Simple songs, and a sound from another time make this an album which stands out from the modern crowd.
The Moon Shells are a 5 piece band who say that they “draw from the traditional music of Appalachia, Louisiana, West Africa and elsewhere to try to make something new”. There is an underlying simplicity to their music, played on traditional acoustic instruments, but it has a charm all its own. They are based loosely in the North East USA, and play mostly around Connecticut and Vermont.
The Appalachian influence emerges on the first song ‘Come Over To The Table’ and there is an unmistakeable West African feel to ‘Fall Way’ which follows it. The Moon Shells are far from the most sophisticated music you will hear this year. Banjo, guitar, percussion, and fiddle are the main sounds on offer. Pieces like ‘Goose Crossing‘ could have been recorded in 1931 as easily as 2021. The limited information available make it hard to tell who is playing which instrument. Band members Maggie Shar, Brian Slattery, Laura Murawski, Molly Merrett, and Charlie Shaw are on their third album and say of their writing: “Our songs are about adapting to climate change, or coming to terms with death and other transitions. We’ve also held fast to a rule, established early on, that the music needs to be, in the end, positive and uplifting.”
‘The Lure’ halfway through the album stands out as a far more “electric” sounding song, but after that we are back to the traditional sound. The African influence reappears in the chiming guitar of ‘Boat Song’, and the album rounds off with another instrumental ‘Catamount Airfield’ that you can picture being played at an Old Timey country dance.
There are touches of Mark Olson’s Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers in some songs. One of the singers, again not possible to put names to voices, is very much from the Victoria Williams school. The primitive nature of much of ‘Earth’ is a lot of its appeal. As is the fact that: “Given that the songs were written during the pandemic, it’s a little surprising that the pandemic doesn’t show up” The gentle swing of these songs make them something you can play on a winter’s day and think of summer sunshine.