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 one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them 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  

Rachel Newton – The Shadow Side is reviewed by Mike Wilson

To say this album is understated, would be no overstatement. Shot through with an arresting delicacy that simply wills you to listen, it possesses a naked simplicity that radiates beauty. Whether it be singing, or playing the harp or fiddle, Rachel performs with an effortless allure that speaks to your innermost senses. Meticulously recorded by Mattie Foulds, The Shadow Side captures an intimacy that is nurtured by the sparing arrangements. With the crisp lucidity of Rachel’s playing and singing always to the fore, the restrained accompaniment of occasional guitar and percussion serves to accentuate a tenderness that boasts warmth and sincerity.

“Green Willow” will be one of the most truly beautiful songs you will hear all year, taming the assured vocals of Kris Drever to deliver a duet of unrelenting intensity and charm; it’s a performance that would surely melt even the hardest of hearts. Rachel pulls off a similar feat on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” imbuing it with a fragility that is almost harrowing.

The apprehensive eeriness of the sparse opening melody to “The Discoboat,” plucked slowly but determinedly on the harp, makes for an unsettling minute with sinister undertones, before giving way to a more animated melody where the sense of foreboding gives way to a sense of adventure. The title track lives up to its shadowy title; a gorgeous lament filled with longing, played with the utmost restraint and sensitivity.

There are buoyant offerings too, springing forth from Rachel’s harp with boundless energy and abandon, yet retaining the potency of the more reflective moments. The trio of tunes “The Last Minute / The Groupie / Height Of Rudeness” gathers momentum as it progresses towards its slightly manic close, showcasing the harp’s hypnotic combination of depth and agility. “Soundboards And Sockets” is another busy melody with its heady concoction of frantic fervour.

The album closes with the Gaelic song “Am Bruadar Ud a Chunnaic Mi,” sung over a mournful harmonium and yielding the most heartfelt and heartbreaking desolation; it’s endlessly captivating.

Rachel Newton can most often be found performing as part of The Shee or the Emily Portman Trio, but with The Shadow Side she quietly and assuredly places her solo accomplishments in full view.

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.

Artist Web link: http://www.rachelnewtonmusic.com/

RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries

Whisper this, but I hadn’t been to Fairport’s Cropredy Convention for twenty years. I had felt it was getting too big for my personal comfort – when I first went there was one campsite, now there are seven – but an insistent invitation drew me back this year. In fact what are bigger are the camper vans, the folding chairs and, dare I say, the waistlines. We older and …er…more substantial punters do like our comforts. Some aspects of the festival are more technological and sophisticated. The bar is a marvel of mobile opulence although initially no more efficient than in the days when there was oneWadsworth’s lorry, lots of barrels and one choice of beer. That’s no reflection on the brilliant bar-staff, by the way, but logistics do sometimes let the side down. Continue reading RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries

THE SHEE – Decadence (Shee Records 2)

Opening with a choral harmony that any church would be proud to have leading their congregation The Shee make their mark with the Gospel tinged “Trouble” before gearing up a notch with the pump and push of Amy Thatcher’s accordion and lead vocal provided by Laura-Beth Salter who also adds some tasty mandolin to proceedings a little later. Joined by the driving rhythms of Shona Mooney (fiddle), Olivia Ross (fiddle/viola) and Lillias Kinsman-Blake on flute it’s a great start to a refreshing album. Much like the Poozies of whom comparisons will likely be drawn this feisty sextuplet also includes the electro-harp of Rachel Newton added to the mix featured on the instrumental track “Shotgun”. Decadence may not be the kind of recording to give you an adrenalin rush but having said that if your looking for something that is classy with a bit of thought given to the arrangements you’ll find it a rewarding listen. Proving that they’re not just a bunch of pretty faces (although they are!) as depicted by Lauren Bishop’s illustration on the sleeve the girls would do justice to any M&S advert and at least they’re talented. www.theshee.com PETE FYFE