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Mike Rudge of Mardles

reviews A Celebration of Old England by Anna Shannon

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