverse as Band on the Wall in Manchester and in Gloucester Cathedral and in their spiritual home of Exmouth. They are never less than excellent and I’ve had such emotional evenings with them. Seeing them perform in the Cathedral was one of the best musical experiences I’ve had, especially when they returned, acoustically, after the interval, playing and singing from opposite ends of the Cathedral. Magical.
Battlefield Dance Floor is a confident album, happy to take ancient themes and traditional musical settings and fizz them up with Bhangra. The production is gloriously clear and energetic. Here’s the show-stopping opener, Lost:
There are a few covers of other people’s songs which fit perfectly. There’s Kirsty Merryn’s Forfarshire, which is on her fabulous album, She & I, which I reviewed many Sundays ago:
They make a wonderful arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan:
The album is ambitious and a full 15 tracks long. It fills the double vinyl LP gloriously and has a distinctive sleeve design by Stylorouge.
If you’d like a treat, try this lockdown Show of Hands live concert from the Mughal splendour of Sezincote Manor and gardens:
If you love it, please consider donating so they can continue to make wonderful films in these strange times:
Battlefield Dance Floor is a fabulous album of love and loss, wise advice and human frailty. Listening to it I wish I was back in Exmouth Pavilion singing along.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more recommendations of things you might adore next Sunday. In the meantime, I wish you a great week. Keep safe, everyone.