Show of Hands consists of songwriter Steve Knightley and multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer. The seeds for the band were planted when the two were teenagers playing in their hometown of Exeter, Great Britain. They played together in various pubs and clubs around Europe, often with disastrous results, and eventually stopped performing together when high school ended. Knightley went to college while Beer dove right into the music industry. The two remained apart through the '80s, but found each other again and decided to start playing together. By 1991, they realized they still worked well as a duo and began to play out under the Show of Hands name.
Their first recordings were self-recorded efforts released on cassette tape (these have since been re-released on CD under the title Backlog), and they managed to break into the folk festival circuit through their efforts. They also formed a separate band, Alianza, which was made up of the two men and three Chilean musicians who had been exiled. This was only a short-lived project, but it opened their eyes to world music. They began to put together a collection of exotic instruments, writing many songs that utilized these new discoveries. They also started releasing CDs independently, and drafted producer Gerard O'Farrell into the fold as their sound engineer. He eventually became their manager and produced the album that finally got them noticed by the British press, 1996's Lie of the Land. They built a huge following from this new exposure and the following tour ended with their performance Live at the Royal Albert Hall, released later that year.
The duo consistently created music through the end of the ‘90s, and in 1998 they released their third album, Dark Fields, which consolidated their place on the British roots scene. In 2000, they released a record named Covers, which, as the titled suggests, contained cover versions of songs they had played together over the years. The collection included covers of artists such as Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan. They lost long-term producer/manager Gerard O’Farrell -- who returned to his home in Australia -- in the early 2000s and replaced him with Mick Dolan. This proved to be a busy time for the band as they revisited the Royal Albert Hall in 2001 to celebrate their 10th anniversary with a sold-out show that was broadcast in the U.K. In the same year, Cold Frontier arrived and marked the first album produced by Dolan. In 2003, they issued two albums. First was an instrumental effort titled The Path -- a musical journey through the West Coast of England where they grew up. The second release, Country Life, was well-received by plaudits and fans alike. The following year they were awarded BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Live Act.
A best-of titled Roots was compiled in 2007, and featured tracks from their first ten albums. They had their first U.K.-charting album in 2009 with Arrogance Ignorance and Greed, and the title track won song of the year in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. A second installment of cover versions was released in 2010 and featured a diverse repertoire, including Stereophonics' “Dakota” as well as Bob Marley's “No Woman, No Cry.” They followed it up with 2012's Wake the Union and 2016's The Long Way Home. ~ Bradley Torreano & Scott Kerr