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 the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the THE SHEE – Continuum link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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:

Top composers join The Shee to celebrate ten years

Top composers join The Shee to celebrate ten years
Photograph by David Boni

Multi instrumentalists and festival favourites, The Shee, have reached the ten-year milestone in their action-packed career, and intend to celebrate by creating a brand new body of original work.

Following three albums and a hectic touring schedule, the six members of the band have each approached a composer hero to write an original piece of music ahead of a prestigious premiere at Celtic Connections 2016.

The composers will then join The Shee on stage to introduce their piece and perform with the band as each is performed for the first time.

The composers are, in alphabetical order:

Andy Cutting
Brian Finnegan
Karine Polwart
Martin Simpson
Kathryn Tickell
Chris Wood   

The Shee’s accordionist, Amy Thatcher, said: ‘We can’t quite believe our luck: we’re getting some of the most influential musicians and composers on the current British folk scene to write original music for us. It’s going to be an incredible experience, and the perfect way to celebrate ten years of making music as The Shee.’

Following the premiere at Celtic Connections on 15 January 2016, the band will head back to the studio to work on a new album for release later that year.

Artists’ website: theshee.com  

Kan – Sleeper (Kan Music, 2012)

Kan are a folk quartet boasting an enviable line-up of stellar musicians who already command prominent reputations, both within the folk scene and beyond: Scotsman Aidan O’Rourke on fiddle, who has attracted much praise as part of folk wonder-trio Lau and Blazin’ Fiddles; Brian Finnegan, hailing from Armagh, on flute and whistles, formerly of Flook; Yorkshireman and multi-instrumentalist, Ian Stephenson on guitar, bass, mandolin, piano, and harmonium, a former BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner; whilst drums and percussion come courtesy of Jim Goodwin.

From the outset the stakes are pretty high, and Kan rise to the challenge superbly with this eclectic, energetic set. Variety abounds throughout, with moments of hushed subtlety building to frenzied, celebratory episodes, and whilst the musical flavours are predominantly those of the English, Irish and Scottish traditions, there is a worldly feel throughout the album. One or more of the quartet are involved in the writing of each of the eight album tracks, and coupled with arrangements that fuse the very best that each musician has to offer, they manage to create a sound that is assuredly distinct.

Opening track “One Two Three” sets the tone immediately with the percussion and guitar providing a fresh, avant-garde moodscape over which fiddle and whistles weave their sumptuous, traditional-influenced melodies; it’s a recipe that works well. Even the frequently surfacing Celtic flavours of the album are peppered with perfectly measured percussive underpinnings that feed off the natural energy of the melodies rather than overwhelm them. It maybe comes as no surprise to note that the masterful Calum Malcolm is responsible for the mixing of this album, and no doubt the well measured balance of this recording owes much to his involvement.

Sleeper is an album that is positively effervescent, treading a path of fusion that others frequently get so wrong. Seducing with its expansive, understated moments, and arousing with its explosive energy, it’s an album that will appeal to both the discerning individual listener as well as the massed carousal of a festival audience.

Mike Wilson

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON – HANDS ON MUSIC HMCD035

Miranda and Rex play together in The Scoville Units, purveyors of Celtic bluegrass. Miranda is, of course, well known as the third member of Show Of Hands and Rex is a rising star in mandolin-playing circles, working with Cara Dillon and Brian Finnegan.

It’s clear from the start that their backgrounds have shaped their debut album together. The songs are mostly covers with one original instrumental and a traditional arrangement from Rex. The first two songs are by Kate Rusby and Karine Polwart – the latter being a gorgeous gently rocking version of ‘Only One Way’ – and from the first few notes you know that this is something rather special. The sound is incredibly rich and I searched in vain for a list of guest musicians. There is a guitar in there and I’m guessing that Rex plays it but top marks for production whoever it is. Continue reading MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON – HANDS ON MUSIC HMCD035

CARA DILLON – Live At The Grand Opera House (Charcoal Records CHARDVD001)

CARA DILLON Live At The Grand Opera HouseOK, some of us lesser mortals working within the confines of the poverty stricken ‘folk scene’ would find it hard to muster enough funds to run to making a top-notch DVD but thank goodness that some can. Seth Lakeman, Bellowhead, The Transatlantic Sessions and of course Cara’s previous DVD “The Redcastle Sessions” are all shining examples of how well this minority music can flourish in the art of visual presentation. Cara will require no introduction for those that have followed her burgeoning career from the early days with the band Oige (and yes, I’m pleased to say “I was there”) to the full-blown heights she has arrived at today. A thoughtful selection of songs predominantly selected from her critically acclaimed album “Hill Of Thieves” plus extras including “Black Is The Colour” and “There Were Roses” along with a set of tunes “The Knotted Hanky/The Huntsman/The Gold Ring” and you have a perfect evening. Although the DVD is squarely focused on the lady herself, Dillon’s associates as one would expect are a who’s who of the Celtic music scene and in this respect we have Ed Boyd (guitar), Zoe Conway (fiddle), James Fagan (guitar/bouzouki), Brian Finnegan (flute/whistles), Sam Lakeman (piano/guitar), Eamon Murray (bodhran/shaker) and James O’Grady (Uilleann pipes/low whistle). Full credit must also be given to the excellent camera crew (I think I counted about five) who between them managed to capture the musicians flailing fingers and plenty of smiles from both the audience and band. The only thing I can find at fault with this otherwise well produced DVD is the ‘behind the scenes’ extras which is a video played over and over again…three times actually…accompanied by different songs. Cheap, but not so cheerful – Hey Ho but I suppose you can’t have everything.

PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the DVD then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

Flook – Flatfish

FLOOK FLATFISHOrginal folking.com Posting date – 17-May-2001

Flook are like a well-oiled machine, with the many parts working in harmonious precision. Driving the sound is the flute interplay of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, supported by the deft rhythm section of guitar and bodhran. ‘Flatfish’ is full of vitality and energy, from the outset the track ‘Calico’ sets the scene with it’s flutey fruity antics. ‘Eb reels’ moves the sound into overdrive, with a frantic cascade of intricate flute parts. Slower and more reflective moods are captured in ‘The Gentle Giant’ and ‘Flatfish’. ‘Happy Jigs’ is uplifting and sprightly, while ‘Flutopia’ is a rich cornucopia of European styles which twist and turn at every corner. This album’s unique flute based sound gives it a cutting edge, which holds your attention from start to finish.

Continue reading Flook – Flatfish