Among the stunning albums released recently Continuum deserves to be remembered as one of the best.
Highly respected all-female Scottish six piece The Shee have been together for 10 years and what better way to celebrate than by each member commissioning a track from one of their musical mentors/heroes.
While the album is an anniversary present to themselves the impetus for the project came from the Celtic Connections 2016 festival, where the music was given its world premier.
What we have is a thoughtful and emotional collection of songs and instrumentals, showing off the exquisite musicianship and intuitive interplay gained from their 10-year collaboration.
The album is at times angry, tender, melancholic and joyful and, definitely, a pleasure to listen to.
First track, From The Shadows, is by Laura-Beth Salter, who sings, plays mandolin and guitar. It's a strident, stark warning to the powerful about the growing anger of those they exploit and ignore.
Ower Late For The Lasses/Sheepolska is Kathryn Tickell's contribution, commissioned by fiddle-player Shona Mooney, and it starts as a soulful, border lament which moves into a more upbeat instrumental with a Scandinavian tinge. All the musicians play elegantly.
Working class resilience is the subject of Karine Polwart's offering, commissioned by vocalist and harp-player Rachel Newton. On an album packed with moving lyrics this is perhaps the stand-out. Starting with an archive recording of jute worker, labour activist, feminist and songwriter Mary Brooksbank singing The Jute Mill Song, Song For Mary was written as a way of connecting the past and the present.
Accordionist Amy Thatcher approached one of her former music teachers, Andy Cutting, whose contribution is the deft, lyrical and romantic Lady Grey.
Olivia Ross, on vocals, fiddle and viola, invited Chris Wood onto the project. He composed Cradle Song, with words by Hugh Lupton - a tender thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and an atmospheric invocation of the changing of the seasons, a foreshadowing of the move from innocence to maturity.
Peaks/Benasque and The Vampire Rabbit Of Newcastle/Don't Work Too Hard, showcase the instrumental perfection of the ensemble. Rhythm, complexity, lightness and humour are all in evidence, as well as a chance to have a bit of a dance.
Olivia's Precious Tears is a tender invocation of a nurturing, protective, unconditional love.
Inspired by travelling in India, Brian Finnegan contributed The Birds Of Salim Ali/On The Breathing Road/The Soaring Seas, after being asked by flutist Lillias Kinsman-Blake.
Martin Simpson, commissioned by Laura-Beth, came up with Jasper's/Dance With Me, both moving tributes to the dearly departed.
Definitely 10 out of 10 for this tenth anniversary celebration. Here's to another 10 years.
|Tim Easton: American Fork||The Honeycutters: On The Ropes|
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