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. The two played together in various pubs and clubs around Europe, often to disastrous results, and they eventually stopped performing together when high school ended. Knightley went to college while Beer dove right into the music industry. The two stayed apart through the '80s, but found each other both living in the same area, and decided to begin playing shows together again. By 1991, they realized they still worked well together, and began to play under the Show of Hands name.
Their first recordings were self-recorded efforts that were released on cassette tape (these have since been re-released onto 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 being 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 in the British roots scene. In 2000 they released a record named Covers, which as the titled suggested contained cover versions of songs they had played together over the years. The collection included works from artists such as Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan. They lost long-term producer/manager Gerard OFarrell -- who returned to his home in Australia -- in the early 00s and replaced him with Mick Dolan. The early 00s proved to be busy 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 UK. In the same year Cold Frontier arrived and marked the first album produced by Dolan. In 2003 they issued two albums in the same year. Firstly an instrumental piece entitled The Path appeared, that musically journeyed 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 was compiled in 2007, titled Roots and this collection featured tracks from their first ten albums. They had their first UK 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 instalment 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 returned in 2012 with their thirteenth studio album Wake the Union. ~ Bradley Torreano & Scott Kerr, Rovi