Not a Novelty Act

Different Season
Shee Records 1

The novelty value of all-female Celtic ensembles went out the window when Cherish the Ladies emrged in 1985, and raised the quality bar. The Shee is Newcastle’s answer to CTL, a sextet of young women whose debut album is crisp, bold, and electrifying. The angelic harmonies of Rachel Newman, Olivia Ross, and Laura-Beth Salter would alone turn heads, but the instrumentation is even more impressive. They breathe new life into well-traveled material such as “Chilly Winds,” “Lady Margaret,” and “MacCrimmons.” On the latter, the band enter the musical dimension in which electronica and tradition swirl and collide. Each woman is a skilled musician, but Amy Thatcher wields her accordion like a scimitar carving out space for fiddle, harp, and flute bursts that make you dance like the faeries for which the band is named. This is no novelty act; it’s the real deal.


All the Right Side Tracks

Amen Corner
SCI Fidelity 1098

The latest from bluegrass jam band Railroad Earth is an Americana mash-up of The Band, Old and in the Way, and The Grateful Dead. On the rockabilly “Waggin’ the Dog” there’s even a brief wink to Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” There are numerous classic bluegrass mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and flat-picked guitar breakouts on this album, but check out the blaring alto sax that rocks out “Hard Livin’.” Frontman Todd Sheaffer is a vocal chameleon who is Country smooth at one moment, a wailing arena rock singer the next, and singing like a pained backwoodsmen a split second later. In the latter persona he rightly draws comparisons to Jerry Garcia. This hard-driving release is a welcome relief from overdone bluegrass/jazz fusion projects.