FOR me, a definite highlight of the on-line festival of story has been the inclusion of a weekly folk music session, for if telling traditional tales are a way of embodying the soul of a culture then folk music is a way of the heart setting it free for all to hear. It is not surprising then that across the country there are so many similar versions of songs which retell the same story with local variations.

In this session Reg Meuross took a selection of songs of his own making and explained how he came to write them and also the story behind the song itself.

The singer, songwriter and storyteller first entered my consciousness one dark stormy night when his moving song “And Jesus Wept”, about the death of a soldier shot at dawn, came on the car radio.

Both myself and the driver were so moved we had to pull over off the road, the next morning we went and bought the album. Reg’s music can have that kind of profound effect. He wears his social conscience on his sleeve and writes melodies that don’t just tug at the heart-strings so much as tie them up in macramé patterns.

It was hugely enjoyable to hear him talking about the reasoning and craft behind his song-writing , not just for the information itself but also for the insight into how his mind works by taking facts from reality and creating a record which combines historical fact with a way of engaging the listener.

An excellent example of this was “Lizzie loved a Highwayman”, which retells the story of Dick Turpin with a much closer relation to the truth than the commonly over-romanticised version by stripping away the fantasy heroic elements and including the relationship with his wife.

The line “she gave him all a young girl can, and in return he gave her widowhood” is particularly poignant and resonates with the painful reality of the situation.

When dealing with a “made up” story, he uses a similar technique of ensuring that at the centre of the story is a kernel of reality so that in “Fool’s Gold”, we are presented with two very different women and their differing attitudes to fidelity.

The snapshots in time form the basis for the song but the story itself is timeless. He is a true master of the telling phrase and image, with lines which seem to echo long after the song ends.

His skill in this respect were seen in two particularly beautiful and somewhat eerie songs, “The Band Played Sweet Marie” and “Shelley’s Heart”.

Reg Meuross is truly a master of his craft.