“Ship In The Clouds” is an excellent debut from a quartet of players who are fabulous individually and even mightier together.
By Daniel Neely
In the player this week is the eponymous, soon-to-be-released debut from the band “Ship In The Clouds.” Made up of Laura Feddersen (fiddle), Natasha Sheehy (button accordion), Anna Colliton (bodhrán), and Nathan Gourley (guitar), the musicians here are all (save for Colliton, who lives in New York City) integral elements of Boston’s very vibrant traditional music scene. Although these folks been playing together in various combinations for years, they only formed as a band in 2018 and the results, as evidenced by the music here, are gorgeous.
Gourley (who was in the bands Chulrua, the Doon Ceili Band, the Two Tap Trio, and the Máirtín de Cógáin Project, and who was a 2014 Fiddler of Dooney finalist) and Feddersen have a long-standing musical rapport. Readers may remember them from their superb 2014 album “Life is all Checkered,” which I said at the time was “a great album of fiddle music from two kindred players who sound amazing together.” Maybe this connection has something to do with their midwestern upbringing (Indiana and Wisconsin, respectively) or their musical upbringings, but there seems to be something in the music of one that brings out the best of the other on a consistent basis.
Sheehy and Colliton complement their chemistry well. Sheehy, now living in Boston, comes from Abbeyfeale, West Limerick, and was a student of Willie Larkin and Danny O’Mahony. She’s a fine player with a smooth, relaxed style. Colliton, who grew up in Chicago but who now lives in the boogie-down-Bronx with her husband, the great fiddler Alasdair White, is a go-to bodhrán player here in the city and seems to have played with everyone and taught everywhere over the years.
Brought together by sessions in Boston, this quartet has done well to take their great vibe to CD. Tracks like “Tae the Beggin’ / The Bird in the Bush,” the album’s opener, and “Horse Keane's / Larkin's Beehives / Tom Dowd's Favourite” have very session-like feels to them. “Forde's / The Knockaboul / O’Callaghan’s” is a well-executed set of polkas that works well, and “Brosna Town / Báidín Fheidhlimidh” a pair of very agreeable waltzes.
Sheehy and Feddersen both have solo features, Sheehy with “Apples in Winter / Dancing Eyes” and Feddersen with “The Surround / The Silver Slipper / Dogs Among the Bushes,” each one revealing the temperament in each individual’s playing.
The album is very strong as a whole, but my own favorite tracks here are “The Dawn Chorus / The One that was Lost / The Castlebar Races,” “Slide Do Caoimhin / The Whistling Thief / Con Cassidy’s,” “John Roarty's / The Steampacket / Banks of the Shannon,” and “The Raveled Hank of Yarn / Farewell to Ireland / Ivy Leaf.” Each one has a lot of individual character, but the thing that unites them for me is the lovely swing and the small touches – it’s what makes them very enjoyable to listen to.
By the way, in addition to being Ship’s bodhrán player, Colliton is an excellent graphic designer (annacollitonvisuals.com) and she has brought her visual talent to bear on this release. Readers will be familiar with her style from several other albums I’ve reviewed here, including “Life is All Checkered” (as mentioned above), “Copley Street” (Gourley w/ Joey Abarta & Owen Marshall), “The Glory Reel” (Will Woodson, Caitlin Finley, & Chris Stevens), “Bright Vision” (Ivan Goff & Renée Louprette), “Music and Mischief” (Kevin Crawford, Colin Farrell, & Patrick Doocey), and “From the Floor” (Jackie O’Riley & Rebecca McGowan), as well as logo for Caitlin Warbelow’s “Tune Supply” project. Her design here gives the music a strong visual representation that feels very individual, and it merits special mention.
“Ship In The Clouds” is an excellent debut from a quartet of players who are fabulous individually and even mightier together. The tunes here are really well chosen (something I think can be said of project Gourley and Feddersen is involved in), but I think what’s most charming here is the lovely style. The music is well-paced and danceable, and on the whole has an intimacy and character that sounds like it was made in a kitchen. (And I imagine it probably was recorded in one!) Recommended for your collection, or as a Christmas gift for the music lover in your life! “Ship In The Clouds” is set to be released Friday, Dec. 4 (which happens to be one of Bandcamp’s “no fee Fridays”) and is well worth the purchase. Learn more at shipintheclouds.bandcamp.com.