Author: Suse Coon

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Friday, October 15th, 2010 at 1:56 pm
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Music Reviews

Decadent by name, more than Decent by nature

The word ‘decadent’ is used to describe corrosive decline due to a perceived erosion of moral traditions. It’s hard to see why The Shee have chosen this name for their latest album. They are an extremely hard-working and superbly talented combination of musicians.

The Shee’s line-up  includes Lillias Kinsman-Blake on flute and whistle, Shona Mooney on fiddle, Rachel Newton on electroharp and voice, Olivia Ross on fiddle, viola and voice, Laura-Beth Salter on mandolin and voice and Amy Thatcher on accordian – a bunch of graduates from Newcastle Uni’s Degree in Traditional Music, mostly Scottish in origin and with a background in traditional folk music. Nothing to get excited about there.

But throw in a parentage that includes internationally recognised lowland piper Gordon Mooney and his basoonist wife Barbara, a BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year and an artist who has performed with Sting. It’s getting interesting and it just gets better.

From the opening title, Troubles (aka Old Rub Alcohol Blues), led by Laura-Beth, this album is simply a feast of traditional music, given a talented twist of Borders and Highland as well as American Bluegrass. There’s even an Irish reel. Decadence provides an fascinating variety of genres, delivered with passion, creativity and panache. It’s traditional music delivered with contemporary flair.

From love songs like Vandy Vandy to songs of despair (Abigail Washburn’s Sugar and Pie) the voices are powerful, sensitive and delightful to engage with – not to mention Rachel Newton’s intriguing gaelic Puirt, unusually accompanied.

The dramatic combination of Shona Mooney on fiddle and Amy Thatcher on accordian create a rich sound in the instrumentals, not in the foot tapping style but just in something you want to listen to over and over again, picking out the intricate technical nuances in these unique arrangements.

Hard to pick a favourite, but my money for the moment is on Morning Star by Olivia Ross, penned, I believe for her sister.

Both together and in other combinations, The Shee are earning significant recognition both here and overseas. Their debut album A Different Season was  nominated in both the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. In addition to Shona’s BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician Award,  Lillias has won a Critics’ Awards For Theatre In Scotland For Best Use of Music  and there is obviously much more to come.

Indulge yourself, pour out a glass of your favourite tipple and enjoy a touch of Decadence in your life.

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