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Nashville, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | INDIE

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Americana Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"USA Today 10 Most Intriguing Tracks"

10 intriguing tracks found in the week's listening:

Lady, Stevie Nicks

Nicks' alto is at its most achingly raw over tender but muscular piano chords on this plaintive offering from 24 Karat Gold.

Just Like Me, Betty Who

Who serves up a crisp, galloping groove and a rousing chorus on this delicate but driving opener for Take Me When You Go.

Make You A Believer, Keyshia Cole

This track from Cole's new album, Point of No Return, sets a fervid vocal against a slinky, sinuous arrangement.

Album of the week: Jason Aldean sexes up 'New Dirt' mix
Prelude: Fly, Lee Ann Womack

Womack's superb The Way I'm Livin' launches with this simple, stunning showcase for her distinct blend of purity and profundity.

One Day, Paolo Nutini

The Scottish singer/songwriter is starkly soulful on this track from Caustic Love, riding a throbbing bassline into fierce bursts of horns and bittersweet strings.

Alone Again (Naturally), Diana Krall with Michael Bublé

Following Krall's lead, Bublé delivers a beautifully subdued vocal on this graceful, poignant reading of the old Gilbert O'Sullivan lament.

Song of the week: David Guetta's 'Dangerous'
Pretty Polly, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

The married banjo masters team up for a gorgeously atmospheric take on the chilling folk ballad, with Washburn on ghostly vocals, on their self-titled album.

Live Life, Jesse & Joy

The Mexican sister-brother duo makes its USA recording debut with this ebullient winner from the new The Book Of Life soundtrack.

Hold On, SHEL and Gareth Dunlop

Dunlop joins forces with the quartet of musical sisters on this twinkling, pining number from the new soundtrack of The Best Of Me. - USA Today


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
( )

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

"SHEL #2 out of 10 at Americana Fest in Nashville"

There are plenty of family bands in Americana music, but none quite like sister act SHEL. All in their 20s, these ladies play a brand of Americana that defies description, using very traditional instruments to play very non-traditional music. Their perfectly layered vocal harmonies weave in and out of their ethereal wall of sound and mesmerize. -

"25 Essential Echoes CDs: The Best of 2012 Echoes Blog"

25 Essential Echoes CDs: The Best of 2012
25 Esssential Echoes CDs for 2012

There are always three year end lists at Echoes. The first is my personal Top Ten which embraces all the music I listen to, not must what I play on Echoes (John Diliberto’s Top Ten Albums of 2012 and John Diliberto’s Top 10 Songs for 2012). Then comes the Best of Echoes 2012 listener poll, and finally comes the 25 Essential Echoes CDs of 2012. These are the albums that the Echoes staff thought were the most significant releases of 2012 that were played on Echoes.

Fifteen of 25 on this list were not in the Listener Poll. Fifteen albums that were in the Listener Poll did not make the 25 Essential list. Eleven of the discs were Echoes CD of the Month selections. Sixteen of them were from artists who began recording in the current millennium. Hit many of the links below and you can read reviews and hear tracks.

Leading that list is Hammock who swaps places with Dead Can Dance who won in the listener poll. We put Departure Songs at number one as a defining album of ambient, shoegaze post-rock. Now that might seem to define it narrowly, but in fact, it embodies all those genres and surpassed the 2012 works of their heroes like Robin Guthrie and Sigur Ros for shear ambition, successfully attained.

Dead Can Dance’s Anastasis was more than anyone could’ve expected for a band that took a 16 year break between new albums. Lisa Gerrard, as always, is the voice of the divine plumbing the archetypal consciousness. Brendan Perry never sounded better. One song in particular drew my attention, “Children of the Sun.” This song has been lambasted by hipster critics like Jim DeRogatis of Sound Opinions. DeRogatis was right in mocking Perry’s hippie-cum-New Age lyrics, but what he missed was his yearning, heartbreaking vocals and the John Barry horns that lent those lyrics poignancy and a triumphal heroism in the face of lost innocence.

Liftoff’s Sunday Morning Airplay took tripped out psychedelic music, trip-hop rhythms and wed them to Summer of Love songs that echoed the Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas and more obscurely, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. (Look ‘em up ). It’s the most overlooked album of the year and a CD that never fails to make me smile. They manage to be modern and nostalgic at the same time.

The same could be said about Raygun Ballet. World That Wasn’t is a project of Hollywood CGI designer John-Mark Austin. He mixes retro analog synth sounds with spoken word snippets from 40s and 50s radio and TV shows creating visions of the future from the past in the present.

Thierry David is all future in his expansive, melodic and ambient Stellar Connection. I’m still impressed, nearly a year later by the detailed sound design and melodies that are shaped by laser brushes with feather strokes. And David puts lots of shadows and dark undertows in these songs that keep it from being simply pretty.

Some quick shots:

Icebreaker’s Apollo: An inspired interpretation of one of Brian Eno’s most moving, studio crafted albums as a live performance vehicle. Like Bang On A Can’s rendition of “Music for Airports,” it reveals the compositional depth of Eno’s work..

Marconi Union’s Different Colors: A new darkly melodic but thoroughly ambient direction for this band.

Sebastian Plano’s The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts: Beautifully detailed ambient chamber music that came out of nowhere from this Argentine born artist.

Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy’s WaterSky: A perfect album of sublime ambient chamber music with arrangements and melodies that flow in oil-based colors framing a a virtuoso of the guitar and the soul.

Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze’s Amanke Dionti: African serenity for kora, trumpet and voice that are breathtaking in their poignancy.

Tycho’s Dive: Exhilarating chamber rock with electric neon energy and minor key melancholy.

Air’s Le Voyage Dans La Lune: Still quirky after all these years in this ambitious soundtrack for the 1906 silent film.

Hans Christian & Harry Manx’s You Are the Music of My Silence: In the year in which we lost Ravi Shankar, no band did more artistically to maintain his legacy of fusing east and west.

All India Radio’s Red Shadow Landing: Another CD of ambient Americana from this yet to be discovered Aussie band who has been melodically immersive moods for years.

Julia Holter’s Exstasis: Haunting songs with beautiful, almost Enyaesque multi-tracked vocals but with an avant-garde edge and lyrics that come from an interior world rather than an Elven one.

Niyaz’s Sumud: Persian fusion topped by the ecstatic voice of Azam Ali. I don’t even think of the Lisa Gerrard comparisons anymore.

Sigur Ros’ Valtari: The most ambient album form this Icelandic band who has never met a hook.

SHEL’s SHEL: Angelic, charming country-scrubbed dream pop folk music with heavenly harmonies and personal songs.

Tino Izzo’s Morning Scapes: I think many people fo - Echoes Blog - John Diliberto

"SHEL's Acoustic Dream Pop"

SHEL’s Acoustic Dream Pop.

Shel: Eva, Hannah, Sarah and Liza on Echoes
Download Podcast of Echoes SHEL interview.

The band called SHEL is from a generation of musicians who grew up on their parents record collections. The four sisters from Colorado, ranging from 18 to 24 years old, were listening to folk music and classic rock as much as contemporary music, maybe more. They’ve created a charming and infectious sound, full of serene harmonies and playful instrumentation, but there’s also something deeper lurking in this music. On the heels of their self-titled debut album, SHEL came to echoes and gave us a glimpse into their music.

SHEL is Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook. Despite their age, many of SHEL’s songs portray a sense of loss and tragedy that is beyond their years, especially from people who appear to have had an idyllic childhood full of music and a Waltons kind of family life. So you might wonder where the angst comes from in one of their earlier songs, “Try To Scream.”

“I read a lot of books by C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald,” explains SHEL’s Eva Holbrook. She’s the writer and mandolin player in the band. “Actually those are some of my favorite things to do, actually to curl up and read George MacDonald because his books are so full of conviction. And it just reminds me that you know, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve been through, the challenge of doing the right thing even when it’s hard, or not doing the wrong thing even when you want to do it, all of that like even in an ideal life there’s angst… you know, I’ve been in relationships that I felt really trapped in and always come out on the other side of it But that’s just how I expressed it is through music.”

SHEL grew up in a musical family and actually started out backing up their father, Andrew Holbrook.

“I think that’s part of our folk background as well,” says Eva. “He’s been a singer-songwriter for most of his life, so we grew up going to his shows and–we all started playing our instruments around the age of 10 or so. And we’d get up there on stage with him one by one and back him up on different songs. So that’s actually how we got started.

They also listened to their parent’s record collection.

“Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, The Who, The Who was a big one. Yes, all the awesome bands. Super Tramp,” they all shout out, verbally tumbling over each other.

“Both Mom and Dad had great taste in music,” says Liza. “They were definitely hippies.”

“She loved Echoes,” admits Eva. “She and our older brother did, so we grew up listening to Echoes. It was like any time we were coming home late in the car at night and Echoes was on, it was awesome.”

I don’t know how much of an influence Echoes had on them but you can hear the classic rock sound in their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore.”

You can listen to SHEL’s Echoes interview as a free podcast. Subscribers to Echoes On-Line can hear their live performance on the show. You can try it as a trial subscription for only $2.99.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))
- John Deliberto - The Echoes Blog

"Echoes Top 10 songs of 2012"

Top Ten Songs for 2012.
John Diliberto’s Top Ten Songs for 2012

1 Geigertek “Underpass”
2 The Raveonettes – “Till the End”
3 Sharon Van Etten – “Serpents”
4 Liftoff – “Summer Shone”
5 Frankie Rose “Moon In My Mind”
6 Shel – “Paint My Life”
7 Blue Foundation – “Lost”
8 Norah Jones – “4 Broken Hearts”
9 Azure Ray – “Scattered Like Leaves”
10 The XX – “Angels”

Mid-November always seems too early to pick “Best of the Year” lists, but Echoes Philadelphia affiliate, WXPN always asks for their host lists at this time, to coordinate with their Best 100 Songs of 2012 poll. So I’ve come up with mine which you can see on the XPN website. I’ve got Top Ten Songs and Top Ten Albums. Today, I want to talk about the songs.

My Top Ten Songs list usually doesn’t look like an Echoes list. When I think of songs, I think of rock and pop music more than the instrumental “compositions” or “pieces” of a lot of Echoes music. But number one on my list is a song we played a lot on Echoes, Geigertek’s cover of John Foxx’s “Underpass” from his CD, Soundtrack for City Living. It’s one of my favorite Foxx songs from his 1980 album, Metamatic and Neil Fellowes, who is Geigertek, takes this song of urban alienation and turns it into a luxurious lament. And unlike most instrumental artists who try to sing, Neil Fellowes really can.

The Raveonettes “Till the End” is the last song on their album, Observator. This plea to hold on to love is a hell raising, guitar-distorted rush to oblivion and the song that makes me go right back to the top of this album to hear it all again.

Sharon Van Etten’s “Serpents” is one of the more rocking songs from her CD, Tramp. When you’re really pissed off, put this on, because she’s really pissed off too in this psychotic fever dream of anger and regret driven by hard-strumming guitar and dive-bomb feedback.

Liftoff’s Sunday Morning Airplay was not one of my favorite albums of the year and picking a song from it was difficult. The instrumental Morricone-lounge sound of “Feathered Up” came close, but I went for this Mexican-grooved, Morricone-laced and Mamas & Papas-harmonized hymn to sun and romance, “Summer Shone.” By the way, Sunday Morning Airplay? The most overlooked album of the year.

Frankie Rose kind of came out of nowhere even though she’s been around for a while playing drums with Dum Dum Girls and releasing a previous album with her band, the Outs. With that pedigree I would’ve never picked her as an Echoes artist, but Interstellar has several great Echoes tracks including this one, a haiku reverie with Echo & the Bunnymen-reverb guitar and a triumphal chorus. A live version of this is on the Echoes CD, Tangents.

SHEL was definitely out of nowhere. This Colorado band of sisters released their charming self-titled debut and carved out an acoustic dream pop of lovely songs laced with mandolin, violin piano and percussion, but especially, beautiful vocal harmonies. “Paint My Life” is a song of identity and alienation that mixes desolation and triumph with Eva Holbrook’s vocals and lyrics. Their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” was also a close choice.

From SHEL’s almost nostalgic pastoral meditation, we go to the dark, post-Blade Runner dreamscape of Blue Foundation’s “Lost” from the album, In My Mind I Am Free. Tobias Wilner creates a swirling, distorted percussion driven landscape with wailing siren synths that surround singer Sara Savery’s stacked vocals. Savery is Wilner’s wife and she wrote the lyrics. Hearing them, you might hope that this song of disconnected love isn’t about their marriage.

I liked Norah Jones’ new direction on Little Broken Hearts and the Cajun swamp, 50s dirge, “4 Broken Hearts,” is as beautiful, languid and pained as anything she’s recorded. .

Speaking of pained, no one does that better than Azure Ray, the mavens of melancholy. Their EP, As Above So Below, casts their introspective songs in dark electronic hues, including this track, “Scattered like Leaves,” a song of the most desolate lost love.

Finally, let’s keep the mood downtempo and introspective, The XX end this list with “Angels” from their second album, Coexist. Singer Romy Madley Croft whispers in your ear about the most delirious love, so delirious she suggests it might be the illusion of a dream. Set against sparse, echoing guitar and a slow rolling drum, it could be a heart-felt valentine or a tragic lament.

Coming up next, my Top Ten Albums of the Year. That will look a lot more like Echoes.

You can see my lists and others at And while you’re there, you can vote in their poll.

This entry was posted on November 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm and is filed under Concepts in Music, Echoes News, Music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. - John Deliberto - The Echoes Blog

"SHEL A band for the new music business"

SHEL’s newest video, "On My Way"
(disclaimer: We recently became part of SHEL’s digital marketing team. We’re part of the team precisely because we feel they possess a lot of the qualities needed in order for a band to be successful today.)
We’ve spent some time looking at bands and artists who have really taken to the new DIY ethic, especially in the digital music space. We continue to be inspired by the Amanda Palmers, OK Gos and The Civil Wars’ of the world. They have fundamentally re-defined what it means to be a band or an artist in the current musical landscape. We’re also really interested in trying to figure out what gives an artist, band or act the best chance of success in the future of the "new" music business.
We recently began planning and executing digital strategy for SHEL, a hard working band from Ft. Collins, Colorado. They are four classically trained, freakishly talented sisters. They’ve been described as "a power quartet of femme fatale wunderkind sisters…They don’t just play the hell out of their instruments with great passion, they do so flawlessly as if they were born mutated with these instruments attached to their hands.”
Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook each play at least two instruments. Liza, the polyrhythmic percussionist/drummer/sister, plays djembe & beat boxes simultaneously and then sings harmony vocals at one point in the set…on a single song. She also doubles as the band’s webmaster on the road.
SHEL was signed to Scott Borchetta’s (think Taylor Swift) Republic Nashville imprint in early 2010. But they were "discovered" by Nashville based Brent Maher, a lifelong consummate musician, guitarist, songwriter and producer based in Nashville about a year before that. Maher’s credentials include producing The Judds, Kenny Rogers and Kathy Mattea. He even engineered sessions for Ike & Tina Turner. Yet Maher (and Borchetta) were completely floored the first time they heard SHEL.
A possible major label suitor even described them as "too musical for today’s music market." Which depending on your perspective could have been pointed criticism or a back handed compliment.
This year SHEL having amicably parted ways with Republic Nashville, just released their first full length album as a joint venture with Maher and his Moraine Music Group. Dianna Maher, Brent’s daughter, remains their staunchest ally and relentless champion. Moraine is also a future forward thinking music publisher/label.
So what sets them apart?
First, the music is completely and utterly amazing. It sounds great coming out of your car stereo. But the sisters have a singular gift for live performance. They have that sisterly "simpatico" on stage. At a recent outdoor performance in Nashville, one of the hottest producers in country music was so moved he got up like a shot from his lawn chair and ran like an excited kid backstage to see what he could do to help the band get noticed.

SHEL’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s "Battle of Evermore"
Second, the sisters are very digital media friendly. They are active on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Their fan base constantly engages and interacts with them at a level and intensity seldom seen in established acts, let alone new ones.
Third, and I think this is where they shine off stage…They shoot, direct, edit and produce their own music videos. Sarah, the fiddle player, is also a filmmaker. The music video for their last single, "Freckles" is now in rotation on CMT online and on cable. The quality, look and vibe of the video surpasses that of some high budget music videos.

They are also incredibly lovely and gracious young women. They treat their fans with respect, appreciation and kindness and go out of their way to make even their youngest fans feel comfortable in their presence.
Finally, they are constantly working at their craft as songwriters and musicians. They regularly visit Nashville and immerse themselves in the business of getting better at what they do – on and off the road.
More importantly, they perform these tasks and functions as integrated extensions of their music. It is all part of their creativity. It is not something extra that they feel forced to do. They just do it. There is no expectation of entitlement. And they do it all without whining. We like the "not whining" part.
They are obviously gorgeous (they need a hat endorsement) but beyond that they are driven, focussed and determined.
To be sure they are not perfect. Their web site is not properly optimized and under leverages the huge number of visits they get each month. They are also still learning how to properly navigate their way around Twitter which arguably could turn out to be their biggest social media platform to date. But that’s why we’re now part of the team, we hope to help them turn some of these challenges into real opportunities.

This week they are one of the buzz bands at CMJ’s Music Mara - Outside The Music Box

"SHEL - American Songwriter Review"

(Moraine Music Group)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The four Holbrook sisters (the first letters of their names spell out the group’s moniker) may hail from Ft. Collins, Colorado, but there is a strong UK/European influence in their sound. Call the acoustic mélange of violin, piano, mandolin and percussion (no guitar) prog/folk/chamber/pop if you need to label it, but the approach, intricate arrangements and songs are always intriguing and often enchanting if not necessarily hook heavy. There is bound to be a bit of The Roches in their sisterly siren harmonies and along with Celtic and classical strains woven throughout, this is a vibrant, strum free set with hypnotic arrangements that reward your attention. A powerful cover of Led Zepp’s dreamy “The Battle of Evermore” slips easily into the rest of the originals none that unfold in traditional or expected ways. The classically trained young quartet exhibits elegance, style and grace on this debut album that sets the stage for an enticing career which could follow any number of paths, all of them worth watching.
- American Songwriter

"Now Hear This - SHEL"

August 07, 2012

now hear this: SHEL

I'm always intending to post about new artists that are grabbing my attention, but the best laid plans... Anyway, today events and inspiration conspire to let me post briefly about SHEL, an acoustic quartet from Fort Collins, CO that releases its debut full length album toady. They were in Nashville yesterday evening and put on a wonderful early-evening show to a full house at The Basement. On display: astonishingly precise and complex vocal harmonies and nuanced ensemble playing that picks up on and advances the chamber-grass point of view of Nickel Creek and Strength in Numbers. Readers of this blog will know that I'm particularly excited by musicians who make pop music with background in classical or jazz. And SHEL proves that formal training can be a huge boon and no hindrance at all. This is some remarkably fresh and wondrous stuff. I showed their new "Freckles" video to my daughter last night, and she really liked it too.

For more, I was fortunate to write a bio for SHEL, and it's published after the jump...

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, South by Southwest, 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.
- String Theory Media

"Peter Cooper on Music: And now for something completely different"

Brent Maher has heard a bunch of music.

Reams of music. Decades of music. And lots of it has been really good.

He engineered Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and Elvis Presley’s “Way Down.” He produced The Judds and wrote many of their signature hits, including “Why Not Me” and “Born To Be Blue.” He produced Kathy Mattea and Kenny Rogers, worked with Chuck Berry and Merle Haggard and Diana Ross.

Maher has been there, done that, heard that and won a half-dozen Grammys Awards. Which is why he was dumbstruck to be dumbstruck three years ago, when he sat in a Fort Collins, Colo., home listening to four young sisters making music that reminded him of absolutely nothing.

“We chatted for not long, maybe five minutes,” Maher said, recalling the first time he met Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook. “The youngest, Liza, was just turning 15. The oldest, Hannah, was 21. They started playing, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was seeing and hearing. They were playing acoustic music on traditional instruments, and I was hearing absolutely nothing traditional. About the third or fourth tune, Eva broke into ‘Tuscany,’ an instrumental, on mandolin, and I just lost it.”

“Just lost it” meaning “Just found it.” Maher knew what he heard when he heard it, and what he heard was nothing he’d ever heard before. The sisters were classically trained (still are, I suppose), preternaturally talented and completely unintimidated by the notion of playing what amounted to an audition for a powerful and successful producer like Maher.

They played and sang as if they had no idea who he was.

“We weren’t nervous, because we had no idea who he was,” says Eva, who handles lead vocals for the group now called SHEL. “He was the chillest, most humble guy. We sent him away with two CDs, and then we Googled him.”

Maher lives in Middle Tennessee but has a second home in Colorado, and he’d been called to the Holbrook home by Jon St. John, a country radio programmer who’d heard SHEL and was convinced of a couple of things: first, that the girls were doing nothing at all that would fit on country radio, and, second, that they were a spellbinding group. He’d told Maher, “I have no idea what they are or how you would describe it, but it’s something you’d really get into.”

And he did. And then he began working with them. Sometimes, they’d come to Nashville and record at Maher’s studio, The Blue Room. Sometimes, they’d record tracks in their home studio and upload the tracks to an FTP server, and Blue Room engineer Charles Yingling would download the tracks for Music City tinkering. Sometimes they’d have meetings via Skype.

In 2010, SHEL signed to Scott Borchetta’s Republic Nashville label, a development that led Colorado music journalist Dave Herrera to write that he was “hoping that their bewitchingly homespun, folksy sound doesn’t get swallowed up by the Nashville Machine and come out sounding trite and homogenized, like a great number of other exports from that town.”

Well, they didn’t get swallowed up or homogenized, as is evidenced by SHEL’s self-titled, full-length debut album, co-produced by Maher and the sisters. The album comes out Tuesday, August 7, via a partnership between the sisters’ Mad King Records and Maher’s Moraine Records, neither of which are Republic Nashville.

The band and Republic had what Maher describes as “a very, very amicable parting of the ways,” and, for now at least, SHEL is remaining independent and managing quite nicely to avoid falling into whatever hypothetical assembly line exists that makes everything in Nashville sound like whatever people who don’t live here think everything in Nashville sounds like. (Black Keys? Jack White? The Nashville Symphony? What?)

“SHEL” is filled with virtuoso instrumental flights, other-worldly harmonies and evocative, atypical lyrics and with songs with titles like “The Man Who Was the Circus,” “When the Dragon Came Down” and “The Latest and Greatest Blueberry Rubberband.” The only cover is an all-acoustic version of Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore.”

“Dad played Led Zeppelin for me when I first started playing mandolin, and I hated it,” says Eva, a prodigy who dropped out of college to concentrate on music at age 16, which is two years earlier than most folks drop into college. “Then he played it when I was 16, and I loved it.”

Eva is 23 now. Drummer Liza is 18, violin-playing Sarah is 21 and keyboardist Hannah is 24. They were all home-schooled and encouraged in music by their dad. And they work together without the squabbles and rivalries that can spring up when musicians are related to each other. Having worked with Ike & Tina and The Judds, Maher is familiar with the family act deal.

“These girls are simpatico on a level that’s nuts,” Maher says, meaning the good kind of nuts. (Pistachios!) “There’s never been a cross word. They can critique each other, but always from a place of being positive, never anything degrading - The Tennesean

"SHEL's Video Freckles on MTV Buzzworthy!"

Meet SHEL. Yes, they're sisters!

Ever wonder what would happen if you took the Dixie Chicks' tight harmonies and then added them to the country cuteness of Taylor Swift times four? Well, we've totally wondered that exact same thing and can now confirm that the answer is SHEL! Meet Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook, otherwise known as the four musically inclined sisters of the band SHEL. All homeschooled, all four ladies are classically trained musicians who combined their years of preparation to form a pretty sick band. Oh, and did we mention that the name SHEL is an acronym for, you guessed it, the sister's first names. Now how cute is that?

Watch SHEL's "Freckles" video after the jump.

Created, edited and directed by SHEL's Sarah Holbrook, the "Freckles" video is basically the tale of a little girl who waits to meet her Prince Charming. She pulls petals off of flowers in the "he loves me, he loves me not" style and waits for him to join her for a lovely tea party in the woods. Sadly, the boy never comes. However, in the end, the little girl is joined by her mother who makes it all better. SHEL member Eva Holbrook explains: "Happy endings are rarely how we imagine them. Probably because we always know what we want, but seldom know what we really need." Well said, especially since it was just this week that I decided I wanted a boyfriend, but I realized I actually needed to go to the gym first.

+ Watch SHEL's "Freckles" video.

Photo credit: SHEL's Facebook

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"Folk Forward/Next Generation"

Based in Fort Collins, Colo., sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook are classically trained musicians whose songs meld ethereal harmonies, out-of-the-box melodies and remarkable musicianship. Producer Brent Maher, who’s worked with everyone from Ike & Tina Turner to the Judds, co-produced SHEL’s When the Dragon Came Down EP and is working on a full-length follow-up. - Music and Musicians


SHEL - SHEL 13 song CD
Mad King Records/Moraine Music - KBCO, NPR stations, Echoes - PRI

When The Dragon Came Down - EP 2011 - Mad King Records/Moraine Music - KCRW, KUNC

Mad King - EP 2010 - Universal Republic
Singles on NPR stations in the US - KCRW, KUNC

Try To Scream - EP 2009 - Mad King Records/Moraine Music
Singles on NPR stations in the US - KCRW, KUNC



You've got to tip your hat to any folk group that can impress a surly crowd of Hollywood hipsters. Folk Works

SHEL is Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza, four young, classically trained musicians who just happen to be sisters.  Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, the sisters turn folk music upside down with infectious rhythms, hypnotic vocals and stunning musicianship.   SHEL puts on a dynamic live show filled with energy and mesmerizing vocal arrangements.  The last year has put SHEL on stages across the US and Europe to support their critically acclaimed debut CD.  SHEL's music can be heard in commercials for Splenda, Glade, independent films and TV shows.  SHEL is an acronym for their names with Sarah on violin, Hannah on keyboard, Eva on mandolin and Liza on drums & percussion. 

Their latest single is featured on NATIVE: Americana Spotlight alongside other artists such as Matthew Perryman Jones, The Vespers, Michael Logen, and Mindy Smith.

SHEL - "You Could Be My Baby"

VIDEO SAMPLER FROM DEBUT LP:       Official videos are directed, filmed and edited by SHEL

        SHELs  video - Stained American Songwriter premiere:   

        "The Man Who Was The Circus" (Director's cut)    

        Freckles MTV Buzzworthy

        Lost at Sea video premiered at USA TODAY:    It was filmed near the Dunluce Castle and the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland during their first European tour.


Band Members