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Friday, April 4, 2014

Matt and Shannon Heaton - Tell You in Earnest

Matt & Shannon Heaton - Tell You in Earnest
2014, Eats Records

We here at Wildy’s World first came across husband and wife duo Matt and Shannon Heaton back in 2009 when we reviewed their album Lover’s Well.  Their unique blend of traditional Celtic folk sounds and modern sensibilities make them an absolute treat to behold.  The Heatons are at the Center of Boston’s Celtic music community, and have become favored performers throughout the Northeastern U.S.  This week they return with their 5th album as a duo, Tell You in Earnest

The album begins with the traditional sounding Celtic ballad "Cruel Salt Sea".  The ballad of love and loss is a thing of beauty. The instrumental arrangement here is smooth, yet full of vibrant Celtic energy, and Shannon Heaton's lead vocal is beautiful, lyric and warm. "Gallant Hussar" is a vibrant double jig with a happy ending. The Heatons keep it simple, and the song works on many levels. "Mon Rak Dawk Kam Tai" takes Thai lyrics and places them in the context of a Celtic/folk arrangement. The mix seems like it should be awkward, but Shannon Heaton pulls it off with aplomb in a dreamy sounding arrangement. Matt Heaton takes the lead on "Easy Come, Easy Go", an entertaining tale of love lost and found, foolishness and even cross-dressing. This elaborate bard's joke in song is captivating and fun.  

"Demon Lover" is Keatsian in its poetry, and equally refined musically. This is a beautiful, if reserved moment you won't want to miss. "Mantle of Green" is about love unrequited and love lost, a tragic love triangle built around two comrades and the woman they both love. There's a sorrowful lilt to the song, and The Heatons bring it alive with a special energy you can't ignore. "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" is an interesting story song about a dangerous love. The arrangement and pacing here run at a slow, sputtering space for the first 2 1/2 minutes before acquiring more urgency. Once the transition occurs the song is a much easier listen.

"Edwin of the Lowlands Low" is a tragic love song sung in simple yet stark tones. The elemental presentation is raw and full of a painful beauty. Matt Heaton takes the lead on "Mrs. McGrath", a stark take on the wages of war (sometimes sung as "My Son John".). While dated by references to the King of Spain, the message of the song is as powerful and prescient as when it was first crafted in the early 1800's. "Lovely Annie" starts out as a sweet ballad and then transitions into a flawless take on the reel “Richie Dwyer’s Favorite” (also commonly known as “The Fox on the Town”. This turn helps to close out the album on a high note with great energy that will beckon listeners back again and again.

Matt and Shannon Heaton are world class musicians each in their own right.  Together they have a special chemistry that is impossible to fake.  Tell You in Earnest finds the Heatons at the top of their game in spite of the occasional slow moment.  The blend of voices and instruments on Tell You in Earnest is other-worldly, and Shannon Heaton has perhaps one of the finest voices in Celtic music.  This is certain to be a favorite in your collection.

Rating:  4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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