Joining hands to mark a musical union of 21 years
Show of Hands – Steve Knightley and Phil Beer – celebrate their 21-year partnership with a couple of shows on home turf later this month.
Looking back over the period that has seen the pair produce 15 studio albums, garner three gongs at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and sell out the Royal Albert Hall four times.
"I'm not quite sure what jewel we should have to commemorate the anniversary," jokes singer songwriter Steve. "But to be honest, I don't suppose we ever thought that we would be around so long, still growing and doing more enjoyable projects than ever."
Their latest album, Wake the Union, a mix of traditional English and Americana music, happens to be their most critically acclaimed to date and it's also their most commercially successful, having reached the dizzy heights of number 73 in the charts. Not that chart positions really bother them, but Steve admits to occasionally pandering to the business side of the music industry.
"Every now and then we put out singles, we gird our loins, get pluggers involved in an attempt to get play-listed," he says. "But we're always told that not only is our sound never going to be mainstream, but there are just too many issues in the lyrics."
First inspired to write by "the muscularity and edginess of Ted Hughes' poetry" he witnessed at a workshop with the laureate as a 15-year-old, Steve went on to study politics and history at university.
"I always like to know my stuff," he says.
Second home owners in the audience may be stung by the lyrics of Country Life – his ode to the decline of rural communities.
It's not only this lyrical grittiness that appeals to fans, the musicianship too is exceptional, courtesy also of multi-instrumentalist Phil and, for the past nine years, semi permanent third member Miranda Sykes. Stylistically their music is an eclectic mix which can't be pinned down simply as English folk.
"I think the reason English folk is so hard to define is because we as a nation are magpies," says Steve. "We're really good at pulling in other influences, which is why we now have the best chefs in the world and the best wine tasters. We're open to everything."
Show of Hands play Princess Theatre, Torquay on October 26 and Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple on November 29.