The Shee and Sarah Hayes at the Queen's Hall both provided outstanding examples of just how innovative contemporary Celtic music can be without losing any of its original soul and roots.
The Shee are Shona Mooney (fiddle), Laura Beth Salter (mandolin/vocals), Amy Thatcher (accordion/clog dancing), Lillias Kinsman Blake (flute), Rachel Newton (harp) and Olivia Ross (fiddle), and they are currently celebrating their 10th anniversary together with their latest album “Continuum” (due for release 23rd September). As a sort of “birthday present” to themselves, the band have each commissioned new works from musicians and songwriters that they like and added these six songs to four of their own to create this new album.
Commissioning new works is always interesting for any musicians to do as the results can often be something completely new to them, and of course this itself requires getting familiar with new songs both in the studio and live which may be slightly different in composition than a band may be used to, but that never showed on stage as everything blended perfectly in with their own new material.
The Shee are all individually gifted musicians each with her own unique style, and everything flows so easily into one larger soundscape.
Their new album was performed in its entirety tonight, and there is something there to please everyone. A few favourites here for myself – “Dancing Shoes” and “Precious Tears”. Anything however called “The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle” has to have its own special mention.
Simply a great set from a band comfortable with themselves, their music and their audience.
For more information on The Shee and the new album “Continuum” visit
Opening the first half of tonight’s show, the hugely talented Sarah Hayes who played one 45 minute set and piece “Woven”. This intricately layered work has also been transferred to the studio and is the title of her new album “Woven”.
It is hard really in words to describe “Woven” as it is very much a performance piece that evolved out of a special Celtic Connections New Voices commission in 2014, and tonight was one of its to date rare public performance. Performed with seven musicians (including Sarah) on stage, this works weaves the fabrics of people’s lives in with traditional songs set to new music, new songs and music and stories into one continuous tapestry.
“Woven” is a piece of work that is almost classical in its complex structure and use of instruments (particularly percussion), but somehow, everything does become “Woven” but you also get a feeling of just how quickly this delicate balance of music, stories and lives could unravel and become “unwoven”. Something is holding everything together here as if by magic.
“Woven” is a work that silences anyone who has ever claimed that traditional music has no new avenues to explore.
For more information on Sarah Hayes and “Woven” visit
Review by Tom King