The Sheiling,
The Shape I'm In
(Umbrella Head, 2001)

Based in Wales, this group originally came about as a loose group of musicians. That's a loose group not a group of loose musicians -- they could not be loose and produce this quality.

From the first track, "Fear of Love," to the 14th, a poem set to music and titled "The Shape I'm In," this is a major source of good writing combined with genuine performance. The collection ranges over a vast landscape of writers from Tim Buckley to Gram Parsons, but it retains that love of the music that transforms some albums.

Alan Coopey's song "Daisy Chain" sounds lovely and gives a heartwarming rendition to an age-old tale. (As with so many CDs the musicians do themselves and particularly the writers a disservice by not going that extra mile and providing the lyrics.) Coopey shows that he is a writer to be watched again on the track "Cologne" and he forsakes his lyrical gift for some beautiful guitar composition and playing on "For Anne in Summer."

The most difficult song to get just right is the unaccompanied. This is how the Sheiling tackles "Take Me Down to the River," and they do it with panache. It is one of the outstanding tracks on a CD of very good performances. Once upon a time Tom Jones was the voice of Wales and before him Harry Secombe; now we have another "Jones the Song" in Dylan Jones.

"Changing Tides" is my favourite track on the album. The combination of voice and instrumentation works perfectly. I also loved the rendition of Gram Parson's "Song for You." The violin adds a new dimension and the female backing vocal is just right.

Full marks must go also to the arrangers and engineers on this CD. The production is so clear, sharp and uncluttered that, even apart from the excellent material, it is a joy. I look forward to more from this band.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 3 January 2004