The Universal Hall, situated in the grounds of Findhorn Foundation’s base was the scene, on Friday 19th October, of The Shee’s penultimate Scottish gig touring their new album ‘Murmurations’. The Hall is a great setting for a gig; surrounding the stage is some informal seating with a decent space for dancing in the centre. The Hall also knows how to get the best sound out of the space ensuring some very nice acoustics.
The Shee opened their gig with Troubles from 2010 album ‘Decadence’ before quickly heading into new track Strut. It is rare that a band can get an audience dancing and clapping so early in their gig but the Findhorn crowd are an energetic bunch and by the time of Rachel’s full, rich electroharp bass the audience were in full swing. The band followed this with old favourite Tom Paine’s Bones – it’s hard to better Dick Gaughan but The Shee certainly achieve this with a fiery yet melodic rendition of the Graham Moore classic.
New tracks Sugarwine (learnt whilst Laura-Beth was touring with the unfortunately named fiddle band Frig) and the murder ballad Three Knights highlighted the girls ability to deliver both new and traditional tunes. The barnstormer Northern Frisk, which Oliva swears is the best tune in the world to play, saw the audience give in to the rhythm and the floor space witnessed some impressive moves by the Findhorn co. The first half finished with Oliva’s affective Pity Me, an unrepentant and hardy tale of lost love.
After a short break the girls returned to deliver a number of sweltering reels and jigs – which also saw the Hall employ some impromptu but tasty disco lights much to the amusement of the girls and the sheer joy of the dancing audience – including Starlings, the Drunken Duck set (just ask Lillias to explain the origin of the track!) and a feisty version of Hand Ba’ Breakdown, inspired by the pretty infamous Jedburgh game, along with a few tracks from ‘Murmurations’ including Our Bottle. A particular highlight was Rachel’s Puirt, an example of traditional Gaelic mouth music which, although Rachel was suffering from a cold, still sounded stunning. New track Highlands and Flatlands was particularly evocative; a duet between local girl Oliva’s Balintore roots and Laura-Beth’s Lincoln’s roots, which saw Oliva’s northern fiddle acting as a precursor to Laura-Beth’s delicate mandolin. Olivia also delivered a fierce and dark version of Child Ballad Eppie Morrie.
On their recordings the girls pride themselves on capturing an authentic live sound and after hearing them in the flesh that’s certainly true. After the Scottish tour the girls are a well deserved rest before taking the album on tour across England early in 2013 so there is still time to catch the girls in action. New album, ‘Murmurations’ itself is beautifully produced and comes complete with an exclusive cover designed by Lillias. Each single album has been individually illustrated so each is unique; an ideal Christmas gift if anyone is looking for something special!
Such was the success of the night that the girls were encouraged to return for two encores (which also saw Amy deliver some of her famous clog dancing) including crowd favourite Chilly Winds. The last track suggested the looming of winter but if this gig was an example of how The Shee and the folks of Findorn and the Moray coast deal with long wintry nights then all I can say is bring it on!
Review by: Billy Rough