The Ghost In Our House and Other Stories

2015 By Peter Cowley on the FATEA website

"The Ghost In Our House and Other Stories" is the third and latest album by that wonderful Wigan-based band, Merry Hell [the previous two being "Blink…and you miss it" and "Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain"].

Since their previous album, there have been a couple of changes to Merry Hell's line up. Bass player Andrew Dawson has left, and has been replaced by Nick Davies and new member Neil McCartney has joined on fiddle and backing vocals, thus making the band an octet. Neil was a school friend of Merry Hell's Kettle Brothers and enjoyed considerable success, particularly in Ireland, with Irish/Ska/Punk/Rock band The Big Geraniums, who achieved a number 3 hit single in Ireland with "Home Again". Neil is not the first fiddle player to play on a Merry Hell album, as Dave Swarbrick guested on "Let's Not Have A Morning After" on "Head Full Of Magic".

This time around, the special guest player is Gordon Giltrap who contributes some typically glorious guitar to John and Virginia Kettle's touching ballad of loss and redemption "Leave A Light On".

The other change for this album is that it was recorded and produced [by John Kettle] at the band's new studio, The Old Court Studio in Wigan. I must admit that when I visited this studio last summer for a recording session for the Fatea Award-Winning Armistice Pals EP it was a rather surreal experience. The reason for this was that some years ago I used to practice as a solicitor in Wigan and spent many a happy hour [?] in the Magistrates' and County Courts in this very building, which now has a much more beneficial use as the band's recording studio. Incidentally, the band filmed much of their superb video for "There's A Ghost In Our House" in the Old Court House, so you can see it for yourself on You Tube!

Merry Hell are blessed in that they have at least three outstanding songwriters in Virginia, John and Bob Kettle, not forgetting keyboardist Lee Goulding who contributes two co-writes with Bob.

With such an abundance of songwriting talent amongst their ranks, Merry Hell have no shortage of original material. All fifteen [yes, fifteen] tracks on this album come from within the band, with covers or traditional numbers in evidence.

I was fortunate to have a preview of some of this new material when I saw Merry Hell play at Grateful Fred's Great Christmas Bash back in December, a hugely enjoyable occasion, a review of which can be found

Like its two predecessors, "The Ghost In Our House" is jam-packed with insightful, poignant and humorous lyrics and catchy, hook-filled, anthemic tunes which are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and get your toes tapping. The addition of Neil's fiddle gives even greater instrumental clout to what was already a powerful and versatile folk -rock band.

With fifteen new songs, there isn't space to go into them individually here but suffice it to say that this latest collection is well up to the extremely high standard of its two predecessors.

In other words, it's a cracker of an album but don't just take my word for it. Look up the videos for "There's A Ghost In Our House" and "The Baker's Daughter" [both songs are from this album] and see for yourself.

Peter Cowley