A Celebration of Old England

by Anna Shannon

Hailing from the North Yorkshire National Park, Anna Shannon deeply embraces all things rustic. On hearing her compositions it is clear that the wonders of the natural world are the things that strongly colour her narratives. She is an immensely skilled multi-tasker, a creative and strikingly accomplished singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and designer, with her own definite, intense vision and a strong musical identity to match. Anna is carrying on a musical tradition, finding fresh meaning and relevance for us all in the old ways. Anna was born into a musical family but it wasn’t until in her early twenties that she discovered the folk scene. 2006 saw her first album “The Whale Dreaming” being released after being encouraged by winning BBC Radio “Yorkshire Songwriter of the Year”. Her latest sees her forging a strong path into the heart of today’s folk club and festival circuit.

Anna played Chapel guitars, fiddle, oboe, soprano sax, flute, recorders, chanter, shruti, bowed psaltry, and percussion.

Roy Piper played Chapel B-Bass on Old Jonny Barley



A singer/songwriter of the highest calibre. Her thoughtful and imaginative guitar accompaniment is a true match to these fine songs" Martyn Wyndham-Read

I have had the honour of sharing the stage with Anna Shannon, She's a truly fine multi instrumentalist, a great singer and as far as I'm concerned, a major song writing talent. The clubs and festivals are yearning for what she has to offer" Vin Garbutt

"She has a really innovative approach to songwriting, her work is melodic and extremely interesting; the strength of her vocal delivery took me completely by surprise. Her lyrics carry precise story lines wrapped in just the right amount of imagery and her guitar work is so much more than accompaniment, rather it is an integral part of each song." Mike Silver

1 Birthing the Plough 
Anna Shannon 
The travelling stallion was a welcome sight to communities across England. Mares would be brought for servicing and the handler housed in cottages and barns before moving on to the next town. "The Diamond Cutter" was a famous sire and although there are no written records, his lineage is in many of the coloured cobs we see today. 

2 Hereandgoneagen 
Anna Shannon 
During Cromwell's reign, song, dance and music were punishable by gaol or the gallows so any such activity would need to be short and sharp, followed by an even quicker disappearing act. 

3 The Sheep They Bide 
Anna Shannon 
The creatures I admire the most that have to endure the North Yorkshire Moors in winter, are the sheep. They take life in the moment and simply bide their time till the first signs of spring push through. 

4 Ways of the Hunting 
Anna Shannon 
Fox hunting has caused more controversy and heartache than most traditions over the centuries and continues to do so. The people mentioned in this song are all local to our Staintondale hunt. I must add that, as a songwriter, I am delighted to be able to have a triumphant fox once again! 

5 Craftsmen of Old England 
Anna Shannon 
Where would England have been without her master craftsmen and their skills? Skills that we must endeavour to keep alive today. I have included only a handful here, I wanted to mention many many more but the resulting song would have lasted for 46 verses... a daunting thought indeed! 

6 Lady of Grace 
Anna Shannon 
A lady in waiting declares her love and admiration for her beloved queen 

7 The Gilded Cage 
Anna Shannon 
Caged birds were thought to bring good luck and were common right up to Victorian times, when conservation began to grow in popularity and observing birds in the garden became positively fashionable. This tune represents a caged bird and culminates in his flight to freedom through the open window. 

8 Old Bob and the Poacher 
Anna Shannon 
Poaching as we all know was a necessity in order to keep a poor man and his family alive, providing he was able to get away with it! 

9 Polly Cooper 
Anna Shannon 
A servant girl tells of her plight after being dismissed through no fault of her own. Sadly a tale all too common in Old England 

10 The Traveller’s Ways 
Anna Shannon 
Stories often tell of gypsies wanting to steal gorgios (settled people’s) children when in fact many cases have proved exactly the opposite. "Well to do" families would often attempt to buy or acquire Romani children whilst their families worked in the hop groves or on farms, with no regard for human feeling. In this song a gypsy takes what is rightfully his, but by questionable means. 

11 Old Jonny Barley 
Anna Shannon 
Since time immemorial, alcohol has fuelled every man, whether he be rich or poor! 

12 Little Bright Bird 
Anna Shannon 
A "little bird" informs a young girl of her lover's infidelity 

13 Gaudete 
Traditional 
How could l have recorded this album without including my favourite of all time! This 15th century piece never fails to stir a great sense of excitement in me! 

14 Harbinger’s March 
Anna Shannon 
A vast and coloured entourage would accompany an English queen as she moved throughout her domain.
Birthing the Plough
The travelling stallion was a welcome sight to communities across England. Mares would be brought for servicing and the handler housed in cottages and barns before moving on to the next town. "The Diamond Cutter" was a famous sire and although there are no written records
Hereandgoneagen
During Cromwell's reign
Sample not available
The Sheep They Bide
The creatures I admire the most that have to endure the North Yorkshire Moors in winter
Ways of the Hunting
Fox hunting has caused more controversy and heartache than most traditions over the centuries and continues to do so. The people mentioned in this song are all local to our Staintondale hunt. I must add that
Craftsmen of Old England
Where would England have been without her master craftsmen and their skills? Skills that we must endeavour to keep alive today. I have included only a handful here
Sample not available
Lady of Grace
A lady in waiting declares her love and admiration for her beloved queen
Sample not available
The Gilded Cage
Caged birds were thought to bring good luck and were common right up to Victorian times
Sample not available
Old Bob and the Poacher
Poaching as we all know was a necessity in order to keep a poor man and his family alive
Sample not available
Polly Cooper
A servant girl tells of her plight after being dismissed through no fault of her own. Sadly a tale all too common in Old England
Sample not available
The Traveller’s Ways
Stories often tell of gypsies wanting to steal gorgios (settled people’s) children when in fact many cases have proved exactly the opposite. "Well to do" families would often attempt to buy or acquire Romani children whilst their families worked in the hop groves or on farms
Sample not available
Old Jonny Barley
Since time immemorial
Sample not available
Little Bright Bird
A "little bird" informs a young girl of her lover's infidelity
Gaudete
How could l have recorded this album without including my favourite of all time! This 15th century piece never fails to stir a great sense of excitement in me!
Sample not available
Harbinger’s March
A vast and coloured entourage would accompany an English queen as she moved throughout her domain.
Sample not available

Fatea

Kath Reade

Yorkshire Songwriter of the Year 2006, classically trained in flute as a child, Anna Shannon now lives in a caravan on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, strongly connected with Nature, her horses, and her deep love of music. She has an appreciation of the traditional crafts and culture of old England. This album is a loving and skilful testament by a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is increasingly widely admired.

Anna's voice is strong, clear, and totally committed to her art as she pays homage to traditonal ways of life. There is a feeling of being captivated by her songs, her playing, her voice, until you are deeply drawn in to the atmosphere and the stories on this album. Thoroughly enjoyable!

There are no passenger songs here, but I would pick out 'The Sheep They Bide' as a beautiful atmospheric description of the endurance and living in the moment qualities of the moorland sheep, biding their time until Spring. A song others may want to add to their repetoire.

There is much versatility, from the faultless unaccompanied close harmonies of 'Ways of the Hunting', celebrating local people being 'out-foxed', to the medieval instrumentation of 'Harbinger's March, accompanying an ancient royal entourage. Her skills include the playing, to great effect, of a bowed psaltry on 'Lady of Grace' as Anna's voice assumes the passive higher register of a Lady in Waiting. The melodic drone of the shruti box underpins Anna's trad. folk voice in 'Polly Cooper' as she recalls the fate of many a serving girl, and there is a very respectable rendering of 'Gaudete'. Anna's strong story-telling is to the fore again in 'Old Bob and the Poacher' to a solid guitar backing and a powerful message about equal rights to Nature's bounty. She sets the record straight in 'The Traveller's Way' with a poignant rendering of the fate of Romani children whose parents came to work in the hop fields, with a sensitive musicality that runs through this CD.

As well as rollicking chorus songs about real ale, Anna amazes with a soaring flute depicting a caged bird's escape to freedom, and a gorgeous song 'Little Bright Bird', about a Bullfinch warning a maiden of her lover's infidelty.

Anna Shannon has created a memorable album of original songs that sound like classics, sung with absolute commitment and charm. Anna's beguiling voice and multi-instrumental talent are the perfect vehicle for this formidable collection of beautiful, touching songs. 'A Celebration of Old England' should take its proud place among highly rated folk albums.

Folk News Kernow

Chris Ridley

This is a triumph! Anna writes all fourteen songs and plays all the many instruments; she also double-tracks herself singing. The result is a driving and fascinating venture, especially as her voice is very fine, and grand to listen to. Several of her songs deal with country trades in a simple and sympathetic way, grounded in her voice and instrumentation. A truly remarkable talent, elegantly brought out in this recording I concur!

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

Anna will already be well known to many of you I'm sure, having been deemed 'Yorkshire Song Writer of the Year' in 2006 and subsequently having made many appearances at clubs and festivals around the north and elsewhere.

This CD is her first with Wild Goose although she has made ten other CDs in the last few years as well as writing a song book with twenty of her songs in it. Prolific or what?

Apart from the traditional song Gaudete all the other thirteen tracks on this album are self-penned. Anna opens the CD with Birthing the Plough which, although set in England,  belies her Irish ancestry in its delivery and also her deep knowledge of horses. Similarly, Hereandgonagain, although it tells about the entertainers set during the time of Cromwell who needed to be off the blocks if the authorities showed, has an Irish feel to it in its delivery.

She then slows things down with the haunting The Sheep They Bide. This song shows clearly Anna's knack of creating a contemporary song that 'sounds' traditional. It also illustrates some of her multi-tasking musician's skills.

In fact, she plays all the instruments on the CD herself using multi-tracking including guitar, fiddle, oboe, soprano-sax, flute, recorders, chanter, shruti box (an instrument of Indian origin rather like a simple harmonium that provides a drone accompaniment), percussion and, how wonderful to hear it so appropriately on the Lady of Grace track, the bowed psaltery.

Not only does Anna play all the instruments on the CD but this self-contained lady also provides all the harmonies on Ways of the Hunting and the choruses in some songs. Her voice is powerful and melodic whether singing the lead or harmonising with herself (it's a shame she can't replicate this on her live gigs!) on the songs. There are a number of well written songs here and the ones that took my particular fancy were Old Bob and the Poacher and the poignant Polly Cooper which tells the tale of a poor servant girl whose employers would have been prosecuted in this day and age!

There are two 'tune only' tracks The Gilded Cage where Anna shows off her skills on the whistle which, and this is a personal thing and nothing to do with Anna's skilful playing, I found a little too piercing for my taste and Harbinger's March which involves a number of instruments again all skilfully played.

Thankfully, Anna has avoided the ploy of some singer/songwriters of only listing the song titles and has instead provided the background to her compositions with comprehensive sleeve notes. I'm sure in the future some of Anna's songs will be as well sung by others as are those of the late Keith Marsden and Graeme Miles.

This is a superb album where Doug Bailey at Wild Goose has accurately captured Anna's voice and produced yet another well mastered CD.

Highly recommended!

Folk Monthly

Bob Bignell

As the saying goes, this CD does what it says on the tin   a celebration indeed! All of the fourteen tracks, with the exception of the 15th century Gaudete, were written by Anna yet every one of them could be classed as "traditional".

Anna has a great simplicity in her writing and her recording. With the exception of Roy Piper's delicate bass playing on Old Johnny Barley, Anna sings, harmonises and plays all of the instruments on this, her latest recording   guitars, fiddle, oboe, soprano sax, flute, recorders, chanter, shruti, bowed psaltry and percussion. Despite that impressive list, this CD is by no means over produced. Each voice, each instrument has its own necessary place in creating an atmosphere that is almost Medieval.

I can vouch, having seen Anna feature some of the tracks in her live performance, that the songs are more than strong enough to stand on their own two feet and by no means lose their significance without the additional vocalisation and instrumentation of the recording. I predict that many of them will find their way into the repertoires of other artists and floor singers. Having seen The Full English a couple of times, it wouldn't have surprised me to find an Anna Shannon song amongst their live offerings.

The subjects of Anna's songs reflect her joy of all things rustic with ill treated servant girls, hunting, ale, poachers, travelling troubadours, and, of course, her beloved dogs and horses all featuring. If I have to pick a favourite track, it would be Craftsmen of Old England, whose skills, as Anna says in her excellent sleeve notes, we must endeavour to keep alive today.

I would recommend that you buy this CD from Wildgoose Records. Their web site give samples of only four of the tracks but if you go to Amazon you can sample them all before returning to Wildgoose to complete your purchase. Go and buy it and, better still, get to see her live!

Tykes News and Fatea

Kath Reade

Yorkshire Songwriter of the Year 2006, classically trained in flute as a child, Anna Shannon now lives in a caravan on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, strongly connected with Nature, her horses, and her deep love of music. She has an appreciation of the traditional crafts and culture of old England. This album is a loving and skilful testament by a singer�songwriter and multi�instrumentalist who is increasingly widely admired.

Anna's voice is strong, clear, and totally committed to her art as she pays homage to traditional ways of life. There is a feeling of being captivated by her songs, her playing, her voice, until you are deeply drawn in to the atmosphere and the stories on this album. Thoroughly enjoyable! There are no passenger songs here, but I would pick out The Sheep They Bide as a beautiful atmospheric description of the endurance and living in the moment qualities of the moorland sheep, biding their time until spring. A song others may want to add to their repertoire. There is much versatility, from the faultless unaccompanied close harmonies of Ways of the Hunting, celebrating local people being 'out�foxed', to the medieval instrumentation of Harbinger's March, accompanying an ancient royal entourage.

Her skills include the playing, to great effect, of a bowed psaltery on Lady of Grace as Anna's voice assumes the passive higher register of a Lady in Waiting. The melodic drone of the shruti box underpins Anna's trad. folk voice in Polly Cooper as she recalls the fate of many a serving girl, and there is a very respectable rendering of Gaudete. Anna's strong story�telling is to the fore again in Old Bob and the Poacher to a solid guitar backing and a powerful message about equal rights to Nature's bounty. She sets the record straight in The Traveller's Way with a poignant rendering of the fate of Romani children whose parents came to work in the hop fields, with a sensitive musicality that runs through this CD. As well as rollicking chorus songs about real ale, Anna amazes with a soaring flute depicting a caged bird's escape to freedom, and a gorgeous song 'Little Bright Bird', about a Bullfinch warning a maiden of her lover's infidelity.

Anna Shannon has created a memorable album of original songs that sound like classics, sung with absolute commitment and charm. Anna's beguiling voice and multi�instrumental talent are the perfect vehicle for this formidable collection of beautiful, touching songs. A Celebration of Old England should take its proud place among highly rated folk albums.      

Le Canard Belgium

Elle habite dans une caravane pr�s du marais du North Yorkshire, avec des chevaux, son potager et son artisanat. Apr�s un premier album en 2006 - elle venait de d�couvrir la musique folk, cette chanteuse, compositrice et multi-instrumentiste (fl�te, guitare, violon, sax, clarinette, psalt�rion � archet) nous revient dans le plus pur style traditionnel anglais. Un m�lange de traditionnels et de belles compositions, de ballades et de chansons espi�gles, avec une voix au timbre particulier qui attire l'attention, le tout parsem� de quelques instrumentaux. L'amour, l'alcool, la chasse au renard, une servante injustement licenci�e, les nomades, figurent parmi les th�mes abord�s. C'est un cd tr�s plaisant, avec un titre qui correspond bien au contenu

R2

Ian Croft

This is a fine album of traditional songs and tunes, except it isn't. Anna Shannon has such an understanding of the tradition that her own compositions appear to be part of it, and she has a great ear for tunes too. On A Celebration Of Old England, she performs eleven self penned songs, two instrumentals, and covers her favourite trad song, 'Gaudete'.

The songs encompass a wide range of traditional themes   craftsmen, hunting, poachers, dancing bears, sheep, servant girls, infidelity, and drinking. 'Old Jonny Barley' is a cousin of 'John Barleycorn' with a great chorus. In 'Ways Of The Hunting', the fox escapes while horses and riders end up in the bog. 'The Traveller's Ways' tells of a traveller who tries to retrieve his baby from its mother, a lady, with unexpected consequences.

Anna plays and sings everything herself, using multi tracking to great effect. The list of instruments is impressive guitars, fiddle, oboe, sax, flute, recorders, chanter, shruti, bowed psaltery, and percussion  and there are usually two or more on each track. Vocals are also multi tracked regularly  'Gaudete' gets a particularly intricate arrangement with multiple overlaid harmonies. From start to finish, this album is brimming with good songs and tunes.

The Living Tradition

Grem Devlin

This album is a delightful showcase for the song writing of this multi instrumentalist, a native of North Yorkshire, but familiar to me from successive Fylde Folk Festivals, where I've seen her give some blinding performances.

However, she really comes into her own on this recording, which gives us the opportunity to hear her many instrumental talents overlaid with care by the producer (Doug Bailey). Of the 14 songs, 13 are self penned (the exception being a new take on the Trad. Gaudete   yes, the one that Steeleye had a Christmas hit with all those years ago).

The subject matter is almost exclusively rural   hunting, poaching, farming, travellers and country crafts. Anna has a vocal delivery that shouts its ethnic credentials and all of her songs sound like they have been handed down over generations, rather than contemporary. The Traveller's Ways is a prime example, but I could just as easily have cited Polly Cooper or The Sheep They Bide   in fact any of her compositions.

Her competence on a multitude of instruments   and what must have been countless hours of over dubbing   has resulted in an album that is both a labour of love and a tangible demonstration of the essence of this artiste, summing her up in a melodic nutshell.

A gem.

Mardles

Mike Rudge

When I first played this album two thoughts struck me. One was: what a beautiful voice singing such traditional old English songs. The second was: she is a good singer, but what about a reference to all the other great musicians on the album?

A little internet research proved how stupid I was! Firstly, Anna Shannon had written all these "traditional" songs herself, (except for Gaudete), and secondly, Anna also played all the instruments! The album is a testament to multitracking that would make Queen weep with envy!

Yorkshire Songwriter of the Year 2006, classically trained in flute as a child, Anna Shannon now lives in a caravan on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Born into a musical family, Anna was, by the age of ten, already accomplished on classical flute, and at twelve was playing oboe, clarinet and trumpet. Guitar, fiddle, sax and bowed psaltery followed but it wasn't until in her early twenties that she discovered the folk scene. She has an appreciation of the traditional crafts and culture of old England. Anna's voice is strong, clear, and totally committed to her art as she pays homage to traditional ways of life.

She has already released many albums, and her latest offering "A Celebration of Old England" does not disappoint. By far the best track on the album is The Sheep They Bide, a beautiful haunting song evoking the life of the old shepherds on the Yorkshire moors in the cold winter months. Amongst the other tracks there is much versatility. For example, amazing close harmonies on Ways of the Hunting, celebrating local people being 'out�foxed'.

She uses her command of the flute to superb harmonic effect on many of the tracks. As well as rollicking chorus songs about real ale, Anna amazes with a soaring tune depicting a caged bird's escape to freedom, and a gorgeous song Little Bright Bird, about a bullfinch warning a maiden of her lover's infidelity. Her skills include the playing, to great effect, of a bowed psaltery on Lady of Grace as Anna's voice assumes the passive higher register of a Lady in Waiting.

Polly Cooper is a song that recalls the fate of many a serving girl, and there is a very respectable rendering of Gaudete. Anna's strong story telling is to the fore again in Old Bob and the Poacher to a solid guitar backing and a powerful message about equal rights to Nature's bounty and the plight of a medieval poacher.

This album is delightful, full of talent, and a testament to traditional English life. Her song writing is excellent, her harmonies impressive and her voice clear. This album is well worth a listen.

October 2014

Around Kent Folk

Kathy and Bob Drage

Anna comes from a musical family and was accomplished on classical flute by age ten. Oboe, clarinet, trumpet, guitar, fiddle, sax, bowed psaltery, recorder, chanter and Shruti followed. This is an album of self penned songs with the exception of 'Gaudete' A deep love of traditional song and history enables her to craft songs which reflect times gone by with stories wrapped in just the right amount of imagery. An intense vision finds fresh meaning and relevance for the deeply embraced old and rustic ways. The travelling stallion was a welcome sight in village communities  'Birthing the Plough'. Cromwell banned song, music and dance so you had to be quick  'Hereandgoneagen', 'Ways of the Hunting'the fox triumphant, 'Old Bob and the Poacher'. a necessity for the poor. 'Craftsmen of Old England'  where would England be without her master craftsmen and skills  'So drink a health to them And drink a health to all good men, That England shall be great again, A health to dear old England' Home is a caravan on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, from which she draws inspiration for her songs. Occupations of woodwind teacher, mushroom picker, busker, wool spinner have all influenced her songs. The wonders of the natural strongly colour her narratives which are richly embroidered into warm evocative material.

EDS

Clare Button

The title of Anna Shannon's eleventh selfpenned release is well chosen. From the cover image of a blacksmith shoeing a horse, to the portraits of contemporary weavers, farriers and coopers, to songs like 'Craftsmen of Old England', Shannon warmly and unsentimentally celebrates England's crafts, lore and traditions. A gallery of characters of Chaucerian richness is presented to us: the Cromwellian performer 'Hereandgonagen', the feisty traveller, the servant girl unfairly dismissed, the foxhunter (thwarted by a victorious Reynard), and the poacher, who paraphrases the incendiary lines from 'Rufford Park Poachers' �



'a buck or a doe, believe it is so, a pheasant or be it a hare  

Was put on this earth for everyone equal, everyone equal to share.'

This album's musical world is distinctly pre-industrial, and suffused with wafts of the medieval and Renaissance; a psaltery adorns the Elizabethan lady-in-waiting's story on 'Lady of Grace', a solo whistle gracefully intones the instrumental 'The Gilded Cage' and multi-tracked vocals add dark harmonics to her favourite song, 'Gaudete'.  Shannon embodies the rare combination of considerable poetic skill, a fine gift for melodic composition, and an ability to conjure up character, emotion and historical period with filmic vividness. There are touches of Hardy in the immediacy of her rural snapshots and ready grasp of vernacular storytelling.

I very rarely pay this compliment, but it is truly hard to tell the age of these songs without knowing they are from Shannon's own pen. This is impressive enough, but combined with her charismatic voice (shades of the wonderful Carole Pegg, to my ears) and multi-instrumentalism (anyone who can wield a bowed psaltery has my heart), this album represents a masterful and timeless work of art. Anna Shannon sets out to celebrate England's crafts, but also admirably showcases her own.

Shire Folk

Mel Pitts

As is my usual practice when I receive a CD for review, I play it in the car on my way to meetings, etc. So Anna Shannon's A Celebration of Old England was duly inserted and from the moment her crystal clear voice filled the car, I was hooked. I admit that Anna had not come to my attention before and I was the loser.

I pride myself that I have a good knowledge of English songs and tunes, but of the 14 tracks played, I only knew one  'Gaudete: They are such good songs, so beautifully played and sung, that I couldn't understand why I'd never come across any of them. They are backed by expertly played guitar, flute, whistle, fiddle and bowed psaltery among others, and I assumed that the musicians and backing singers Anna had assembled were from the top ranks of current players. So when I finally checked the sleeve notes I was astounded to discover that everything was written, and impeccably played and sung, by Anna herself (with the exception of Roy Piper's bass on one track).

It is very hard to select standout tracks, but 'The Sheep They Bide' is as good as anything I have heard before. It is easy to imagine that these songs, for instance 'Polly Cooper' or 'The Travellers Way; come from way back in the tradition via the Coppers or Watersons instead of from a caravan on the Yorkshire Moors.

An incredible piece of work. Talent will out.

Whats Afoot

Jacqueline Patten

Anna Shannon has her roots firmly set in North Yorkshire. From childhood she was surrounded by music and received classical music tuition on flute, oboe, clarinet and trumpet, later adding guitar, fiddle, sax and bowed psaltery to her array of instruments. It was not, however, until she reached her twenties that she became aware of folk music. An area to expand, use previous skills and her ability as a singer/songwriter opened before her. Since then she has received praise from many of the top traditional performers and promoters as well as from the general public.

Her first album was produced in 2006, she has now recorded eleven. Drawing on her roots and knowledge of rural life and history, Anna's lyrics paint pictures of rural life that evoke images similar to Thomas Hardy novels and the poems of William Barnes. She reaches the very heart of rural living in former times, in a way that few could accomplish. "Birthing the Plough", the opening track, transports the listener to the centre of a rural community coming together for an annual event. "The. Sheep They Bide" portrays sheep as the gentle, lovable animals they are, out on the moors enduring some atrocious weather with their shaggy coats. Then there are the tracks about humans and activities and pastimes including "Craftsmen of Old England" and "Old Bob and the Poacher". The only item not written by Anna is "Gaudete", superbly sung.

With Anna's early musical background it may come as a surprise to hear what a refreshing approach she has to the material and performance. Her voice rings out clearly and stunningly. The instrumental accompaniment, while drawing on her informed knowledge and training, is subtle, haunting and evocative.

"Absorbing", "outstanding", "perceptive", "multi instrumentalist, great singer and a talented songwriter": all accolades that have been attributed to her, all deserved. Looking at her gig list, there are no bookings for the south west, surely this must be remedied, a concert that would be a MUST for any folk music devotee.

Insight Article from R2

Ian Croft

Yorkshire-based singer-songwriter Anna Shannon is very prolific � her latest album, A Celebration Of Old England, is the tenth since her solo debut in 2006, and many years after her initial musical education. �My uncle was a music teacher in Scarborough� says Anna. �He taught me flute, then recorders and timpani, French horn, trumpet, cornet, oboe, all before I was eighteen. I came across folk music in my early twenties, really liked it and bought a guitar. I learned to play well known stuff, but wasn't keen on books for learning new songs, so I started writing. This was back in the late 80's.�

After that, Anna played with various bands � blues, jazz, skiffle, ethnic, Irish � and wrote a few songs and tunes, but she admits �I didn't write a lot because I didn't know what genre I was in. I was mainly a singer, particularly of rough Irish stuff. 'The Rocky Road To Dublin' will always be my favourite song.� During this time, Anna was involved in a boating accident with the skiffle band on the River Shannon. She hasn't been on the water since, and commemorated the event by adopting the name 'Shannon' after a divorce.

2006 was a turning point. �I'd written a few things and my partner, Roy, mentioned a competition [BBC Radio Yorkshire Songwriter Of The Year] and I won it. Before the competition, I was just mucking about really, but then I realised that I could write songs that other people might like.�

Early albums were homespun, often themed, and according to Anna, �definitely folk songs�. A recommendation from Tom and Barbara Brown put Anna on to Doug Bailey at WildGoose records. �I sent him blueprints of fourteen songs, which he liked and we spent five days down in Andover recording the CD. I wasn't used to a producer being so tough on timing and pitching. The worst bit was that I'd left 'Gaudete' to last because it was my favourite, but my voice was tired and I couldn't reach the top harmony, so we had to take it lower and do it all again. A couple of neat vodkas and we were away. I am really pleased with the album and Doug has done a cracking job.�

On the CD, Anna multi-tracks instruments rather than getting friends in. �I don't know whether it's being conceited, but the joy of playing instruments has always been there. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades.� Apart from 'Gaudete', the songs on the album are all self-composed, with a strong traditional flavour. Is this intentional? �I never force myself�, says Anna. �It just comes out like that, anytime of day or night.�

Highlighting a couple of tracks, Anna reflects on 'Craftsmen Of Old England'. �Living where we do, we see a lot of traditional crafts. All have played a key role, and I put them together in the song.� 'The Traveller's Ways' covers a favourite topic. �I like to stand up for Romanies � they have a really hard time. There were always songs saying, if you're not good the gypsies will come and take you away, and I wanted to turn that story round. The traveller reclaims the baby that was his and it ends with a dramatic vision of the gypsy riding away with the baby under his arm.�

After a quiet 2014, Anna is looking for as many gigs as she can cram into this year. Away from the music, she has a Christmas business creating decorative holly, and she's also been writing a book � a myth and magic story, The Calling of the Dolgecis � which she hopes will be published in 2015. That's busy!

Folk and Roots

David Kidman

I've sung Anna's praises for a number of years now, and yet each successive album release has astounded me anew with its sheer quality. Not only is Anna an exceedingly talented singer and musician (every new CD provides further instances of her intense, and seemingly ever-expanding, instrumental prowess � here guitars, fiddle, oboe, soprano sax, flute, recorders, chanter, shruti-box, bowed psaltery and an array of percussion!), but she's also an enviably prolific songwriter. I couldn't imagine Anna surpassing her brilliant 2014 Horses, Beasts And Fairytales album, yet now, barely 15 months later, she's come up with eleven brand new songs that are almost certainly the equal of those on that excellent record. This latest collection sees Anna completely immersing herself in the folk tradition, and the album's title really does reflect its contents, especially the word �celebration� which both sets the tone and represents a statement of intent. Virtually every one of these new songs could easily pass for an authentic traditional song, proving Anna's astute feel for the nature of its language and its indigenous phrasing and dynamics, and her gift for reproducing these elements naturally without fear of being accused of pastiche. Anna's own rural country lifestyle, as well as her life-philosophy and personal outlook, are all factors that greatly inform her songs, for she conveys an inborn practical sympathy with their subjects. These may well be humble creatures (The Sheep They Bide, Birthing The Plough), although Anna also displays keen insight into humanity itself (The Craftsmen Of Old England, Old Bob & The Poacher), and especially gypsy folk (The Traveller's Ways). Whatever the topic, though, and whatever the mood (rousing chorus Old Jonny Barley or ballad-tale Polly Cooper and Little Bright Bird), Anna delivers a melody to remember. Anna's singing style is steeped in the traditional idiom too � sturdy and assured, with a solid strength and power throughout the whole range of her voice � while she's also blessed with an uncanny ability to supply her own vivacious and well-coordinated harmonies (notably on the accomplished a cappella essay Ways Of The Hunting). A number of tracks betray Anna's penchant for medieval/early music: Harbinger's March, the delicate courtly song Lady Of Grace, the virtuoso recorder showpiece The Gilded Cage, and a respectable (and respectful) cover of Gaudete (which Anna declares her �favourite of all time�!). It's paying the biggest compliment to Anna that she's now signed to the WildGoose label, whose boss Doug Bailey has managed to bring out even more of her latent musicianly versatility while ensuring that the focus remains on her individual and distinctive voice (in the literal as well as songwriting sense). Yes, Anna's latest achievement is every bit as much a celebration of her impressive breadth of talent as it is of old England itself.