• James Harvey

Album Review - The Shackleton Trio - Fen, Farm and Deadly Water -2018

The Shackleton Trio - Fen, Farm and Deadly Water

The Shackleton Trio (previously known as the Georgia Shackleton Trio) are made up of, Georgia Shackleton, on Fiddle and lead Vocals, Aaren Bennett, on Guitar and Nic Zuppardi on the Mandolin, (I must say, I do love a Mandolin). Creating their own unique brand of folk influenced by British, American and Scandinavian sounds combined with those from their East Anglian roots, The Shackleton Trio introduce a familiar yet fresh style of folk onto the UK scene.

Having toured the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands, performing in their own solo concerts as well as making numerous festival appearances, they are growing in status across Europe, however, I’m slightly embarrassed that the only reason I came across their album, ‘Fen, Farm and Deadly Water’, was via Amazon Music, New Releases section. Yet, thankfully I did.

The ten-track debut album begins with the song, ‘The Fashionable Farmer’, an amusing tale of a stylish farmer with an exquisite taste in expensive things. The song touches on the struggle we all sometime find ourselves having, the choice between paying the bills or spending the money on that, normally unnecessary, luxury, simply to cheer our lives up a little, even though deep down, we know we shouldn’t. You could also stretch so far as to say the cautionary tale, told by the band, also reflects the current economic state of affairs in the UK rather well. With debt rising as people spend with their hearts and the 'here and now', and not thinking about their long-term future. This could, however, just be me overthinking it.

‘Radish Boys’ gives the second track in the album a toe tapping anthem before moving into ‘Only Viveka’ a relaxing yet musically complex instrumental. So far sticking to that traditional, yet, fresh sounding UK folk style.

It's in ‘Old Blue’, the forth track on the album, when the American folk roots influence on the band starts to show. This tale of an old dog swiftly moves to the second instrumental on the album, ‘The Stanford’. A moving and high tempo piece of music that really made me sit up and want to listen, such is the craftmanship of the track, it evokes an emotional response, without the need to clutter the piece with words.

‘Powte’s Complaint’ slows the flow of the album down slightly but not in a jarring way. A traditional track from the 1600’s performed in a refreshing way, so much so, if you didn’t know it’s origins you could easily mistake it for a new piece, such is the musical ability of the band.

Continuing the slower pace, like a trickling stream moving across the marshland, we move into the ‘Fenland Song’ (see what I did there?). One of the shorter tracks on the album and one of my favourites. The band really paint a living image of Fenland in Cambridgeshire, it makes me want to go a see the place for myself, as I must confess, I’ve never been.

The trickling stream joins the river for the third and penultimate instrumental, as the pace of the album picks up again, with a track that reminds me of the smoke-filled folk taverns of my youth. This fades nicely into the final instrumental of ‘Vals Till Lars-Olov/The Penknife Killer, another complex and shifting track. The slow to fast changing tempo of the pace, really demands the listeners attention.

Rounding off the album, we have ‘Down into the Sea’, a tale of the decline of the UK seaside towns (indeed most of the villages and small towns in the UK), with the locals moving away to find work in the cities and the general downturn of people wanting to visit them, preferring to look aboard for sunnier climates and cheaper thrills. The song really does complete an album that is hard to pin down into a single mood or emotion.

This isn’t a bad thing, as the whole album comes together perfectly, giving us a pleasant and moving experience from the minds of the Shackleton Trio as well as the general feeling across vast swathes of the lesser populated areas of the UK outside the bursting cities.

The ‘Fen, Farm and Deadly Waters’ is an emotional, thought provoking and beautiful debut album from three extremely talented folk artists and, like all the best ones, shares a tale of the life and the world around us and a perception we ourselves may not have experienced or considered otherwise.

The Fen, Farm and Deadly Waters, is available from all good streaming services as well as Amazon and the like.

You can also support them directly and purchase it from their Bandcamp.

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