Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Show of Hands: Country LIfe

For someone who is soon to be unemployed, I find the demands on my time have increased – thus an explanation of my absence in the past few days. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything that I need to do at the present.

Well, with that said, I am also retiring a category today – “One Hit Wonder Wednesday” – a category that I’ve run 83 posts. It was getting a little stale for me and I haven’t had a outlet for traditional and folk music for over a year when I retired “Traditional Tuesday” in October 2011.

Today, we unveil a new category “Wooden Music Wednesday.” Not as limited as the moniker “Traditional Tuesday” but will allow for posting of songs that have a considerable acoustic element. I’ll run this category for a while and see how it goes.

Today’s post is “Country Life” by Show of Hands. I am not sure how I missed this band, but I did. While the video depicts a full band, “Show of Hands” includes only four hands – two belonging to Steve Knightley and two belonging to Phil Beer. Both men are multi-instrumentalists – while Phil Beer is normally the individual seen switching from his fiddle to other instruments, Knightley is adept at all manner of stringed instruments as well.

I got to know this duo by a suggestion of a solo version of “Country Life” by Steve Knightley done on tenor guitar.  This version was posted last week on the tenor guitar list. I found the official version of the same song done with a full band with “Show of Hands.” The message is typical what folk music became in the late 19th and early 20th century – a move from ballads to songs of social consciousness. “Country Life” is just that – a lament of the loss of the common way of country life in England due to big business. Ah yes, "the love of money is the root of all evil."

I really like these guys and there are some excellent examples of Show of Hands in concert found on YouTube – in fact an entire concert from 2001 is available in bits and pieces. It is quite enjoyable. As for Steve Knightley’s instrument of choice on this number, I originally thought that it was a bouzouki or an octave mandolin; however, it is actually a mandocello made by luthier David Oddy.

I hope you enjoy Show of Hands as much as I have.

Alternate Live Version

Since the audio quality is decent on this live version, I’ll include it as well. It includes bassist/vocalist Miranda Sykes. It was recorded St. Margaret’s Church, Walgate, York in 2009.


  1. I see this band most years and have all their albums. Although not officially a member of the band Miranda Sykes is now a fairly permanent fixture on tour and has a lovely voice. See if you can find a 'Blue cockade' on Youtube for a good example. Consistent high quality song writing and they also have a great stage presence. Phil Beer is a master on the fiddle and guitar - used to be in The Albion Band.

  2. Thanks for the info Paul. I will check out "Blue Cockade."