The Shee
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The Shee

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom | INDIE

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Folk Bluegrass


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The Shee have been attracting favourable comment for a while on the live circuit now, and this impressive debut album bears out the growing reputation the six-piece all-women band have accrued. Harpist Rachel Newton, fiddler Olivia Ross and mandolin player Laura Beth Soltge alternate on vocal, and each brings a different dimension to an already diverse selection of songs.

They add their considerable prowess to the band�s powerful instrumental line-up as well, where they are joined by flautist Lillias Kinsmann-Blake, fiddler Shona Mooney and accordion player Amy Thatcher. Their focused playing is heard to advantage on the energised instrumental sets drawn from a range of sources, including their own tunes as well as the Scottish traditional repertoire and Scandinavian music. - The List

AN IMPRESSIVE debut album from this fresh and focused all-women band. Harpist Rachel Newton, fiddler Olivia Ross and mandolin player Laura Beth Salter alternate on lead vocal duties, and each brings a different dimension to the already diverse selection of songs. Flautist Lillias Kinsman-Blake, fiddler Shona Mooney and accordion player Amy Thatcher complete the band's powerful instrumental line-up, heard to advantage on the energised instrumental sets drawn from a range of sources, including their own tunes as well as the Scottish traditional repertoire and Scandinavian music.

The Shee, Edinburgh Folk Club, Pleasance Theatre

Published Date: 09 July 2009
The Shee ****, Edinburgh Folk Club, Pleasance Theatre

EDINBURGH Folk Club celebrated their end-of-season bash with all-girl band The Shee playing to a familiar crowd in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Pleasance Theatre.

Although the Folk Club is more at home in the Cabaret Bar downstairs, the six members of the band and their respective instruments: two violins, a flute, one mandolin, an accordion and a harp, will have enjoyed the extra leg room on the much bigger stage upstairs.

The Shee's six young members, all dressed in different primary colours, looked on stage like a folk version of The Saturdays. Unlike their pop counterparts, though, they quickly proved they are much more than just a pair of coloured tights and a microphone.

Instead, The Shee are a band jam-packed with talent, each member an expert in their chosen musicianship, with a range of beautiful voices and seriously good songwriting talent to boot.

From the mandolin-led Bluegrass to the haunting harp of a Gaelic lament, The Shee fused a vast array of folk styles to lead the crowd from Jedburgh to Jacksonville and back again, with a quick stop off in Norway and Finland. It seemed clear that each of the band members made an equal creative contribution to the set and it was these balanced influences that made for an enthused and eclectic evening of music.

The band were in an international mood having made the long trip home from Vancouver only days before where they were playing to the Canadian Highland Games. As well as a small grumble about the effects of jet lag, their trip made for some interesting banter about the experience of sharing a house with a polyamorous couple.

These cheeky little asides were a feature of the show and ensured The Shee lived up to their reputation as the "flirtatiously funky" sisters of folk.

Much like The Shee's Canadian hosts, the Edinburgh Folk Club "spread the love" a little by opening the stage to two other impressive acts during the night. Clare-Louise Nielson of Blueflint and Rory McLeod kept the crowd busy in the interval with some masterful banjo-plucking and guitar-led Americana respectively. Clare-Louise Nielson also collected her prize for winning best songwriter, as voted by the Folk Club members.

Fresh from successful performances at Celtic Connections and Sidmouth Folk Week, and with individual musical accolades including BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician 2006, The Shee were just the right band to give the Edinburgh Folk Club a send-off for the end of the season. And with barely time to catch their breath before the festivals start in August, folk fans will not have to wait long to return home to the Pleasance Cabaret again at the start of September. - The Edinburgh Evening News

Gig review: The Shee & Friends

Published Date: 24 July 2009
By Sue Wilson


Leavening the mainly classical-based summer music programme at Paxton House with a touch of the traditional, all-female six-piece The Shee was also an aptly local choice for the series, its members being mostly drawn from the "debatable lands" either side of the Border.

The first half of the show, overlooked by the portraits bedecking the walls of Paxton House's picture gallery, showcased the fruits of a three-day workshop led by half of the band, fiddler Shona Mooney, flautist Lillias Kinsman-Blake and accordionist Amy Thatcher, for around 15 aspiring young musicians, aged from seven to late teens. They'd clearly covered a lot of ground, not only getting to grips with new tunes and tricky time-signatures, but also tackling some impressively complex and contemporary-style arrangements.

Joined for the occasion by fellow Borders fiddler Lori Watson, The Shee themselves, also featuring electric harp, mandolin, another fiddle and three voices, seemed a little wrong-footed by the absence of amplification � a rare thing these days, even in the folk world. Quite a challenge, too, when everyone's accustomed to balancing their instruments and voices via a sound desk, and hearing each other through monitors, even in a room with as vibrant an acoustic as this one. But while some strands in the mix did struggle to be heard, the band's richly hued, adroitly varied blend of Scottish, English, Irish, Nordic, Gaelic and American material � intricately meshed and delivered with plenty of snap, sparkle, sensitivity and swing � ringingly affirmed their up-and-coming reputation. - The Scotsman

Friday, 31 July 2009

Hello from Cambridge - the hailstones have stopped falling, the sun is out and the mud and gloop are starting to dry up so that the place looks less like the Somme and more like a big field in Cambridge.

I've just watched Genticorum and The Shee going down much better than yesterday's storm. They were both terrific: Genticorum rocking along with a solid set of French-Canadian music and making an amazingly full sound considering there is only three of them. I was dead chuffed to see them using the Jews Harp on a couple of pieces - a much underrated instrument that can really rock when played well.

The Shee, an all girl band mostly from Scotland (and Stockport) were brilliant; their version of Tom Paine's Bones is one of my favourite songs of the last 12 months and it was great to hear them singing it live.

They also have a fine step dancer who hoofed it royal on the main stage with a fine display of what Max Wall used to call Terpsichorean expertise. - Mike Harding (BBC Radio 2)

This all-girl group is based out of southern Scotland, playing a mixture of new and traditional material. Old or new, they kick it hard: a rockabilly take on Tom Paine's Bones, an inspired combination of the ballad Lady Margaret and Shona Mooney's reel Brambles, or the Newgrass style Chilly Winds which could almost come from the soundtrack of a Jet Li film, it's all good stuff. Shee are not short of vocal talent with Olivia Ross, Rachel Newton and Laura-Beth Salter. Lyrics are not provided with the CD, but are available from On the instrumental side, Lillias Kinsman-Blake adds flute and Shona Mooney plays fiddle, while Amy Thatcher's piano box and Rachel Newton's harp are equally adept at lead and backing roles. Everyone contributes a composition or two: the flowing jig Happy Halloween from Amy, The Groupie Reel from Rachel, the song Summer's Promise from Olivia, and a few more.
Of the eleven tracks here, four are vocal-led, four are pure instrumental and three are a blend of both. Here I Am is another hard-hitting contemporary song. Slower, but no less impassioned, are MacCrimmon's Lament and Ged Is Grianach An Latha, both with Gaelic vocals from Rachel. Other highlights for me were the Drunken Duck set, particularly the fascinating middle tune The Cuckoo, and the final English-American medley Dancing on the Wireless with compositions by Bela Fleck and Jay Ungar. This is not all pretty music: it's raw, vibrant, powerful but never rough. The Shee are definitely going places, and they have several directions to choose from. Young Poozies? Silly Witch? Maybe one day Girls of the Lough? Hear what A Different Season has to say, and make your own predictions.

ALEX MONAGHAN - FolkWorld CD Reviews

CELTIC CONNECTIONS: LUKE DANIELS AND DONALD GRANT ISLANDS / THE SHEE, Strathclyde Suite, Royal Concert Hall, 17 January 2008
22 January 2008

JENNIE MACFIE catches an ambitious new suite and admires the up-and-coming support band

THE SHEE have undergone a name change since they started out in 2006 as The Sirens, having discovered how many Sirens there are out there "A million trillion", says their MySpace site, with some slight exaggeration. What hasn't changed at all is the confident uncluttered arrangements which can turn a simple tune into something richly satisfying.

Their repertoire flits from Gaelic songs to American bluegrass, from traditional Scottish airs to their own compositions. They begin their first appearance at Celtic Connections with the instrumental "Dancing on the Wireless" set from their original 2006 demo, featuring their characteristically assured arrangements featuring fearless changes of tempo, key and time signature.

The Shee often recall Blazin' Fiddles in the sparkily seamless co-ordination of their playing, though with a wider range of instruments. Fiddles (Shona Mooney and Olivia Ross), mandolin (Laura-Beth Salter), accordion and foot percussion (Amy Thatcher), clarsach (Rachel Newton), and flute (Lillias Kinsman-Blake) are augmented by particularly fine vocals.

Olivia Ross' voice flows through "Tom Paine's Bones" with warmth and spine tingling passion, Rachel Newton's rendition in Gaelic of one of the many songs of love and loss has a yearning quality that hushes the Strathclyde Suite, Laura-Beth Salter's fine clear solo in "Chilly Winds" brings a refreshing breath of the New World, and their harmony singing is effortlessly lovely.

Rachel Newton's "Drunken Duck" edges towards jazz with its asymmetric beats and syncopation. The piece, which uses the mandolin, harp and accordion in relentless repetition to build up an almost unbearable suspense before allowing the fiddles free rein to take things forward, is a very fine thing indeed.

In between tunes, their youth and inexperience is often apparent, but it's nothing that time and a bit of focus on stagecraft won't fix. Once they pick up their instruments the music flows as smoothly and expertly as even the most demanding perfectionist could wish. This reviewer would place a small bet that if The Shee stay together as long as the Blazers, they'll be in with a good chance of outshining them.

Jennie Macfie, 2008 - Hi-Arts

In a muddy field somewhere in Yorkshire a motley congregation crammed themselves into a marquee at the tiny festival of Windybottom to witness the birth of The Shee. As six women took to the stage armed with fiddles, harp, accordeon, mandolin, flute, and voices, it didn't take long for the tent to warm up, feet to start squelching in time and the air to crackle with excitement. What emerged was neither purely Scottish folk nor a celtic-bluegrass fusion, but a vibrant and undaunted sound that wouldn't be pigeonholed. Fast-forward three years to Sidmouth Folk festival 2008 where The Shee, on their first major venture to southern England, received standing ovations, not to mention record CD sales of their debut A Different Season. When I caught up with Folk South West director Eddie Upton after the gig he could hardly contain his adjectives, exclaiming that "the Shee were a revelation."

If you have not managed to catch this all-female revelation, then no doubt you soon will, for after a successful year of tours, which included a recording session with the BBC, The Shee are swiftly gaining plaudits for their fresh, feisty music and DIY sensibilities. As I wait for the band to congregate in the airport-like cafe of The Sage Gateshead, Amy Thatcher, accordeonist and clog dancer extraordinaire, makes the distinction between The Shee and other all-female outfits: "We're a girl band but we're definitely not a girly band. It seems to be quite a talking point the all-female thing, but there are loads of all-male bands out there, and it never comes up as an issue, it's strange." Strange perhaps, but hardly surprising considering the still male-dominated music industry. As Lillias, flute player and the band's in-house graphic designer points out "that's one reason why I think it's so important to have an all female band - there aren't that many bands like us out there." Whereas there may be a plethora of sugar-voiced sirens backed by adoring males, The Shee not only have three distinctive singers but all are equally strong instrumental players. "There's an equality between all six of us", Amy affirms, "whereas I think if you've got one female front person the limelight goes towards them." Between mouthfuls of scones Lillias adds: "without having a guitar it's really challenged the rest of us to fill up the whole sound-space. It means fiddles are often used for accompaniment, instead of playing the tune, and we can all use our instruments differently."

The evening I meet The Shee they are due to "take on" Mawkin: Causley, in a boy-band verses girl-band showdown, apt as they admit forming partly in response to the surge of male-dominated bands on the folk scene. When I ask if they're up for the challenge their rowdy responses promise a lively night. "We've got bigger instruments for a start! jokes Border fiddler Shona Mooney, referring, of course, to Rachel Newton's big blue electric harp, which provides the band with both it's bold bass-lines and delicate finger-work. Once the mayhem has subsided Scottish singer and string player Olivia Ross concedes: "we're confident in what we've done " not in a big-headed way, but in a way that I think we feel it's good. So therefore we're not worried about coming up against other people because we do what we do and if people like it they like it and if they don't they don't". Undaunted indeed.

Later, crammed into a backstage dressing room amidst instruments and frocks, The Shee explain the mind-boggling logistics of arranging rehearsals around full-time jobs and scattered locations. When they do finally converge, there is apparently "too much talking" as there's always important gossip to exchange. But once they get down to business The Shee describe their music as evolving spontaneously. "Once we're on a role everyone has ideas and we all feed off each other," Amy elaborates. Lillias helps to paint a picture of how they create their polished arrangements: "Shona and Olivia often work together on the fiddles to create texture. Then Rachel and Amy with the harp and the bass of the accordion, and Laura, on the mandolin, all work well together filling out the sound. I feel like I'm just the floaty icing on the top of the cake. Maybe I'm on my own there!" As the conversation dissolves into a cacophony of extravagant sympathy for Lillias, it is decided that she is the cherry on the top. "But I want to be the cherry on the top!" Rachel's Edinburgh tones cut through the laughter.

But before this starts to sound too like an extract of Malory Towers let me remind you that not only have The Shee independently released their CD, (which they call their "Shee-D") on their own record label Shee Records, they have also single - or rather six-handedly organized their debut tour which included a live recording session at the BBC. They also manage their own website, merchandise design and are even joking about releasing Shee Dolls (an antidote to Barbies with realistic proportions) a feat which most definitely proves they are not just pretty faces. Having had a hand at organizing their own gigs, The Shee are in awe of concert promoters, as they now know from experience that it can be a thankless task. Having observed a dearth of young promoters they are keen to redress the balance but do not underestimate the challenges. "It is hard and it's stressful and I think both me and Rachel had headaches afterwards" admits Shona. "Maybe all the promoters just look old because of the stress!" Amy adds.

Even before releasing their debut The Shee were quietly gathering momentum in the most unlikely places, not least on Myspace where they were sought out by Bill Vorndick, producer for luminaries including Bob Dylan and Alison Krauss. At first it seemed as if a major record deal loomed, but after much carrot dangling the band decided they couldn't wait around. As Shona remembers "it just dragged on and on and we were just thinking "here's all this material that we're working on and it's just going to die - we're just going to split up as a band!". During this turbulent time The Shee were not only faced with abandoning the possibility of a major break, but with finding someone to fill the boots of their dazzling accordeonist Shona Kipling who decided focus on her duo with Damien O'Kane. "We were sad to lose Shona who's a phenomenal player, but we were incredibly lucky that Amy was around Newcastle" the band agrees. They also consider themselves lucky to have met while studying on Newcastle University's folk degree, as Rachel puts it "we wouldn't have been a band if it weren't for the course, and in a way it reflects on the degree that we have these different styles and influences". Having decided to go it alone the Shee have no regrets. As Rachel asserts, "we'd rather do something on a smaller scale but do our own music and do what we want to do, otherwise what's the point?"

But as all penniless musicians know, funding an album is not for the faint-hearted. Olivia explains that they couldn't have made "A Different Season" without their benefactors, two unassuming knights in shining armour from her hometown of Drumnadrochit: "I think they felt we could do really well and if we didn't then that was the gamble they took. It was really brave and good of them." "It's given us a bit of a kick up the bum" Shona agrees, "we've got to re-pay them in our determination to get out there." And out there they have bolted, proving wrong those who warned them that they wouldn't be able to get radio-play or distribution without a record deal. "I think we've showed that if you've got a product that sounds good then it speaks for it's self" says Rachel, without even a hint of smugness.

Whilst they are proud to have their feet firmly rooted in traditional music, The Shee are equally celebratory of the eclectic musical influences they all bring to the mix. Lillias suggests that "it reflects what it's like generally to be a musician growing up in our generation. Unless you're sat in your house and don't go out or listen to any CDs you can't help but get all these influences. It doesn't mean that your tradition is dying". "We're just adding our own flavours" offers Amy, who's composition Happy Halloween shines on the album. Olivia is more coy when it comes to her own songs, one of which, Summers Promise also features on the album. Despite admitting that she would probably not be performing if it wasn't for The Shee, Olivia has a growing flock of admirers, including Chris Wood: "I took her round to my mates for a Country & Western night and no sooner had she opened her mouth to sing than they all fell head over heels in love with her", Chris enthused. This is hardly surprising considering that Olivia's musical background involved more American country laments than highland ballads: "See, I didn't do Scots songs until I came to Newcastle so therefore it's not part of my upbringing, but now it's a big part of me." "It's not like you come from the highlands so therefore you like highland music," agrees Rachel who herself resists the label of "Gaelic singer" that has been thrust upon her, due to her background as a Gallic speaker. While the music Scottish borders is evident in both Lillias and Shona's playing they are the first to encourage boundary crossing and do not consider The Shee to be a specifically Scottish band despite a majority of Scottish accents. While it was always Shona's dream to follow in her parents footsteps and become a musician, Lillias's childhood ambition was slightly more unconventional: "When I was really little it was my ambition to stand on the corner and chat to people like this old man did in the village!" While Lillias's talent as a graphic designer initially made it a hard decision to choose between art and music at university, Rachel, like Shona, found that traditional music soon eclipsed other career options. "I wanted to be a vet, which sounds ridiculous now" she laughs, "but I don't like getting my hands dirty, or stuck up cows bums, so that wasn't really an option! When I realized I was rubbish at science, I thought "I'll just go for it", there was nothing else I wanted to do." On the other end of the spectrum Amy considered becoming a make-up artist until she joined Liza Austin-Strange's "Fosbrooks Folk Education Trust". It was at Fosbrooks that Amy discovered her talent for clog dancing and the accordeon, which lead her to play with the likes of Katherine Tickell and Karen Tweed. While proud of her Northwest roots, it is her own tunes that Amy feels most at home with. Lincolnshire-born Laura also defies the myth spun around folk musicians that they spring from the womb with the music of their locality pulsing through their veins. In reality Laura's epiphany came around the age of five when she realized that there were benefits in going to sessions with her blue-grass musician parents, the most important one being that she was allowed in the pub! After seeing mandolin-wiz John Moore Laura enthuses: "I said to my parents that my life would not be fulfilled and I'd never be happy until they bought me a mandolin" and it took two years. Laura's fingers have hardly left the frets since and she can often be found at the heart of a session. The evening I met them was no exception: after another exceptional gig everyone piled into a tiny pub in Gateshead and played their fingers sore until the small hours "if that isn't dedication to the tradition I don't know what is.

Emily Portman
- Froot Magazine


Debut album: A Different Season.

Released on Shee Records 2008.
Performance on BBC Alba TV.

Many of the tracks from this album are played on Radio stations including: BBC Radio Scotland; BBC Radio 3 Late Junction and World on 3; BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal and BBC Radio 2 Mike Harding's Folk Programme.



(For WOMEX 100 words)

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominee 2009 / Scots Trad Music Award nominee 2009. The Shee are 'an all-female revelation... fresh, feisty music' - froots. Described as 'flirtatiously funky' by The Scotsman, their music features original compositions alongside a wealth of traditional material. Their adventurous brew of Scottish folk, Gaelic song, and Bluegrass has earned them considerable recognition and performances at festivals including Cambridge and Celtic Connections as well as gigs in Europe and Canada. Their highly anticipated second album is due for release in October 2010.

'The Shee... are brilliant.' - Mike Harding BBC Radio 2

'First class!' - Penguin Eggs Magazine

Extended Biography

The Shee are 'an all-female revelation... fresh, feisty music' - froots. Described as 'flirtatiously funky' by The Scotsman, their music features original compositions alongside a wealth of traditional material. Their adventurous brew of Scottish folk, Gaelic song, and Bluegrass has earned them fast growing recognition and performances at festivals including Cambridge and Celtic Connections as well as gigs in Europe and Canada. The Shee demonstrate an impressive array of individual musical achievements including BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician 2006, Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland for Best Use of Music 2009, as well as members performing with: 'The Unusual Suspects'; 'Kathryn Tickell Band'; Scandinavian group 'Frigg'; and even a clog-dancing appearance with pop-star 'Sting'.

The six, sexy, sassy young ladies became friends during the first four years of the BMus Folk and Traditional Music Degree at Newcastle University. Two members of the band who grew-up together in the Scottish Borders, Shona Mooney and Lillias Kinsman-Blake, hatched a plan in 2005 to form an all-girl band during their final year of the university course. The girls (who incidentally lived on the same street in Newcastle) started practising together at house-parties while consuming large quantities of cup-cakes, chocolate, cava and sweeties! It wasn't until 2008 when they released their first studio album (recorded in Castle Sound, Pencaitland nr. Edinburgh) that they began to make a considerable impression on the UK folk music scene. They were soon nominated for a BBC Scotland Na Trads Awads in 2009, and also for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award.

Now that the girls are graduates from the course, they are pursuing careers in the field of folk music. All talented and committed teachers of their instruments, The Shee plan to tour more substantially and will be producing their highly anticipated second album in October 2010. This album was kindly financially supported by the Musicians Benevolent Fund and will feature a mixture of Scottish and Bluegrass material with more developed, intricate vocal harmonies and compositions by members of the band that have been inspired by various touring experiences in 2008-2010.


'The Shee... are brilliant.' - Mike Harding BBC Radio 2

'First class!' - Penguin Eggs

'An excellent opening set, too, from the newish all-female sextet The Shee, whose lush, lively, vocal/instrumental mix of Scots, Gaelic and American influences has settled resoundingly into its groove, allied with newly-confident stagecraft.' - The Scotsman (Sue Wilson)

'The Shee are phenomenal, their combination of Scottish folk with just the right amount of bluegrass is an irresistible rhythmic force.' - Spiral Earth

'The Shee were a revelation. The real surprise package of the festival. Their music and singing took the place by storm - fabulous stuff'. - Eddie Upton (Artistic Director, Sidmouth Folk Week)