Battle For The Ballot
Self-Release/Manchester Peoples History Museum/Bandcamp.
The Most Exciting History Lesson You Will Ever Hear.
Although long deleted The Quiet Loner aka Matt Hill’s previous album, Greedy Magicians is still the most dangerous album I’ve ever heard; dealing as does with the political state of Britain was in in 2012 and sadly is even more relevant today in 2016.
He has finally followed that up with a very interesting project; and one I have followed keenly, albeit from afar. After becoming ‘Songwriter in Residence’ at the wonderful Peoples History Museum in Manchester Matt was tasked with ‘exploring the story of Universal Suffrage’ and take it around the schools of the area.
The subjects here are very dear to my own heart as in the early 1970’s I was a pupil in a newly fangled Comprehensive School and quickly dropped into the CSE stream which was meant to give us some qualifications at the end of 5 years; regardless of how meaningless they would be. The upside was History. While the Top 2 streams studied the Tudors and Stuart Kings etc. we learned about the Industrial Revolution and the seed was sown for a lifetime of Liberal Socialism……or something like that.
A better choice for this venture can’t be found; as Hill is a canny story teller and although he is a Folk Singer at heart, he has a nice soft expressive voice and has a very contemporary style making these tales very listenable indeed.
The album opens with the mildly anthemic duet with Tracey Browne, Nothing Less Than Revolution Will Do. Not exactly a ‘call to arms’ but, when you know it was written following Matt encountering the desk that Thomas Paine wrote the ‘Rights of Man’ in 1792, it becomes a wonderful preface for what is to follow.
Lulling you into a false sense of security the sweet sounding Manchester Rain follows; but dig deeper into Hill’s words and you will hear a dark story of a Manchester that Marx and Engels once inhabited.
Those songs neatly sum up The Quiet Loner’s ‘style’……contemporary and subtle, taking what could easily be a dull, dry story from history and making them sound fresh and still thinking about the content hours afterwards. Tear These Railings Down is a song about the workers never giving up their fight; and sung to an almost Country beat; there’s certainly a Twang to the guitar and it fairly rattles along, and I can only imagine the effect it will have on impressionable teenagers (who needs NWA?).
Hill even throws in a the jaunty Banners Held High in his quest to get his message across and somehow he makes the dry tale of the Chartist Movement into a toe-tapper; which is skill indeed!
The remarkable Tracey Browne gets the opportunity to shine when she inhabits the central character on the beautiful Hannah (about Suffragette Hannah Mitchell) and again on Paint This Prison (a contender for ‘favourite track btw).
That ‘Favourite Track’ title goes to the epic The Dust of St. Peters Fields. Wow! This shameful story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre has virtually been airbrushed from our history; even in NW England, but The Quiet Loner describes the events in a modern Folk Rock style that would be worthy of Elvis Costello at his politico best. If Matt Hill never writes or sings another song ever again he can die a happy man for creating this masterpiece.
When Hill began writing these songs in early 2016 he would have no idea how important ‘The Vote’ would be in our lives; as the UK would go on to hold a Referendum to ‘leave the EU’ and the USA would have the most historical Election for many generations, with every single vote counting in each one.
Regardless of your feelings at those two outcomes; these ten songs help describe the fight that people had to get every single person the right to vote, regardless of race, creed, sex or colour.
Buy a copy and learn something; but most importantly if you have or know a teenager who loves music but is either apathetic or interested in politics…….give them a copy.
#NEWSFLASH This will be released as a full CD in April 2017!
Released November 27th 2016 (Download)