Long Time Courting: Alternate Routes
that is the name of a tune, a set, and a new album from the band Long Time Courting. It also works to give a hint of the music within, and the routes the four women of the band took to get to it.
The story of Maggie Dean starts things off. Maggie disguises herself as a man to sail away on a ship bound for America, not, as is common in such songs, to follow her man, but rather to seek a trade. She ends up making a life on the sea, not, as is also common in such tales, rescued by becoming the captain’s wife, but rather learning the seafaring trade herself and marrying a fellow sailor. A traditional melody carries this turn on the familiar story in words composed by Shannon Heaton.
Heaton plays flutes and whistles with Long Time Courting. Sarah Blair is on fiddle, Liz Simmons plays guitar, and Ariel Friedman plays cello. All four of the women sing. The New England based musicians also have other commitments from teaching to touring to playing in duos, trios, and other bands, and among them they have worked with artists ranging from the Eagles to the Clancy Legacy.
What they have created with Long Time Courting is not so much a blend of talents as it is a tapestry, with bright threads of voice and instrument weaving in and out, coming to the fore and supporting in the background through a series of musical conversations that comprise both song and tune. LTC is rooted in Irish music, but they bring in American roots and on occasion other threads of music as well. The song Barbara Allen is well known on both sides of the Atlantic and in many different styles. LTC offers it in slowed down form, almost as a lament, with a nod to Johnny Cash as as well as to tradition. It is also a very fine instance of how the women’s singing creates a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.
Their collaboration through their instruments is equally strong The Alternates Routes set, which bookends Heaton’s original title track with two traditional pieces, finds the meeting of rhythm from Simmons guitar, breath of Heaton’s flute and dialogue between the bright sound of Blair's fiddle and the darker tone of Friedman’s cello all carrying the story with no words needed. The York Street Stepper set is another place to note this, as the title tune from LTC founding member Ellery Klein kicks off the journey and weaves in to two pieces from the tradition.
Each of the songs -- there are five of them, including My Johnny Was a Shoemaker, from the tradition, and Islander’s Lament, a contemporary song written by Robbie O’Connell -- offer strong story, engaging voice, great harmony, and thoughtful playing. The six tune sets deliver as well, and all show greater depth which each listening. A well woven tapestry, this, and a thoughtful musical journey, one which reveals more color and depth with each listening.
you may also wish to see
Music Road: Another Fine Winter's Night: Matt & Shannon Heaton
Music Road: The Clancy Legacy
Music Road: Shannon Heaton: The Blue Dress
Music Road: Cherish The Ladies: A Star in the East