The Shee
Leading folk ensemble The Shee played to an attentive audience when they returned to Lichfield Guildhall. The group – Lillias Kinsman-Blake on flute, Shona Mooney on fiddle, Rachel Newton on electroharp, and vocals, Olivia Ross on fiddle, viola and vocals, Laura-Beth Salter on mandolin and vocals and Amy Thatcher on accordion and clog dancing – played music from the traditions of folk, Celtic and Americana in a way that was both innovative and in keeping with tradition.
The Shee
They began with Troubles, a brooding bluegrass Appalachian song that featured soaring vocal harmonies and an internal dynamic that managed to change pace without the need for a traditional drummer. Happy Halloween was a spirited instrumental for all of the group members, while a rendition of traditional gaelic mouth music from Rachel Newton was an early highlight. The ballad The Morning Star was an affecting piece with some heartfelt vocals from Olivia Ross and violin and flute parts that tugged at the heart-strings, before Scottish bagpipe music was the inspiration behind Pipes and Polly’s. The darker side of human experience was drawn on for the closing song of the first half, a harmony laden and musically complex reading of Abigail Washburn’s Sugar and Pie, the deftness and sweetness of the instrumental arrangement hiding the bitterness of the underlying message. In the second half the music developed a slightly more experimental flavour, with opener McRibbons’s Lament a ballad for the voices of Olivia Ross and Rachel Newton, and a sparse, but very effective musical soundscape. The instrumental Starlings was a piece that combined dance bass and rhythms from the electroharp with effective tune playing, and sterling support from the mandolin and accordion, while the haunting, ethereal murder ballad Three Knights had a Middle Eastern-sounding tone to the soundscape. Sugarwine on the other hand was a bright, feel good folk song about the excitement and possibilities of a brand new relationship. The Drunken Duck was another upbeat piece that built on a melodic phrase and added dynamics as it evolved. The traditional folk song Tom Paine’s Bones was a boisterous affair, that allowed for some more harmony singing and spirited playing from the band, while set closer Inge’s worked as a showcase for Amy Thatcher’s clog dancing and accordion playing. An encore of Down in the Ditch was another traditionally based piece that came to its fullest realisation within the live arena. The six piece packed a lot into their two hour set, from the most delicate of ballads to some raucous pieces, which meant that there was something for everyone.