STEVE KNIGHTLEY named “Songwriter of the Nineties” (BBC6 Music)

“With the possible exception of Mark E Smith and Richard Thompson no other English songwriter comes close to the consistency and power of Steve Knightley’s back catalogue” - Tom Robinson, BBC 6 Music

Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightley has been named “Songwriter of the Nineties” by BBC 6 broadcaster and songwriter Tom Robinson in a search to find the best songwriters of the last few decades.

Robinson appeared on BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq’s Rock College show last night with his latest classic songwriter choice, following his selection of Dylan, Bowie and Prince for the 60,70s and 80s.

Introducing Robinson, dubbed Rock College’s “Head of Songwriting”, Lamacq said “maybe we have a surprising choice for you this week”.

Robinson said that the pop world had splintered into countless new genres in the 90s with something for every taste. “By the 90s no one songwriter would ever again influence the whole future direction of popular music - but this also meant that for artists at the lower end of the food chain DIY was now a viable career option and where most of the interesting work was taking place.”

"blew us off the stage"

In the 90s Robinson himself was on the road with punk rock star T.V. Smith touring grass roots venues around the UK. He told listeners: “That’s where I first came across the songwriter who for me personifies the DIY 90s – Steve Knightley played with multi-instrumental wizard Phil Beer in a tough, tight folk duo called Show of Hands. They were nominally supporting us but Steve’s timeless songs rooted in the soil of the West Country blew us off the stage. In the interval they set up a CD stall and relieved our audience of all their spare cash plus money they didn’t have, having thoughfully brought a credit card machine with them!”

He went on “By this means Show of Hands built a vast array of fans, touring relentlessly, by-passing big cities and the entire music industry and when they finally made their London debut in 1996 it was at the Royal Albert Hall – the venue they’ve just sold out for a fourth time, following on from a double win at the BBC R2 Folk Awards.” (Best Duo and Original Song for Arrogance Ignorance and Greed).

"no other English songwriter comes close"

 “Hundreds of writers were more famous than Steve Knightley but none of them employed their skills to greater effect - with the possible exception of Mark E Smith and Richard Thompson no other English songwriter comes close to the consistency and power of Steve’s back catalogue.”

Lamacq played Knightley’s Country Life about the decimation of rural living, with Robinson talking about its “sheer incandescent rage” and Lamacq concluding: “ That classic songwriting is still very much in evidence now”.  

Hear the segment at 33 mins in here

Show of Hands’s latest album Wake the Union, marking the 20th year of Knightley and Beer’s incredible partnership, is released October 15, featuring 11 new Knightley songs – a celebration of English and American roots music.

It will be showcased on a 28-date UK tour (October 10-December 1)