SHEL
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SHEL

Fort Collins, Colorado, United States

Fort Collins, Colorado, United States
Band Folk Pop

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"FOLK MUTANTS SPAWNED FROM CYBERSPACE COLLISIONS SHEL AT HOTEL CAFÉ – JANUARY 28, 2014"

A folk ensemble consisting of a violinist, mandolin player, keyboardist and beat-boxing djembe player might at first seem like a group struggling with identity. The members of SHEL filed on stage at 7 o'clock sharp, wearing casual dress, one with suspenders and another in a customized top hat. By 7:03 it was clear that they could not only play the heck out of their instruments but that they could successfully combine their varied, folk influences into a unified image. The four sisters that comprise SHEL compliment instrumental precociousness and dynamic sensitivity with folk-pop compositions. The subtle interactions of chiding glances, wry smiles and a witty exchanges were indications of the personal and musical familiarity that bonds them. As Sarah said at the start, "If you haven't guessed yet, we're sisters. And our dad is very proud, just in case you were wondering." The group visited Hollywood on the start of a tour that will take them through the Midwest, stopping over in the Virgin Islands before returning to their home state of Colorado.

Standing in a row in front of the velvet curtains of the small Hotel Cafe stage, the sisters performed an hour-long set of energetic, fusion-folk. Like a folk mutant, spawned from cyberspace collisions their collective sound oozed with jazz piano fills, Celtic fiddle lines, and African polyrhythms, restrained by four part harmonies and embellished with enigmatic stories. The simple keyboard ostinatos made room for eager mandolin and violin lines, which filled out harmonies and added dimension to the cyclical patterns of the djembe.

Sarah played her violin with intuition and diversity. She could solo like a madwoman but more often than not, settled for chopping chords when the texture was thick and improvising only when the opening for a fill presented itself. Stained, a selection from their 2012 release, featured Celtic fiddle lines that stretched and yawned between the verses, nimble and catlike.

Hannah, a pianist with classical and jazz backgrounds, constituted the background of the group, establishing clear bass lines and filling out the acoustic texture. Not until the last song did she let her influences show, contrasting a bouncy pop tune with a driving samba rhythm.

Eva, the primary composer and lead singer of the group, plucked her mandolin in perfect time with the djembe off beats, adding a crystalline accompaniment to her willowy voice. Her vocals shone on Paint My Life, a melancholic and introspective pop ballad, which evoked tango postures with accented rhythms and elegant violin and piano arpeggios.

SHEL – Paint My Life
(http://www.youtube.com/v/QGD6Qk5wW_4 )

Liza, the drummer, settled for a djembe as opposed to her drum kit on Tuesday night. With the extra elbow room, the youngest of the sisters was free to demonstrate her rhythmic dexterity by beat-boxing in unison with her djembe on the final verse of Paint My Life. After impressing the crowd with a quick demonstration of dubstep vocalizations, she beat-boxed a breakbeat behind an R&B-influenced, diva breakdown, Running to You.

The quartet could have easily performed like a jam band experiment gone terribly wrong. After cycling through pop ballads, Appalachian-tinged harmonies, Latin rhythms and Scotch-Irish melodies, anything seemed possible. Yet, the performance was not so much a display of genre-bending muscle as much as it was an honest testament to their diverse musical upbringing. The sisters are from Fort Collins, CO and enjoyed an artistic upbringing with an artist for a mother and musician father. After being mentored by their father, they went on to work with Grammy-winning producer Brent Maher before releasing their eponymous, debut album in 2012. Off to a good year already, SHEL has seen their music featured in the ABC show "The Fosters" and their most recent music video played on CMT (Country Music Television).

What can be said of a band that mimics every style? Some might shrug and remark that the world is simply their oyster. Skeptics, however, may see it as a facade for colonial tendencies. Speculation aside, the packed crowd at the Hotel Cafe recognized the superior talent of the opening act and applauded with abandon. You've got to tip your hat to any folk group that can impress a surly crowd of Hollywood hipsters.

Jonathan Shifflett is a recent graduate of USC's classical guitar program, who has since seen the light and traded the guitar for a banjo. When not tracking down train car murals or searching for hobo hieroglyphics, he enjoys pretending to play the fiddle and thinking about the folk music world at large. - Folkworks


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

SHEL

The high-altitude town of Fort Collins, Colorado is abundant in bicycles, awash in craft beer and rich in arts of all kinds. Understanding its unique cultural brew begins (but only begins) to explain the novel sound of SHEL. Four sisters, raised in an atmosphere of creative freedom and diligent study, have honed their musical skills surgically sharp and blended their personalities and visions into a unified whole. They are a vocal group with outstanding instrumental capabilities and an instrumental group with a thrilling vocal attack. From their fetching, unpredictable songs to their whimsical, hand-made top-hats, SHEL makes a profound impression, something they are doing to growing crowds and critical acclaim.

Sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza were born within five years of each other. Raised and home-schooled by a professional songwriter father and an artist mother, they dove into music young. Hannah was first to take classical lessons on piano. Then it was Sarah on violin, Liza on harp and Eva on mandolin. Liza switched to the drums upon discovery of her passion for polyrhythm. Then in the early 2000s, they started working up and performing songs with their father. Over time, Eva stepped forward as the lead vocalist. Andrew Holbrook with SHEL became SHEL with Andrew Holbrook -- and then just SHEL.

A friend of the family made a connection with Nashville producer Brent Maher, an old-school artist development guru with a long track record of hit singles and artistic breakthroughs. Over three years of unhurried coaching and recording, SHEL completed several EPs and grew immeasurably. Now, their most complete and thought-out work to date is here in the form of a self-titled, debut album.

Nestled within SHEL’s enveloping sound, wisps of folk revival, vaudeville, renaissance fairs and steampunk esthetic blur around one another. Allusions abound to their core influences – The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Harry Nilsson and acoustic super-group Strength In Numbers – but you’ve never heard this before. Tracks such as “Tuscany” borrow liberally from their classical training, yet there’s nothing ponderous or unapproachable about them. “The Wise Old Owl” showcases their daring, fanciful vocal arrangements. They revel in strong dynamics, so a single song like “Stained” can grow from airy lace to a driving, white-water rush. They are richly feminine, but they don’t shy from covering Led Zeppelin (“The Battle of Evermore”). Above all, expect variety and creativity. Pure acoustic tone is best when it’s best, but if an electric violin or special effect is called for, they let the song dictate the production.

In recent years, SHEL has achieved many benchmarks that point to a full and fruitful career ahead. They’ve played public radio’s eTown, SXSW, Nashville’s Music City Roots, Lilith Fair, the Four Corners Folk Festival and the International Folk Alliance Conference, among other distinguished stages. And they composed original music for a national television ad campaign. One does not have to be floating on the updraft of their blended voices to predict a bright future for SHEL.

SHEL's self made video featuring their song "Freckles" is currently featured on CMT PURE. http://www.cmt.com/videos/shel/825732/freckles.jhtml

Four live music videos of SHEL on Look Music - http://www.looksessions.com/artists/shel.php

"SHEL has delivered one of the most impressive debuts of the year…"
Chris Douridas - KCRW/Los Angeles

"My emerging artist pick for 2011. SHEL's synergy is infectious...the future of music is in good hands."
Jim Gillespie, Blissfest Music Organization

When The Dragon Came Down EP was included on KUNC/NPR radio and The Scene Magazine's Top 10 Albums for 2011.

When The Dragon Came Down EP was nominated for the Independent Music Awards EP for 2011.