Stolen from God, the 15th original studio album by award-winning singer-songwriter, Reg Meuross, represents the culmination of four years of research and is, without doubt, a fascinating musical exploration of a deeply troubling indelible blot on the history of the British Isles. Whilst this may be the second recent offering on the topic, Stolen from God does not fail to engage the mind nor please the ear whilst simultaneously addressing what is clearly an intensely difficult subject.
The album opens with ‘The Jesus of Lubeck’, and from the opening bars, it’s difficult not to imagine a sun-filled Disneyesque montage of a 16th-century dock with sailors happily going about their seafaring business. Melodic and well-paced, it’s a calm sea to start the voyage Meuross is to take us on. Lyrically, the song matches the musical feel. That is, until you realise the callousness of the narrator’s view on the nature of the voyage. The lyrical tone of the piece perfectly – but not overly-theatrically – sets the scene as we progress.
The album adeptly navigates its way through a series of narratives and characters, some fictional, others not, who either deliver unapologetic lectures that seek to justify their actions (‘The Way of Cain’ or ‘I Bought Myself an African’) or bring to light the inequality of treatment for those men and women who were forced to forge new lives that they neither sought nor desired (‘Good Morning Mr Colston’, ‘Stole Away’). This is perhaps one of the album’s most compelling strengths, as it engages the listener by throwing down a lyrical gauntlet whilst still offering pleasing melodies that would otherwise bely the difficult topic that Meuross explores.
The album offers a diverse range of pace and instrumentation, courtesy of some stellar musicianship from Jali Fily Cissokho, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and Jaz Gayle. However, there is no overbearing anthemic or theatrical approach to the musicality of the album, which for a deep topic such as this would be tempting. Far from it, in fact, the concertina and rhythmically melodic picking of Meuross’s guitar that underpins the songs only serve to compliment the album’s lyrical content and arguably demonstrate a strong desire to maintain theme and consistency.
From the dark, almost festive string accompaniment of ‘Stolen from God’ and the bluesy-feel of ‘Good Morning Mr Colston’, through to the melancholic chorus of ‘Stole Away’ and swinging harmonies of ‘Bridgwater’, there is enough musical diversity here to keep the listener occupied.
Stolen from God by Reg Meuross is out on April 7th. It can be ordered from the Proper Music website. For more info on the artist, head to regmeuross.com.