Reviews of ‘Never enough’
‘John Meed writes some really thought-provoking and interesting songs.’ Genevieve Tudor, BBC Radio Shropshire
Although I’ve been a fan of Cambridge-based John Meed’s music for several years now, in my view his seventh album ‘Never Enough’ is possibly his finest work, finding him totally in control of his palette of words and ideas. John is a consummate wordsmith whose stories from today’s cityscapes are in turn punchily political and deeply personal and existential. Oh, and he writes great choruses too.
As regards the political, a luscious yet moody introduction sets the tone for the opening track ‘Side by side’, a plea for tolerance and understanding amid the Brexit-fuelled madness of these times. “When she returns dripping sunshine and wine, will whatever makes them different make them shine, side by side?” A beautiful, sadly necessary song.
Perhaps reflecting our sense of rootlessness today – Brexit again – John’s are songs of journeys, written in stations, constantly travelling. As in the mysterious ‘La Fayette’, which was written at the Gare du Nord amid businessmen coming and going.
As I mentioned, John writes great choruses, and this album has ‘Never enough’ (which begins with the Cohenesque “I bought her tulips from Haarlem”), and ‘Blackbirds’ (“We are all singers, just like blackbirds”).
The album closes with ‘Bordeaux’, where the influence of chansonniers from across the “sleeve of sea” such as Brel and Brassens can perhaps be detected, in lines such as “the evening light turns the limestone into wine”.
For ‘Never Enough’ John has called on the services of some of Cambridge’s finest musicians, such as Matt and Lucinda from Thursday’s Band, to name but two. As ever, the CD has been expertly produced by Rhys Wilson, who also plays on several tracks. (Les Ray, Blues and Roots Radio Album Reviews, November 2018)
‘I really like the arrangements on this album, especially the tracks with the viola, played by Lucinda Fudge, and the violin by Matt Kelly. And the whole album is well worth more than one listen so I will be returning to it on future programmes.’ Pete James, ‘Folk, Blues & Beyond’, The Eye, 103 FM
Never enough adopts a similar storytelling approach to his previous work, opening with the six-minute, piano-led ‘Side By Side’, a song about travelling companions on assorted bus and train journeys whose paths may or may not continue together that, ultimately,speaks of both commonality and the differences that make us who we are.
Joined by Lucinda Fudge on viola and Matt Kelly on violin, ‘Never Enough’ is a Cohen-esque fingerpicked waltzer somewhere between ‘Seems So Long Ago Nancy’ and ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ while it’s Brel whose spirit hovers over the boulevards leading to the striking ‘La Fayette’ that, Dawn Loombe on accordion, draws climate of fear and refugee parallels between 1943 France and today’s Europe.
There’s more musical textures to be heard on ‘Strange Thing’ with Myke Clifford adding alto sax to a number about the mystery of love, be that the bond between mother and a child, a friendship or a romance. One of only two tracks to feature drums, ‘Why?’ has more of a 70s rock feel with its electric guitars, hints of Lennon’s influence lurking in the background, while the reappearance of strings brings a calmer reverie to ‘Blackbirds’ with its lyric about the power of music and human contact to “keep us from going under.”
‘For Granted’ is the album’s swelling anthem track with its soaring guitars fading away into the ether, while, Meed solo on guitars and orchestral-styled synthised warm brass and piano trills, ‘Mistakes’ is an introspective reflection on regrets that extends from personal to national empire building (“reach for the glory, live with the guilt”) before it finally returns to France for the ebb and flow of fortune on the streets of ‘Bordeaux’, a melancholic piano ballad slow waltz with storm sound effects and reference to Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude before it builds to a swelling upbeat more hopeful finale as “all that we share comes in with the tide.”
Meed’s somewhat mannered and dry, slightly flat vocal style could prove an acquired taste, but the rewards are worth the reaping. (Mike Davies, FATEA, November 2018)
Reviews of ‘The Hills of Arran’
‘There’s a long tradition of narrative storytelling in folk, where both music and lyrics are employed to paint pictures of a vivid landscape within which a story plays out. John Meed’s songs draw deeply on this approach. ‘Andalucia’ is a perfect case in point. The music adopts a sufficiently Moorish quality to evoke the setting without drifting into parody while lyrics set out a heartfelt paean to an imagined homeland.
Trying to find a familiar hook on which to hang Meed’s music, the name Al Stewart springs to mind. Both are, of course, consummate storytellers but they share another characteristic. Neither boasts a voice that would, in conventional terms, be considered’ beautiful’. However, they work perfectly in the role of narrator, which they adopt in their songs.
Meed chooses some complex and compelling stories to narrate. The topics include the life of a railwayman who settled in France between the wars, and the real story of the North West Passage and Lord Franklin’s fateful expedition. Meed’s musical arrangements are sumptuous, gently cosseting the ear and are enhanced by some special guests – most notably, Tara Westover who provides lead vocal on the title track, and Sevillano guitarist, Miguel Moreno.’ (Trevor Raggatt, R2 Rock’n’reel)
On an album that draws from a variety of folk traditions and inspirations, spanning Celtic to Flamenco, we are invited to accompany him and his talented accomplices on an exploration of intimate ideas set amongst the grand sweep of history. Tara Westover’s vocals and Miguel Moreno’s flamenco guitar add depth, beauty and a sprinkle of authentic style, when needed, on songs such as ‘The Hills Of Arran’ or ‘Andalucia’.The standout track here, ‘Beautiful People’, is a sublime exploration of alienation and sacrifice that is all the more successful because its stripped down simplicity allows Meed’s unusual voice and poignant songwriting to shine through.
His sixth album, The Hills Of Arran, is an accomplished collection, well wrought.’ (Greg Healey, Shindig)
Worthy addition to Cambridge songwriter’s canon
‘Cambridge based John Meed has built on his sound in his latest offering, ‘The Hills of Arran’. His first move is to open with lush flute arrangements and the vocals of Tara Westover with Meed taking a mere backing vocal and accompaniment role. It’s a soft but complex introduction to an album that bursts with flamenco motifs and folk fingerpicking and it’s a richer selection for it. There are strong juxtapositions between the grander songs of ‘Hills of Arran’ and ‘Andalucia’ and the more kitchen sink dramas of ‘Replacement Valve’, which makes a wry comparison between a faulty boiler and heart failure. Again Meed has surrounded himself with a good array of musicians who lend to Meed’s typically English delivery.’ (Matthew Boulter, Americana UK, 7/10)
‘A singer-songwriter-storyteller of the ilk of Al Stewart, Leonard Cohen and Richard Thompson, this sixth album flits from dreams of Scotland to flamenco in Spain, war in
France and exploration in Canada, and even takes a sideways glance at modern life (I’ve never heard a song about the variety of replacement valves in our lives, to my
knowledge!). The evocative and delicate acoustic performances are a delightful and a blessed relief from the current trend for over-produced, overloaded layers of
music. A breath of fresh, mellow, unsophisticated and unpretentious folk air.’ (Rock Society)
‘Hi John, just wanted to say a massive thank you for playing at the Street Food Supper Club last week. We knew you were going to be good from what we’ve heard from you CB2 and from your videos but we weren’t quite expecting that! It was fantastic, utterly, utterly delightful, your songs were beautiful, very human and often very funny lyrics, your lovely personality just beamed through the songs, it was a very endearing and extremely enjoyable performance. It was a pleasure having you there and we hope to see you again very soon.’ Street Food Supper Club, Northampton
‘John opened with a lovely set starting with “Don’t Blame it on Belper” and straight away we’re into his lovely easy charm and before you know it you’re either smiling or laughing out loud. He has such a knack of writing songs that lift your mood. Somehow they don’t sound like songs constructed to make you laugh they’re much more natural than that as with his second song called, ‘Strange Thing Called Love’ or the third one about his mother who he described as ‘part cow’ following her heart operation. ‘Not perhaps the song she would have wanted me to write about her.’ Remember Me was followed by Lafayette and Ashes to Rust and he finished with ‘his hit’ about his time in Leeds called The Last Bus To Leeds and we were all singing along knowingly. Delightful John, Thank you.’ (Alan Hassall, www.alstonefield.org, October 2016)
‘Erudite and entertaining’ (Mark Gamon, Royston Folk Club)
‘John opened with his own songs on guitar and piano taking us on a journey through his English man’s life and times with gentle tunes and thought provoking lyrics incl. one about his favourite street in France. There was also a nod toward America in his song ‘The Woodstock Rest Home’ which he described as a bit of science fiction but actually had a certain resonance for many of his audience, but he ended with his song ‘The Last Bus To Leeds’ bringing us right back to earth in England. I bought one of his 5 CDs and listened to it all on Sunday morning whilst having a cup of tea and just didn’t get out of my chair until it finished.’ (Alan Hassall, www.alstonefield.org, December 2013)
‘The second act was Cambridge singer/songwriter. John Meed. John’s beautiful songs ranged from the wryly humourous Woodstock Rest Home – an anthem for 60’s hippies everywhere – through a hymn to his favourite street in Paris (so Parisian in feel that you could hear an accordion even though it wasn’t there!) to the world weary Running and his signature song – Last Bus from Leeds with everyone joining in on the irresistible chorus.
‘But the really spell-binding moment for this listener came when John switched to the piano, announced that he hadn’t sung the next song in ages, and then proceeded to unleash a powerfully heartfelt song of love to his partner. Happy love songs are notoriously difficult to write without sounding clichéd or smug or overly sentimental but this was just perfect… truly beautiful.’ (Rick Ford, www.alstonefield.org, June 2013)
‘Very sincere thanks for making such a top quality contribution to the evening, and for including one of my favourite songs of yours, Woodstock Rest Home!’ (Marion Treby, Cambridge Folk Club, May 2013)
‘A Cambridge based singer and song writer who entertained us wonderfully with a support in 2010’ (Baldock and Letchworth Folk Club, January 2011)
‘Lovely songs and a great performance too.’ (Dan Plews, AORTAS, March 2012)
‘The support was John Meed, a singer/songwriter from Cambridge.who did a short spot in each half. His songs were all quite different from each other, and very entertaining. I especially liked Don’t Blame it on Belper. He was an utterly charming man and I hope to get the opportunity to see him again.’ (Lorna Davies, North Staffs Folk, July 2012)
‘What could be nicer than supper at the village hall? Well, obviously, supper with entertainments and on Saturday, 7th July, on a balmy if somewhat damp evening, we were treated not just to pie, peas and strawberries but also to an evening of musical delight. Excellently supported by John Meed, Flossie Malavialle, treated us to an evening that was simultaneously très bien and proper mint like. John warmed us up with three of his own compositions to start the first half and three more after supper. He began with a song about Belper and ended with one about Leeds. He bouncily encouraged us to think of the washing machine as a metaphor for the human condition but perhaps he earned his loudest clap with a song about the Woodstock Rest Home, an imaginary retirement home for rockers.’ (Rob Handscombe, July 2012)
Reviews of ‘The dust of time’
‘That’s John Meed with Rue Mouffetard. What a cracking voice – it’s brilliant, isn’t it – one of those gravelly sort of voices. I might play you another one of those.’ (Genevieve Tudor, Sunday Folk, BBC Radio Shropshire)
‘John Meed’s fifth full length album, ‘The Dust of Time’, finds him in reminiscent mood, recalling events and favoured places as well as his fondness for temporal objects, such as the VW camper van, which he sees as being an erstwhile companion to the human race for the last forty odd years. It seems the passing of time and reflecting upon it was prevalent in Meed’s thoughts when pulling this record together.
‘Lancashire born but now living in Cambridge, Meed delivers his lyrics in a style very similar to Leonard Cohen, not devoid of feeling but somehow disembodied and floating above the tales and messages of the songs, which are grounded in much more familiar musical territory.
‘Standout tracks include Rue Mouffetard (concerning the famous Parisian street once frequented by Verlaine and Joyce) and Sirocco, which departs from the gentle acoustic theme of the album to provide a Spanish flavour complete with whirling Spanish guitar.’ (Matthew Boulter, Americana UK, 20 December 2013)
‘I suspect that there’s one thing that may divide listeners to this album. And that’s the singer’s voice. You might think that is something of a fundamental issue. However, it speaks of the strength of Meed’s songs and the quality of their delivery that your thoughts on the album will be influenced by personal preference on singing style.
‘Meed’s approach is a fairly traditional one in the context of folk music. There is a certain disregard for perfect pitch, particularly as words and phrases tail off into a contemplative silence. His voice is also left fairly raw despite the smooth presentation of each song’s backing.
‘Now there’s no law that says that every voice must be as smooth as Michael MacDonald’s. The earthy formula has served many folk singers well, whether it be Ewan MacColl, The Dubliners, or dear old Swarb. There is also a semi-conversational element to Meed’s phrasing which isn’t a million miles from Peter Sarstedt. And that isn’t such a bad set of comparisons.
‘What is certain is that Meed has a real way of telling a story in song. Whether it’s a love song to a VW camper van, or bittersweet Moroccan memories, they are all beautifully told.’ (Trevor Raggatt, R2 Rock’n’reel Vol 2 Issue 44 March 2014)
‘Interesting song, this, written by a man called John Meed. Through a strange series of connections he found himself staying in a little cottage – you could barely call it a cottage – prior to a concert that he gave in a local chapel (in Abergele) with a French choir and it turned out that the family of an old friend of his, who had passed away a few years earlier, had been farming and working the land around that very same cottage. John Meed himself is from Cambridgeshire, and on his way back to England after that concert in North Wales, he began to think about his old friend and where he’d been and this song resulted, which he called, simply, Moelfre Hill.’ (Frank Hennesey, Celtic Hearbeat, BBC Radio Wales, 17 November 2013)
‘Rue Mouffetard sounds good. Part Parisien, part Leonard Cohen, part Jacques Brel, part Christy Moore, part you.’ (Richard Penguin, Future Radio, 6 November 2013)
‘One of the things I really like about the music of John Meed is that it really is quite pretention free, as highlighted, by “The Camper Van Song”, not tales of Route 66 in a Winnebago, oh no, this is the tale of a VW and the A65 and comparisons with the modern mobile palaces.
‘Lancashire born and Cambridge based, John Mead is what I would call an old singer/songwriter, a writer performer that uses local reference points to reflect wider social ills. Take the sign off song, “The Gandhi” as a case in point, whilst our local pub, takeaway may have had a different name, we all know the decent places that have closed down and gone, not because they were serving the community, more because the site may have been more value than the business.
‘John Meed sings and plays guitar on the album, bringing in other musicians to round out the sound, most notably The Willows, Cliff Ward, on violin as well an multi-instrumentalist Rhys Wilson and that helps to give the songs a real distinction across the album.
‘Now I have to say that John is not one of the best vocalists to cross the threshold of the Fatea office, but it is a voice that has a certain character to it and whilst it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does help give the songs context, this is down to the floor folk music and in that arena, “The Dust Of Time”, John Meed’s fifth album, is a well worthy release and one that shows local perspectives do matter in a globalised world.’ (Neil King, FATEA, February 2 2014)
‘Tenderness has real anthemic quality, with first-class sentiments, a powerful melody, some minor to major shifts that work really well, and being piano-based makes it a bit different from the other tracks too.’ Kevin Johnson
Reviews of ‘Pavilion Parade’
‘I liked Pavilion Parade, said it all really… who said political songwriting was dead?’ Eric Bogle
‘Pavilion Parade is John Meed’s fourth album and one that builds well on his strengths, particularly his ability to include a fair dose of political and social commentary into his songs; songs as the voice of the people. The spirit of folk music is alive, well and delightfully accompanied; long may it continue Neil King, FATEA, 2011
‘Just lovely. Pavilion Parade is all about observation, which is what good songwriting should be.’ Sue Marchant, BBC Cambridgeshire
‘I wanted to get in touch and let you know how beautiful I thought ‘No greater love than this’ is…The words and melody brought tears to my eyes..It gave me such joy to hear you sing and play it…At times I am sure I heard an angels string quartet…Rhys Wilson’s guitar accompaniment is sublime…Thank you!’ Jim Chorley, Singer-Songwriter, Southampton
‘Wonderful album by John Meed. Revolving drum will put a big smile on your face, and This house and No greater love are truly beautiful!’ Bert Audubert
‘I really enjoyed Pavilion Parade, and particularly Na Zdorovye.’ Frank Hennessy, BBC Radio Wales
‘There’s a political edge to the observational songwriting of Cambridge-based musician John Meed whose fourth CD, Pavilion Parade, takes a wry look at life’s ups and downs. Whether he’s ruminating on a sense of place in ‘This house’ or tempering his observations with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humour as with ‘Revolving drum’, which takes a washing machine as a metaphor for human existence, Meed’s songs are both thoughtful and thought-provoking.’ R2 Rock’n’Reel, Jan/Feb 2012 (Vol 2, Issue 31)
Watching an overwhelmingly beautiful song from John Meed about the occupation called Pavilion Parade (brightonresistance.wordpress.com)
Makes me cry every time I hear it … When a song is written about you, your friends and peers and the situation they were in, it makes music much more hard-hitting – and brings back memories! (One of the students at Brighton University)
Reviews of ‘When the music ends’
Always a good day when I find a new song by John Meed.
Charlie Steppe, WLSO FM, April 15 2009
This is the third John Meed album we’ve covered and I continue to be impressed by his sense of narrative and perception. A great example and album highlight is ‘The Woodstock Rest Home’ which harks back to the ‘I like my artists dead ideal, could you please just stop touring the same old thing.’ ‘When The Music Ends’ is a series of sketches, life reflected through song. It seems to be an album of getting old and the changes that brings to perception as well as body. There’s a bonus of two tracks remixed by Stu Hanna that rounds it all off nicely.
Neil King,FATEA, 2009
The less said about ‘The Woodstock Rest Home’, the better.
Lynne Pettinger, Americana, 2009
Reviews of ‘Powder of the stars’
From the first track, John Meed winds simple acoustic Knopfler-esque patterns of guitar, mellotron and vocal. His music could easily soothe any troubled soul. ‘Le Train De Grande Vitesse’ is a fine example of what John’s lilting, part-spoken vocal and clever lyrics bring to the table, as they take you on a journey through the historical ages
The addition of rhythmic Latin percussion to ‘Dreaming Of Rio’ makes it my clear favourite. Bossanova and swing combine with an innocent English vocal that makes me long for sun and sand whilst reality finds me staring forlornly at fog and frost. (John Clarke, Music-zine, Feb 2008)
John Meed is an artist that I’m coming to admire more and more. He has a great take on the world and often hits points that would have just passed me by. In a new slant on ‘The ant and the grasshopper’, for example, he basically says, forget survival, would you rather be the grasshopper making music, or with the ants in the rat race? Most people can work, how many can entertain? Well John Meed can for a start. It’s an album of travel and journey, physical and spiritual, people and places. (Neil King, FATEA, March 2007)
Reviews of ‘Children of the sea’
‘John Meed’s beautifully melodic heartfelt songs range across war, the world, injustice and love.’ (www.wereallneighbours.co.uk)
‘Good honest songs John, and Mesapotamia is my pick of the bunch. I’m glad I helped a wee bit in their inspiration, but the creation was all yours. More power to your pen.’ (Eric Bogle)