Following the news that they will no longer be putting out music together, John Andrews celebrates the magic of Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou.
Can you remember where you were when you first saw your favourite band? Can you remember the way the light fell through the windows, can you remember the warmth of the night? Can you remember the way that as soon they started playing it was as if a part of your life you thought you had lost forever began again? I can remember where I was the first time I saw Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou play. Fittingly they were performing alongside their old collaborator Danny Wilson — or Danny Champ as most of us know him. It was upstairs in the King & Queen in Fitzrovia at the first ever Caught by the River Social and all three of them blew me away. Prior to that, for a number of years a part of my life had stopped. The part where I listened to records, went to gigs, visited studios and hung out with bands, plotted with managers, dreamt dreams for our charges, tried all we could to keep their careers going south in the face of being dropped so that they could carry on making their art. I had barely bought a record or listened to anything new since I had lost my job when my old firm Creation Records went bust at the end of 1999. I was sick of it all. Apart from one night when my old mucker Jamie Spencer tempted me out to sit on the steps leading to the downstairs room at Barracuda in Stoke Newington to see Chris Difford play in front of a dozen or so people, I had barely attended a single gig. I’d walked away from my previous way of life; I’d given it everything and the loss of it made it almost impossible to go back. And then out of the blue along came Jeff and did what he was always does. Picks up a brother at the side of the road and shows them some magic to make them believe again.
And what magic Trevor and Hannah and Danny were. I couldn’t separate them at first, the three of them singing seemed so pure like they had come from another age, tanned faces, eyes that burned at the mic, messengers from that age my elder siblings had told me about, the late sixties and early seventies, when they used to go to gigs at Bunjies, being among the first to see Dylan play here, washing out across the world, singing their songs along the old trail. All those records they used to play me when we got back from the pub, my education in large part, from Dylan of course, through John Renbourn to James Taylor, June Tabor and back. They steeped me in folk music, its history, the pastoralism and idealism of their own youth and in doing so showed me the way. My first ‘job’ in music had been putting out the chairs at The Farnham Folk Festival that Ian Anderson ran. I had written to him at the offices of Folk Roots asking if I could do anything in return for a ticket and he wrote back saying for help with putting out the chairs he’d give me a three day pass. So it was that at fifteen I sat at the back of a room and along with hundred or so watched in awe as Martin Simpson played ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’. Oh, and how it was. After that I devoured music wherever I could find it. Junk shops, second hand record shops, hand-me-downs, swaps with mates at school. Gig upon gig. Along with books, music became everything. I fell in love a thousand times to the echo of Shane MacGowan singing ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’.
So there was always a seam in my bones that ached for that purity of sound, that crystallisation of a moment of when you hear something for the first time, but above all the rare truth that comes from when people make music and they really mean it. Then whatever they do becomes unstoppable and they become conduits for something far deeper than a simple song. And for me, in every sense there have never been a purer pair than Trevor and Hannah. On stage they exuded that chemistry that husband and wife duos always do, a constant magnetic tension amid the unreal harmonies, something of Smokey in their pitch and Baez in their tone, a sadness, ‘El Duende’ I think Nick Cave called it in his essays on love. Trevor and Hannah had the unerring ability to completely open themselves up to their audience, they were raw, uncomplicated and simply beautiful. But such honesty takes it toll. They gave everything to every record they made and each time they released an LP they built so much around it, in film, in performance, in presentation, everything from scratch for each release. And of course, like many of the greats, and I do mean the greats, commercial success — the kind that pays the bills — eluded them. But they kept on going, making better records, writing better songs, defying the odds, astounding those who followed them. Their body of work and the memories of the performances will stand the test of time, I’m certain. Pressings of their LPs and singles, cassettes, will all become cult rarities. Buy them now whilst you can if that’s your sort of thing. And in years to come an older will pull out a record after the pubs have shut and say to a younger, ‘forget that other stuff for now, now this, this, you really DO have to listen to.’ And a world will be changed forever.
My Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou Top Ten:
1. We Should’ve Gone Dancing
2. Grand Tales in Tired Covers
3. For a Minute There
4. Up Mercatoria
6. Big Water
7. The Stargazer’s Gutter
8. The Lion and The Unicorn
9. Some Dreaming to Do
10. 11 Nights Under Tin – A film by Trevor Moss
Choose your own cover for an encore:
1. Cheap Wine
2. The 88
We have compiled John’s selections into an Ultimate Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou Spotify playlist, which you can listen to here.