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Jeana Leslie & Siobhan Miller Shadows Tall

Jeana Leslie & Siobhan Miller
Shadows Tall

Greentrax  CDTRAX352

The press release describes them as “shining stars” and refers to their “touring to great acclaim”.  Hmmm, I thought, peeling the shrink-wrap, such an epithet can often mean that the words of an over-enthusiastic publicist have leapt ahead of an actual public regard.  However on this, the duo’s second release for Ian Green’s label, the natural blend of their two voices, combined with substance and imagination means that the follow-up to In A Bleeze (2008) really delivers on an emotional and visceral level. From the opener - Johnnie O’Braidisleys - this album sounds convincing. The widescreen epic (Child 114) boasts an arrangement whose piano part’s sense of approaching inevitability would’ve warned Johnnie that he really shouldn’t have pushed his poacher’s run of luck that day! 

Leslie and Miller I’d guess, will be in their early 20s but they have an assuredness and maturity that, makes me think they’re built to last. Siobhan concentrates on lead vocals, whilst Jeana here takes care of fiddle, keyboards and adds just-right harmonies. Trad is their forte, though there is more recently-written material featured too and mostly an unaffected, quietly-making-its-point approach is the order of the day. Ian Sinclair’s The King’s Shilling is a powerful statement and Buttermilk Hill with its tender, lingering melody is especially poignant when so many have newly “gone for a soldier.”  
Overall the ambience is “Folk” like they used to make.  Young guns assuredly, but they’re not firing widely in every direction. Instead they offer an alternative to the ramped-up, all influences-on-board modus operandi that many younger musicians feel impelled to adopt in order to stand out. That’s not to imply that they’re wrapped up in tweed jackets and scarves knitted by their grans – there is syncopation and funkiness too, but it’s the overall direct, organic feel from which this recording gains its considerable charm.

A set that grows in strength with each play, this is an unexpected winter warmer.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 87 of The Living Tradition magazine.