The 'house band' role Oysterband played in the UK for part of these years drew on the group’s formidable musical skills, rather as The Last Waltz did once upon a time for The Band. And it made them re-evaluate themselves. "We had to go back to the essential impulse that's kept the band kicking for almost 30 years - making new songs for ourselves," says Oysterbands Ian Telfer. "We put a PA system in a village hall on the Welsh border and got down to some serious playing. It's the doing it together that unlocks it for us," he insists. "It's the only way the songs can grow and breathe, of course. But also, we've always believed that creativity is a collective thing, and that's helped shape the band's politics. Not that we agree about everything, by a long chalk ... but hey, that's the spark."
Once new song structures were licked into shape, Oysterband took the best ideas to The Premises in Hackney (Europe's first solar-powered studio) to work on the voices and acoustic instruments. Some late ideas were added in Brighton and at cellist Chopper's studio in Sweden.
"I think the long, sustained preparation has enhanced Meet You There enormously," says Telfer. "The singing - everybody's singing - is better than it's ever been. The raw rush that used to take us out on tour with The Pogues etc has evolved into something more measured, more powerful. We listened to it all back when we'd finished and we all thought: 'Yes! Strong. Rooted.' (And then: 'Cop that!') Literally, it's been refreshing - it's renewed our self-belief."
"Meet You There" certainly delivers a fresh perspective on 'folk'. Check out the lovely mbira introduction by Chopper to the opening song "Over The Water", and the stinging rockabilly guitar beat of "Someone Somewhere" for contrast. For the singing, check out "Over The Water" again, "Where The World Divides", "The Boy's Still Running", the dreamy anthemic "Dancing As Fast As I Can". For the politics, the acid, knowing take on globalisation (over a cheery jugband backing) on "Here Comes The Flood".
"Meet You There is the most consistent thing we've done as a grown-up band," says Telfer. "It has what I like to think of as Oyster trademarks - a folk ear for a great vocal tune; strong lyrics; wry politics; and a sort of deep-down musicality that can afford to take itself fairly lightly. It's essentially acoustic, essentially folk-based I suppose. But we try to put it over with big dynamics and a sense of musical theatre."
30 years experience really shows.