Bob Bignell of Folk Monthly
reviews A Celebration of Old England by Anna ShannonAs 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!