Sunday, February 07, 2010

Lovers' Well: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Lovers' Well

Lovers’ Well is a romantic album, but perhaps not in the way you might at first expect. Matt and Shannon Heaton offer a mix of song and tune, drawn from or based in Irish tradition. The tunes, which include reels, jigs, hornpipes, and a waltz, are all made for dancing, because, as Shannon points out, “dancing together is as sweet as singing together. All the tune sets on the album have love themed titles,” she adds, “and to ensure proper tempos, we worked with dancer and choreographer Kieran Jordan on the material.” Shannon plays flutes and whistles on the tunes, and Matt plays guitar, bouzouki, and bodhran.

The songs all concern love, and as that emotion embraces all shades of dark at light at times, so do the songs. There’s Lily of the West, with Shannon taking the lead on a song where jealousy and murder play a part, while Matt sings lead on Lady Fair, a version of the broken token song in which two lovers reunite after a long separation and the woman does not at first recognize her man. Where Moorcocks Crow is an enigmatic song of love at first sight, and in Botany Bay a husband bids farewell to his wife and children. Golden Glove finds the bride to be falling for the best man, and Lao Dueng Duen, a Thai song honoring Shannon’s time in Thailand and with a bit of an Irish arrangement is a piece from the tenth century in which a lover serenades his young woman -- and the way the Heatons do it, it both respects the song's origins and fits right in with the rest of the music on the album. Through all the songs, the Heatons’stellar harmonies add depth and beauty to the songs, as well.

“We dug deep to find material which explored both the highs of being in love and some of the darker aspects,” Shannon says. For the song Golden Glove -- that’s the one where the bride falls for the best man-- Shannon added a chorus which brings a touch of realism to the otherwise giddy story of courtship in the song--and which also, she points out, “sums up the different parts of the album: 'Deep is the lover's well, Higher than Heaven and Darker than Hell.'"

That might lead you to think things get rather grim in the music, but that’s not the case at all. Straightforward, rather, and endlessly intriguing. Much love went into the creation of the recording, too, as Shannon explains. “This project had a clearly defined mission statement from the beginning: to represent different aspects of love.

“Because Matt and I really worked together on the initial concept, and then brought in a team of people to help us bring it to life... people we love and trust, musically and personally --it was very much a labor of love for us, from the rehearsal and recording process to the material itself. We worked with our friend and producer/engineer Eric Merrill, dancer and choreographer Kieran Jordan, Keith Murphy on mandolin, guitar, and piano, and Dan Gurney on accordion.

“A friend offered us a cottage in Wellfleet on Cape Cod for the recording. Before heading down to record, we spent weeks with Eric to prepare material. From initial rehearsals through the week of recording, Eric’s holistic musicianship, beautiful engineering, humor and love guided us through the project.

“The result of our rich traditional material -- much adapted, but hopefully still intact in its musical and emotional intent -- our loving creative team of Eric and Kieran, and the forest home in which we recorded was a thoughtful, natural, and sweet working process. Because some of the tracking was done at night and even outside on the porch, the tracks have an organic nature about them — cricket chirps, bird calls, rain on the roof all made their way into the microphones.” That care and connection, and the deep well of musical experience and respect for both tradition and innovation which the Heatons and their musical friends bring to the work, create an experience which both honors Irish tradition and extends it in a natural and graceful way.

And if Irish tradition isn’t your thing, you really don’t have to know anything about it to enjoy and appreciate this music. If you and your valentine have a taste for fine singing, excellent flute and guitar playing, creative approaches to acoustic music, and thoughtful choice of material, Lovers’ Well could be the perfect soundtrack to your Valentine’s Day celebration.

you may also want to see

Another Fine Winter's Night: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Matt & Shannon Heaton: Blue Skies Above

Shannon Heaton: Oil for the Chain

by Kerry Dexter

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Blogger Alexandra Grabbe said...

I intend to get this album. I loved the Christmas Eve song. Shannon has an amazing voice. What great harmony, when she sings with Matt!

5:41 PM  

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