"A third album full of complex arrangements, strong singing and the clear sense of a band seriously stretching their wings."
THE SHEE is an exceptional all-female band and Murmurations, their third CD, further showcases their three exceptionally strong singers alongside astonishing instrumental prowess. Their diverse range of individual musical influences combine to produce an adventurous brew of Folk, Gaelic and Bluegrass. The arrangements on the new album are a mixture of their signature complex, inter-weaving textures and a brave, stripped-back feel on certain tracks. The new album, in part, illustrates a different side to a band unafraid to explore new territory and mix their ever-changing individual influences together, all the while managing to maintain a unique, recognisable sound.
The band is lucky to have a talented graphic designer in their ranks in the form of Lillias Kinsman-Blake. Lillias came up with the concept of designing every single album cover for Murmurations; differently, giving the owner a completely unique piece of artwork. "Every single album cover has been individually illustrated,” she explains, “to represent the endlessly evolving flight patterns of the Starlings. We wanted to give people something unique and personal that couldn't be experienced from simply downloading the music. As a band, we feel that the music on this album is particularly honest. We keep returning to the dynamic of the individual and yet the interaction between the group and the way our music draws heavily on our individual influences while maintaining a collective sound. This is illustrated through the murmuration of starlings."
As with the last two albums, The Shee arranged all the tracks together and the recording has no guest musicians. They are very glad to have brought in Duncan Lyall again as producer with Stuart Hamilton as their recording engineer. Castlesound Studios with its many booths and space allows the band to record live together as much as possible and the album was recorded in only four days.
1. Down in the Broom (Trad) The album opens with this beautiful, sparsely arranged traditional song featuring Olivia Ross on vocals and viola with harmonies from Rachel and Laura-Beth and fiddle played by Shona. We wanted to move away from the more obvious 'all guns blazing' first track and felt this would be a brave way to start the album.
2. Starlings: Tools (Calum MacCrimmon)/Too Many Socks (Amy Thatcher) This track introduces the rest of the instruments with Lillias and Laura-Beth taking the lead on the melody on flute and mandolin respectively with a bassline from Rachel's Electroharp underpinning the first tune. Accordion from Amy Thatcher comes to the fore later in the track to complete the line-up.
3. Three Knights (Trad) Led by Rachel Newton, this grizzly Child ballad, a version of The Cruel Brother, is largely accompanied by the Accordion and concentrates on using the three vocalists in the band to dramatic effect.
4. Northern Frisk: Creepy Carousel (Rachel Newton)/Northern Frisk (Trad) A delightfully creepy start with the electroharp taking the lead on the melody, joined by the other instruments in a complex and interweaving arrangement. The second tune is a traditional English tune, given the Shee treatment here with cross rhythms from the fiddles and soaring harmonies from the flute. Amy used to play Northern Frisk with the Fosbrooks, a fantastic folk music and dance group at her old Junior school in Stockport, to which the band have been glad to visit and teach workshops.
5. Our Bottle (Laura-Beth Salter) Written by Laura-Beth Salter, this song again makes the most of the three vocalists in the band. Mainly accompanied by mandolin and accordion, the track has been produced in a way that gives it an old-fashioned effect for the first part which then opens up into a vocal break, finally introducing the flute and fiddle into the mix. The song is about the breakdown of a relationship, using an ironic twist on the couple's waltz rhythm.
6. Strut: Eddlestone Strut (Amy Thatcher and Kieran Szifris)/Surprise (Shona Mooney) The first of these tunes Eddlestone Strut was written by Amy and Kieran Szifris, her partner and colleague in the Monster Ceilidh Band, to reflect a friend's individual walking style. Using all the instruments to great effect in this first tune, the fiddles provide much of the rhythm, the accordion and flute taking away the melody. The mandolin joins in on harmony and the harp comes in on the bass, leading into Shona's fiddle solo in the next tune, her own Surprise.
7. Pity Me (Olivia Ross) A song written by Olivia Ross, the chorus inspired by a couple of lines found in an American song book. Also partly inspired by Olivia's rediscovered love for eating apples!
8. Highlands and Flatlands Highlands (Olivia Ross)/Flatlands (Laura-Beth Salter) Two tunes, the first by Olivia the second by Laura-Beth. Both inspired by the place they come from. Olivia wrote the first tune as a nod to the Highland vocal airs, as collected by Patrick MacDonald in the late 1700s. Laura-Beth wrote Flatlands after the landscape of her native Lincolnshire.
9. Sugarwine (M.Beauchamp and L.Premo) Written by Laurel Premo. Laura-Beth stayed with Laurel's parents while on tour in the U.S last year. They have a big wooden house by a lake in Crystal Falls and while she was there Laura-Beth was treated to some of their homemade wine. They also gave her Laurel and her partner Michael Beauchamp's album and Laura-Beth reckons the song Sugarwine must have been inspired by the Premo's homemade wine.
10. Inge's (The Shee)/The Musical Chisolm Household (J.Holland)/Height of Rudeness (Rachel Newton) The first tune in this set is named Inge's and was written collectively by The Shee. For International Women's Day last year we ran a competition inviting people to nominate inspiring women for us to name a tune after. We loved reading all the stories that were sent in, but we were particularly moved by Inge and her long but in the end successful battle with breast cancer.
11. An Till Mise Chaoidh (Trad) A love song for the Island of Lewis, Rachel first heard this on a recording of the wonderful Gaelic singer Joan MacKenzie. We wanted to tie this in with the first track, so the fiddles return in a similar way, moving into something quite different. In live concerts we plan to add this to Down in the Broom to create a larger piece.
October will soon be upon us and we are looking forward to returning to some of our favourite venues in England. Check out our gigs page for more info if you’d like to come and see us.
This weekend we played at the lovely Ramsbottom Festival. What a great setting and line-up – a brilliant way to wind up our summer gigs. We also recently visited Nordsjofestivalen in the beautiful town of Farsund in Norway where we played in the beautiful cinema venue. Although the festival was quite small it had a brilliant mixture of bands playing at it and the sessions were jumping!
It’s been a busy year all round for us all outwith the band too. Rachel has just released her second solo album ‘Changeling‘ and is also a featured artist in the Elizabethan Session who also have a new release.
Amy has been busy recording and touring with Kathryn Tickell’s new band, The Side, whose album is due for release on the 29th of September. She has also been working with Shee band member, Shona, in her new band Shona Mooney and the Moss Troupers. Shona has also recently recorded on the Northumbrian Exchanges CD, exploring the common ground between Folk and Early music.
We are really looking forward to getting back on the road and playing a mixture of material from all three albums, so if you have any requests let us know and we might just be able to get them into the set list for you!
Cheerio for now
The Shee x
Ramsbottom 2014 by Mike Ainscoe
You can find our solo CDs and check out our other individual projects here;
Laura-Beth Salter http://laurabethsalter.com/
Rachel Newton http://www.rachelnewtonmusic.com/
Monster Ceilidh Band http://monsterceilidhband.co.uk/
Lillias Kinsman-Blake Design http://lillias.co.uk/
Emily Portman http://www.emilyportman.co.uk/
Lori Watson http://www.loriwatson.co.uk/
Mairearad Green http://www.mairearadgreen.com/