Few bands would dare to involve the biggest, most respected names of their genre in their latest project, but The Shee, quietly, steadily building a reputation for innovative arrangements and immaculate live performances, have undoubtedly earned the respect of their peers. The Shee’s latest project is no run of the mill, sequential album, either, but a thoughtful, considered celebration of their first decade together.
Continuum was conceived by the band with Celtic Connections, one of the most influential and important festivals in contemporary British folk music. The project has given each member of The Shee license to dream: to commission a British folk musician hero to write an original piece specifically with the band in mind. The musicians duly chosen were: Andy Cutting, Brian Finnegan, Karine Polwart, Martin Simpson, Kathryn Tickell and Chris Wood, and the pieces given their world premiere at Celtic Connections 2016.
This album, then, is the aural souvenir of that collaboration, ten tracks varying in theme and influence but bound by exquisite craftwomanship. There might be six performers in the band, and multi instrumental skills in abundance, but each track allows the narrative – be that words or melody – to take centre stage with accompaniment that is never the most obvious choice but complements naturally.
Songs are delivered by full bodied, confident vocals, a call to arms, like the curious ‘Cradle Song’ where Olivia Ross continues to sing even when the storm is closing in around her. Tunes are wordless songs, where instrumental interplay conveys the message just as easily as lyrics, like the talkative fiddles in ‘The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle’. Invocation of atmosphere and ambience is evidently of utmost importance to The Shee, too, with instruments and textures permitted to shift and mutate as the imagined scene dictates.
Continuum is the powerful product of a unique collaboration, of which the band and their contributors should be proud.
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