Boasting a potent brew of fresh songs and a fiery live spirit, the Lancashire seven-piece emerged from the ashes of Wigan’s Tansads, with their trademark anthems, whistle and flutes and a dollop of roustabout English Roots, still very much intact.
“One of the reasons why The Tansads finished was that we’d got fed up of the music industry and that can distract you from the genuine reasons that made us start writing in the first place,” said John Kettle, who starred in the Tansads with brother Bob, Merry Hell’s mandolin and harmonica player.
“We just became tired.
“Also, people wanted to do different things and we let folk run the business who didn’t love our music.
“We thought everyone had forgotten about The Tansads – I was terrified nobody was going to come to our first gig.
“I came out on stage and saw all my old mates and the people who had supported us for so long and it all started again – and here we are with Merry Hell.”
Emerald Green, a moving track from their uplifting album, Head Full of Magic, Shoes Full of Rain, is a song of war written from the perspective of both the soldier at battle and the wife at home.
“It is probably my favourite song we’ve done, in either band,” said John.
“I’m a music obsessive, and our words and music are forged through our own experiences, the lows and the loves of our lives. Lyrically what we’ve done with Merry Hell is more powerful than The Tansads.”
The main reason for that, says John, is the contribution of his wife, Virginia, who sings and plays guitar for Mike Harding’s favourite band.
“Virginia is why Merry Hell exists and her songwriting is prolific,” added John.
“She added a new perspective to the band because she writes so beautifully.
“Virginia is a great poet, and her creative work has shone through the band like a beam of light – she is that good.
“Also because we are older and more mature the songs are a bit more nuanced and the writing more polished, but losing none of the soul and energy that drove The Tansads.”
Merry Hell will be supported by Preston band Deadwood Dog and locals Panjenix. Clitheroe Grand, February 1. Tickets: £7.50. 01200 421 599.