MONSTER CEILIDH BAND – Mutation (Haystack Records HAYCD011)

MutationThere was a time when I would stand in front of a ceilidh band and when things were going well and you had a hall full of people who were into it it was the most fun you could have with your clothes on. When it comes to recording an album a ceilidh band has two choices: play the music four-square for dancing and teaching or spice it up a bit. The first option must be deadly for the band so, with Mutation, Monster Ceilidh Band have opted for the latter, recording this set live off the floor at Castle Sound under the watchful eye of Stuart Hamilton.

The band can boast four writers who are responsible for 80% of the record. There’s Amy Thatcher, purveyor of accordion to The Shee and Kathryn Tickell, fiddlers Shona Mooney (The Shee) and Grace Smith (The Rachel Hamer Band) and multi-instrumentalist Kieran Szifris, who restricts himself to octave mandolin on this album. Add a couple of traditional tunes and a borrow from Adam Sutherland and there you have it. Monster Ceilidh Band don’t go in for monster medleys only pairing tunes.

The opening set, ‘Venus’, is one such pairing, mating ‘Proximo B’ by Shona with ‘Venus’ by Amy. The others are ‘Mutated Beeswing’ pairing the essentially fiddle solo of ‘The Beeswing Hornpipe’ with Shona’s title track. It’s not clear who the soloist given but as Amy joins in after a couple of minutes I’m guessing it’s Shona. ‘Mutation’ is mutated by Joseph Truswell’s electronics which are a feature of the album. Here, there is something that could be accordion but could equally be distorted wordless vocals.

The band move seamless from that to the relatively conventional ‘All The Swingle Ladies’ by Keiran, half of which you could dance to if you could keep up the pace. Great titles include ‘Trouser Worrier’, ‘Octopus’ and ‘Disgrace’, the latter coming from the quill of Grace Smith as if you had to ask. Even past the record’s half-way mark we hear something new as ‘Never Will’ is introduced by snarling, distorted…what? Bass, I suppose as David de la Haye takes a brief solo.

No, you’re not going to dance (in any formal sense) to ‘Mutation’, although Joseph’s drums are rock solid throughout, but you will enjoy some musical invention.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: http://monsterceilidhband.co.uk/

‘Disgrace’:

THE SHEE – Continuum (Shee Records SHEE4)

ContinuumThe concept behind Continuum, supported by Celtic Connections, was to celebrate their tenth anniversary by having each of them commission a musician of their choice to write a piece of music for the album. That’s only half the story, of course, for the band had then to arrange the music for six players and write some pieces to bind the whole thing together.

The opening song is ‘From The Shadows’ by Laura-Beth Salter. It’s a powerful call to arms to … ah, well. It could be a feminist piece, the logical first thought, but it could be a warning to the rich and powerful that the poor and oppressed aren’t going to take it any more. Next come two atmospheric pieces by Kathryn Tickell; one evoking the borders and the other with a Scandinavian feel. The playing, needless to say, is exquisite.

Rachel Newton commissioned Karine Polwart and the result is ‘Song For Mary’. The Mary in question is Mary Brooksbank, composer of ‘The Jute Mill Song’ and an archive recording of one verse forms the introduction. We’re not told that it’s Mary herself but I’d like to think it is. Amy Thatcher naturally turned to a box-player and who better than Andy Cutting? Olivia Ross’ choice was Chris Wood who shares the credit for ‘Cradle Song’ with lyricist Hugh Lupton. The Shee turns what could be a pretty little song into something quite strange so you’re not sure whether this a mother singing to her baby from the safety of a warm fireside or struggling home from the storm outside.

Laura-Beth, Amy and Shona Mooney provide the next two tune sets with Shona responsible for the wonderfully titled ‘The Vampire Rabbit Of Newcastle’. Olivia wrote ‘Precious Tears’, a song for children – possibly the band members’ own – and Brian Finnegan wrote a trio of tunes with Lillias- Kinsman-Blake’s flute and a journey through India in mind. Finally, we have Martin Simpson’s song for his mother. ‘Dance With Me’ might be seen as the companion-piece to ‘Never Any Good’. Laura-Beth sings it and plays mandolin where Martin would use guitar and the band play what is almost an orchestral accompaniment.

Continuum is a monument to musical collaboration and the exchange of ideas but more than that, it is a tribute to six exceptionally talented musicians.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: https://theshee.com/

‘Ower Late For The Lasses/Sheepolska’ and more with Kathryn Tickell live at Celtic Connections 2016:

KATHRYN TICKELL & THE SIDE: new album

KTandSide‘Kathryn Tickell & The Side’
Release Date: 29th September 2014
Label: Resilient Records RES006 (Proper Distribution)

Kathryn Tickell & The Side features Kathryn Tickell on Northumbrian pipes, fiddle and voice; Louisa Tuck (Royal Northern Sinfonia) cello; Amy Thatcher, accordion and voice and Ruth Wall, harps (lever, bray, wire-strung) and voice.

When world-renowned Northumbrian piping virtuoso Kathryn Tickell decided to put a new band together, she wasn’t going to let a mere 600 mile round trip for rehearsals stand in her way (Ruth, the harpist, lives in Cornwall, the rest of the band are in Northumberland) nor was she daunted by the fact that cellist Louisa already had a full-time job with Royal Northern Sinfonia. “These are the musicians I wanted to work with” she says “and the best things in life are not always the easiest!” Eighteen months later, that determination and focus has paid dividends with the release of the ensemble’s eponymous debut album Kathryn Tickell & The Side which will be released on 29th September, followed by a UK tour in October / November.

You may be tempted to think that this is a band of two halves – the folk (Kathryn and Amy) and the classical (Louisa and Ruth). However, when you experience the music you realise that Kathryn Tickell has created a beautifully integrated ensemble. Coming from very different musical backgrounds, these four strong-willed women each bring different influences to bear on the music, exploring new sounds and musical territories, resulting in an album that positively celebrates the cross-fertilisation of ideas and musical genres, whilst still sounding entirely natural. This is also, quite possibly, the only folk album with over 35 BBC Proms appearances between the four band members!

Kathryn Tickell & The Side comprises eleven original pieces by Kathryn Tickell, one by Amy Thatcher, two classical pieces and two traditional folk tunes. The music – as you would imagine – is deeply rooted in the landscape and history of Northumbria.  ‘Dark Skies Waltzcelebrates the area between Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish border being awarded ‘Dark Sky status’ making it the largest area of protected night sky in Europe. ‘Bonny Breezes’ takes its inspiration from the Northumbrian song ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’. ‘Ad Gefrin’ was inspired by the royal palace of the Kings of Northumbria and brings together the ancient and modern, combining the sound of Ruth Wall’s buzzing Gothic bray harp with occasional echoes from guest Dominic Miller’s electric guitar. Although primarily an instrumental ensemble, The Side include one song on the CD, the intriguing ‘Queen of Pleasure’ (based on a poem by Charles Algernon Swinburne).

Kathryn Tickell & The Side is a tour de force of lush soundscapes, stark lines and rich textures and, of course, stunning musicianship. The album also showcases Kathryn’s skill as a composer: she’s always been able to write a great tune, but here she truly raises the bar.

Kathryn Tickell & The Side also features two special guests from the Royal Northern Sinfonia – percussionist Marney O’Sullivan and violinist (and leader of the orchestra) Bradley Creswick, as well as some tasty guitar work from Sting’s long-time guitarist Dominic Miller.

“Britain’s most celebrated traditional musician and the world’s foremost virtuoso on the Northumbrian pipes… I can’t remember feeling so exhilarated by such a match of music and landscape.” Richard Morrison, The Times

Artist’s website: www.kathryntickell.com

 

KATHRYN TICKELL – Northumbrian Voices (Park Records PRKCD121)

KATHRYN TICKELL Northumbrian VoicesThere can be nobody prouder than a father and raconteur (Mike Tickell) witnessing his daughter entertaining an audience from centre stage and in this case the daughter (Kathryn Tickell) vice-versa. That much is obvious from the camaraderie of everyone involved on this wonderfully crafted 2-disk set from those very fine chaps at Park Records. Now, where do you place a recording that would comfortably settle on either an audio book or music CD shelf? Well, for me it sits alongside my previous recordings of her albums of which I profess to own most of them. Although internationally recognised for her achievements in ‘folk’ music circles as one of its major driving forces when it comes to her native Northumbria this beautiful part of the North-East couldn’t find a better ambassador. After sifting through many old cassettes Kathryn had the unenviable task of selecting certain recordings that represented her friends, family and neighbours. With respect, that part of the process must have been made easy as all involved impart their wit and wisdom with such convivial jocularity that you’ll wish you could have been there in person. For those of us lucky enough to witness the ‘Border Shepherds’ (Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson and Joe Hutton) in the early 80’s have much to be thankful for and it’s a treat to be reminded of their gentle banter and good humour celebrated by Martin Simpson’s song simply titled “Will Atkinson” and sung acapella by the girls. Talking of which…hearty congratulations all round to Tickell’s accompanying musicians; Hannah Rickard (fiddle), Kit Haigh (guitar), Patsy Reid (fiddle), Julian Sutton (melodeon), David McCracken (voice) and Amy Thatcher’s piano accordion. This album was obviously a labour of love and one that will warmly embrace the listener like a freshly stoked fire and if somebody can kindly get my slippers, pipe and bottle of Newcastle Brown I’ll be an even happier man. Finally…anyone who can complement me on my use of polyrhythm guitar (and know what they’re talking about) at Gosport & Fareham Festival is alright in my books!

PETE FYFE

Artist web links: www.kathryntickell.com

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.