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SHANTALLA - From The East Unto The West 

SHANTALLA - From The East Unto The West 
Appel Rekords APR1389 

Shantalla is a six-piece band comprising Scottish and Irish musicians but based in Belgium, from which location they’ve released three albums since their 1999 debut. Now here’s album number four, which breezes in with an entirely confident demeanour. Excitement is generated straightaway with their forthright account of Captain Ward, which typifies their approach – authentic and assured vocal (here Scottish singer Helen Flaherty), expertly configured and genuinely interesting instrumental setting and arrangement, and power and drive aplenty. Glancing at the strength and variety of the line-up, you feel they can’t put a foot wrong, and you’d be right – there’s Simon Donnelly (guitars, bouzouki, vocals), Kieran Fahy (fiddle, viola), Joe Hennon (guitars, vocals), Michael Horgan (uilleann pipes, flute, whistles) and Gerry Murray (accordion, whistles, bouzouki, piano), all underpinned where necessary by Helen’s bodhrán. The band members are acutely aware of the niceties of dynamics and texture and know exactly how to maintain listener interest.

Their mission is to promote their culture widely, especially that of those Irish, Scottish and Breton peoples who moved “from the east unto the west” seeking better lives. Thus it’s inevitable that social injustice figures large, with songs such as The War Of The Crofters (Brian McNeill) and A Band Of Gold (Maurice McGrath), both of which receive sturdy performances here. Of the five instrumental tracks, the energetic Cameronian Highlander Set and Ynis Avalach medley impress most.

My only significant criticism of this release is the complete absence of composition credits or track notes from the package.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine