HUGELY underrated, yet adored by everyone who sees them, Megson are accomplished husband and wife duo Stu and Debbie Hannah whose acoustic performances of relevant, thought-provoking and heartfelt songs about life, love and whimsy have drawn accolades from far and wide.

Named after a beloved pet dog, they sing songs of Teesside’s heritage, football matches, miners, life’s milestones, loss and a whole lot more in a spiritual and sensitive way – with a lot of humour included.

Triple BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards nominees, the accomplished pair have long been considered one of the most original and intelligent acts around. They mix Debs’ heavenly vocals (and piano accordion) with Stu’s rhythmic guitar or mandola and throw beautiful harmonies on top to create a sound that’s both traditional and modern.

Their background is well documented – they met at a north east youth choir; she was a classical music student and he was into prog rock – but somehow what makes them a most unlikely folk roots pairing works perfectly.

They are 10 albums into an 18-year career, all issued on their own EDJ label and produced by Stu, who has also handled the desk for folk luminaries such as Show of Hands, The Young ‘Uns and Sam Kelly.

Here at St Ambrose Church in a gig originally slated for March 2020 they enjoyed excellent acoustics to stage a beautifully lit show of two halves before a small, but enthusiastic, audience possibly made smaller by the competing Eurovision Song Contest on the same evening, more of which later.

Stu (all floppy fringe, extended acoustic solos and interminable tuning) and Debbie (all raised eyebrows at his antics) are currently touring their latest album Unknown Waters, a set of nine covers (also featuring Nizlopi double bassist John Parker on disc), but don’t expect any reworked Dylan material here, as these are relatively unknown tunes by their favourite north east songwriters.

Thus we had Alan Hull’s song about the Jarrow Marches, Marshall Riley’s Army, as performed by Lindisfarne, Teesside-born Vin Garbutt’s Not For The First Time, a version of Stockton-on-Tees band The Young Rebel Set’s Not For The First Time and a take on Rain by County Durham’s Martin Stevenson (of Daintees fame).

The album also includes one original, a hopeful song written during the cold dreary winter of lockdown – Through The Winter looks ahead to brighter days. No album of north east covers would be complete without Chris Rea – so the first half ended with a sprightly Road To Hell.

Part two was more traditional Megson territory, including two songs they probably can’t ever get away without playing. The Longshot recalls the trials and tribulations of supporting Middlesbrough FC, while In A Box is a poignant reminder of how the stuff we keep in the loft is full of our memories.

Protest songs by Megson are wrapped in the cotton wool of cute harmonies and expert musicianship – Generation Rent needs no explanation, Burn Away evokes steel works of yesteryear and The Smoke Of Home tells of returning to the north east.

There was also time for a few tracks from previous album Contradicshun, namely The Keach In The Creel, an everyday tale of Newcastle folk attempting to find love by being lowered down a chimney in a basket, and A Week Away In The Caravan, an homage to beloved, and probably damp, camping holidays.

Megson are at their best with tales of people, mostly from the north east, but as they haven’t lived there for years and now reside in south Cambridgeshire (handier for gigging one would imagine, but still a minimum five-hour round trip to Bournemouth), they thought they’d better compose some new local material. Barrington Judo Club tells of the weekly ritual of sporting youngsters in a village near where they live – trouble is there is only a karate club there, but that didn’t scan so well.

Finally, Eurovision. A little known fact, until Stu revealed it during the pair’s witty twixt-song banter is that he wrote, with Alistair Griffin – who finished runner-up on the BBC’s Fame Academy and subsequently had two top 20 singles – an entry in Song For Europe in 2002. The tune Fade Away, for the artist Pulse, made the final eight but lost out to the song Come Back which was performed by former Pop Idol contestant Jessica Garlick who finished third in Eurovision with 111 points.

An apt day then to watch Megson – and also get home in time to see Sam Ryder’s second place triumph at Eurovision.

See Megson at Wimborne Folk Festival on June 11.

  • Bournemouth Folk Club’s autumn season has been announced. It features acclaimed alt-folk duo Jacob & Drinkwater (Saturday, October 8), award-winning contemporary folk and acoustic duo Gilmore & Roberts (Saturday, November 12) and Awake Arise, a festive collaboration featuring Lady Maisery and the duo Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith (Saturday, December 10). Tickets are on sale now, varying from £14 to £16.50. For more information or to book, visit