The second album from the Edinburgh-based folk band Seelyhoo entitled Leetera is a fantastic introduction to progressive folk music fans of artists such as Capercaillie, Clannad and Iona. With a mix of Gaelic and English lyrics, across both ballads and upbeat vocal numbers as well as an ample supply of instrumentally rich jigs and reels, this album clearly shows off the virtuousity of this sextet. The album features 14 tracks with an average running time of about 4:00 and is produced extremely well. The entire package is a work of art reflecting the high quality Greentrax is well known for.
Seelyhoo are fronted by songwriter, vocalist and tin whistle player Fiona MacKenzie -- with a voice not unlike Capercaillie's Karen Matheson. They play more on the traditional side of the progressive celtic movement many of us follow today. Indeed, based simply on internet resources available to the most casual browser, their tour circuit spans Great Britain, continental Europe and the North American continent as well.
With songs written either traditionally or by Fiona MacKenzie, Jennifer and Heather Wrigley, or Sandy Brechin, Seelyhoo takes credit for their unique arrangement. The band is also comprised of the following artists: Sandy Brechin (accordion), Jennifer Wrigley (fiddle, hardanger fiddle), Jim Walker (drums, percussion), Niall Muir (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Hazel Wrigley (guitar, piano, fender rhodes, mandolin).
Whether vocally rich or instrumentally based, the band does not play purely traditional folk music. The tunes are clearly steeped in Scottish roots but the band have that unique knack to progress the music into modern times with effective use of percussion and electronic instrumentation to underscore the central traditional themes. The music has enormous energy which clearly must contribute to the loyal following of their live performances. The music is happy and leaves one with a great feeling whilst its being played.
The vocal numbers are most intriguing because they tend to show the furthest exploration and stretch the band into modern dimensions. Mixed way above the instrumentals where they can be clearly heard, the vocals are perfectly processed demonstrating Fiona's tremendous talent.
Clearly the opening track "Na Spioradan Briste" has both the vocal and instrumental elements that led us initially to Capercaillie and Clannad. The track "Dheanainn Sugradh Ris An Nighinn Duibh" has all of the elements as well but spun in more of a traditional mood. Instrumentally rich songs are intriguing and illustrate the strong talents of the individual band members. Clearly their fiddle and tin whistle playing is among the very best we've heard. Acoustic guitar parts are played tenderly and add to the overall progressive sound conveyed within the album. "Cheese Peace" is a traditionally rich song treated progressively and an excellent example of the band's modern outlook.
As a huge fan of Capercaillie, Seelyhoo's Leetera bowled me over on the first listening and I'm therefore ever so pleased to recommend it to those that follow this other hugely successful Scottish band.
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