The Shackleton Trio – Fen, Farm and Deadly Water

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5

The Shackleton Trio, formerly the Georgia Shackleton Trio, features fiddle player Georgia, guitarist Aaron Bennett and Nic Zuppardi playing mandolin. The trio plays an effortless sounding blend of music that draws in influences from the American, British and Scandinavian traditions. The band is first and foremost true to itself with influences being melded with flavours of the band’s native East Anglia. Fen, Farm and Deadly Water, the evocative title of their second album does sound like a chapter title from Graham Swift’s epic Fenland novel Waterland. The music is acoustic and beguiling mix of dexterous instrumental bluegrass, bouncing pulsing ballads and atmospheric dark Folk. The trio has a way of using space and musical accents to create interest, that and the combination of guitar, fiddle and mandolin reminded me heavily of the excellent Whippersnapper. Opener “The Fashionable Farmer” based on a broadside ballad, is a jangling jaunty tune carrying a story of struggle as true today as it was then. Storytelling and beautiful music, delivered with a smile, in a way that reminded me of a Fens Kate Rusby. It’s good to see musicians adding to the tradition and bringing something alongside the well visited anthems. “Radish Boys” is a version of “The Ancient Cry of the Radish Boys at Great Yarmouth” originally printed in 1842 and unique to 150 sellers at Yarmouth. Jaunty and enlightening music, locally sourced with no ‘music miles’ is a great thing, giving the Shackleton Trio their own voice and identity. Accordion player Karen Tweed’s “Only Viveka”, “Swedish Polka”, “The Penknife Killer” have travelled further but are beautifully played and a delightful sparkling listen. “Old Blue” is an 19th Century American song with fine guitar by Aaren Bennett and a stunning vocal by Georgia. The Stanford instrumental, dedicated to the landlord and pub in Lowestoft is a catchy melody with excellent playing by Aaren, Georgia and Nic as each instrument runs with the tune. “Powte’s Complaint” is based around a poem penned in 1611, reflecting the bitter mood of the fens faced with the land being drained by the Dutch. Eerie plucked fiddle notes and a ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ vocal from Georgia charges the air and builds tension with a sweet trio instrumental between the verses. Local pig Farmer Fred Rooke wrote “Fenland Song”, a reminder of the power of the waters held in check. Stunning playing on the jaunty tune by the guitar and mandolin on this East Coast folk gem. “Closer Down into the Sea” is a slightly melancholic reflection of the plight of the seaside town as numbers of visitors fall and they fade away. An affectionate, slightly nostalgic postcard written and sensitively delivered by Georgia with some clever lyrical twists. Different elements, traditions and players blend together to make a distinctive assured charismatic performance that holds your attention and isn’t afraid to make you think.