Kath Reade of Fatea
reviews A Celebration of Old England by Anna ShannonYorkshire 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.