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.
Stolen From God – Reg Meuross
As I read about Reg Meuross‘s latest musical project, a song cycle about the Transatlantic slave trade, I soon realise that I could have written his opening words:
”I realised how little I knew about Black History in Britain; how little I’d been taught growing up; how little I knew of Empire and how it was made; how little I knew of the grand mansions and sprawling estates and the enormous handed- down wealth, and the great men and women of history who symbolised greatness and colonial and racial superiority and to a large extent how their greatness was achieved, and at what cost to others….”
His new album, released on 7 April 2023, has taken four years of research, focussing particularly on the Westcountry. There are references to Colston of Bristol, a man and his legacy I have written about before.
Colston’s story is fertile territory, and one of my favourites, Show of Hands, have written about his slaving, and its toxic and disputed legacy, and I’ve recommended them here before:
Stolen From God tells an array of detailed, very human stories, many of them little known, from historical perspectives.
Reg Meuross recorded the songs with kora master Jali Fily Cissokh, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne of Granny’s Attic, and talented singer Jaz Gayle as well as an array of other talent. There’s a jaunty, sing-along nature to many of the musical settings which works perfectly against the seriousness of the subject-matter. The rhetorical flourishes, with lines such as “Am I not a brother and a man?” in ‘Good Morning Mr Colston’, turn what could be a subject for sanctimonious hectoring into lively imagined conversations.
The album uses original source material as inspiration, including one of several surviving accounts by people who were enslaved. One of these is used by Reg, the eloquent: ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African. Written by Himself in 1789′, which forms the basis of the song ‘Stole Away’.
The whole project is fascinating and the background information is engrossing to study, yet it never gets in the way of a good story and a great tune, beautifully played.
Reg Meuross will be touring in April, with album launches at Bristol Folk House, Green Note London and Dartington Great Hall. He’ll also be appearing at Sidmouth Folk Festival, Whitby Folk Week and Costa Del Folk festivals. Reg will be joined by Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and kora master Suntou Susso. He’s charming live.
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.