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Jacqueline Patten of Whats Afoot

reviews A Celebration of Old England by Anna Shannon

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.