My new album is of the songs I’ve written during my songwriter residency at the People’s History Museum supported by Arts Council England. Available now to download for free. A physical CD of the album will get a proper release next year. Meanwhile have a listen. I’ll be blogging about the songs over the next few weeks at museumsongwriter.wordpress.com
THE BATTLE FOR THE BALLOT
In an era of voter apathy and low election turn out, comes an album that’s a timely reminder of the sacrifices made in the fight for the right to vote.
The Battle for the Ballot was born from a unique collaboration between a museum and a songwriter. As songwriter in residence at the People’s History Museum, Matt Hill / Quiet Loner was tasked with exploring the story of Universal Suffrage. The ten songs on this album tell the story of the men and women – reformers, revolutionaries, campaigners, chartists, suffragists and suffragettes – who fought for our right to vote, which was finally achieved in 1928.
This is more than just a dry history lesson, by drawing on historical source materials and first hand testimonies, Hill has brought back to life voices from the past. Working alongside museum curators, Hill took inspiration from physical objects in the collection. The wooden desk on which Thomas Paine wrote ‘The Rights of Man’ in 1792 became the starting point for album opener ‘Nothing less than revolution’. But it is the people, associated with the objects and artifacts, who populate these songs.
Guest vocalist Tracey Browne (singer-songwriter and sometime member of Thea Gilmore’s touring band) brings to life voices such as radical writer Mary Wollstonecraft (Nothing less than revolution), suffragist Hannah Mitchell (Hannah) and an anonymous suffragette prisoner (Paint this Prison). Whilst there are songs of struggle here, such as the harrowing ‘St Peter’s Field’ (describing the events of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre and based on the testimony of radical Samuel Bamford) there are also songs of joyful solidarity (Banners held high) and shared purpose (Half a dozen demands).
Hill’s dexterous use of words has long been a signature of his songwriting style (“The wordplay is pure Costello. Delicate songwriting, with hints of folk and Americana.” Uncut **** ) and it is evident here on tracks like ‘St. Peter’s Field’ (a vicious, pernicious, malicious militia) and ‘The sly suffragette’ . Producer and arranger Mike Harries has brought a broad musical pallet to give the songs emotional depth ranging from marching brass bands (Banners Held High) to Sun records rockabilly (Railings) to chapel hymns (Election Day).
Launched for Manchester Histories Festival in June 2016 ‘The Battle for the Ballot’ began as an acoustic live show, combining the songs with visuals from the museum collection. Now with this album release, Hill has finally followed up on 2012’s ‘Greedy Magicians’, and made a record that shares many of the themes of its predecessor – the value of standing up and speaking out, the importance of knowing your history and how rights are never given, they must be fought for.