This fourth album from Boston-based husband-and-wife duo Matt & Shannon Heaton features traditional songs and tunes about love and loss. Produced by Eric Merrill (Crooked Still, Lissa Schneckenburger, Rachael Davis), WGBH's Brad Paul called it, “a fantastic blend of deft musicianship and solid vocals."
Firmly rooted in Irish traditional style, and also brimming with American musicianship and attitude, “LOVERS’ WELL” brings both timeless and modern touches to centuries-old love songs.
The title track “Golden Glove” (aka Lovers’ Well) is a giddy tale of infatuation and unorthodox courtship; “Lily of the West” details a desperate obsession leading to murder; in “Lady Fair” a sailor returns to his love in disguise; “Lao Dueng Duen” is a Thai serenade from the 10th century: “Where the Moorcocks Crow” is about love at first sight. “Bay of Biscay,” “Botany Bay,” and “Lover’s Lament” all deal with parting, the saddest aspect of love.
Guest musicians include Keith Murphy (mandolin, guitar, piano, backing vocals on Botany Bay) and Dan Gurney (accordion). Percussive dancers Kieran Jordan and Nic Gareiss each add feet to a track, demonstrating Matt and Shannon’s connection to traditional dance.
Kieran wrote, "Matt and Shannon play happy, bouncy tunes with a persistent groove that makes me want to dance. Their arrangements are complex yet always tasteful, inviting both lyrical and percussive movement. I use their recordings in every aspect of my work — for dance warm-ups, choreography, rehearsal, and performance. This is inspired dance music—it will appeal to Irish dancers at every level!”
ON RECORDING THE ALBUM:
"Conceptualizing and recording “Lover’s Well” was very much a labor of love for us. Several factors shaped this collection. While assembling songs for the record, we realized that each song told a tale of love, of one kind or another: one is a giddy tale of infatuation and unorthodox courtship; one tells of a desperate obsession that leads to murder; in one a sailor returns to his love in disguise; and the rest deal with parting, that sad and central aspect of love.
Meanwhile, while assembling sets of tunes for the album, we began working with dancer/choreographer Kieran Jordan to explore ways to tighten the connection of percussive dance with arranged traditional Irish music. Inspired by this marriage of tradition and innovation in music and dance, we intend all of the tunes here for dancing and dance practice. You may notice the titles of the tunes are also love-themed!
Finally, while deciding where to record, our friend Sarah James offered her cottage in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, and producer/engineer Eric Merrill agreed to load up his gear and spend a week recording there with us. Eric’s holistic musicianship, beautiful engineering, humor and love guided us through the project, from start to finish.
The result of the material (love songs and tunes), our creative team, and the forest home in which we recorded made for a thoughtful, natural, and sweet working process which captured the music in the spirit it was intended. The tracks have an organic nature about them—cricket chirps, bird calls, and the pattering of rain all made their way into the microphones. There was no isolation booth or clock to watch. We cooked together, walked on the beach, and weathered Hurricane Hannah, all while playing the music you hear on this album. For a few days we were treated to the impeccable and transcendent playing of Keith Murphy and Dan Gurney, whose ideas and playing helped shape the sound of the album… and our own well of musical experiences.” --Matt & Shannon Heaton
Matt met Shannon when she was an undergrad at Northwestern University. She needed a guitar player for a friend’s wedding: she’d gotten three names of grad students from the guitar teacher at the University. Matt was second on the list, but the first guy wasn’t home when Shannon called him.
Though Shannon had a travelling background (she had lived in Thailand, Nigeria, throughout the Midwest, and in American Indian reservations in the Southwestern US) while Matt had grown up in Pittsburgh, they both developed a love for Irish traditional music—and each other. They began learning tunes on the North side of the city with the support of mentors like John Williams, Liz Carroll and Jimmy Keane.
Matt and Shannon began blending timeless traditional tunes and ballads with originals (combining Matt’s guitar and eventually bouzouki and harmony singing with Shannon’s passionate vocals, and her stunning Irish flute and whistle playing). They wanted to be respectful of the tradition, while being authentic about their own American music backgrounds. One fan called them Planxty-meets-Natalie-Merchant-meets-Richard-Thompson.
In Chicago, the Heatons started the band Siucra, playing initial shows with singer Kat Eggleston and fiddler Andrew Bird. When they moved to Boulder, Colorado in late 1998 (for a three-year mountain biking sabbatical), they continued the band with singer Beth Leachman, and also did a few shows with bassist Steve Pang and tabla player Ty Burhoe. They kept the band going for a few years after relocating to Boston in 2001, adding fiddler Sam Amidon to the mix.
In addition to the Siucra shows, Matt and Shannon also played as sidemen for Robbie O’Connell, Aoife Clancy, Childsplay, and many others. Matt also did a few tours with Emily Smith, and a week of winter shows with The Boys of the Lough.
Today, Matt and Shannon focus on their duo; Shannon’s new all-female trad band, Long Time Courting; Matt’s duo with Flynn Cohen; and BCMFest, Boston’s Celtic Music Fest, a winter festival (second weekend of January) which features trad musicians based in Boston. Shannon founded BCMFest with her pal, fiddler/singer Laura Cortese.
Of their debut disc, “Dearga,” (October 2003), Irish Music Magazine’s John O’Regan noted, “Song wise they hint at an older domestic sound, the familiar down home harmonies of The Carter Family and Tim and Mollie O’Brien.”
Their 2006 follow up “Blue Skies Above” included more Irish-inspired originals Kerry Dexter’s review in Dirty Linen noted, “The pair’s talents are grounded as much in American folk as in the Celtic world… well balanced with songs and tunes in Irish and Americana styles and fresh, creative musicianship.”
“Fine Winter’s Night” is Matt and Shannon’s Christmas CD. Released at the end of 2007, the album features original and traditional Irish music to brighten chilly winter days and warm long winter nights. With secular and sacred carols, Irish Music Magazine wrote “For variety, fun, warmth and musicianship, this is the best of the lot this Christmas."-Bill Margesen, LiveIreland and Irish Music Magazine
Matt and Shannon’s Valentine’s Day release, “Lover’s Well” (2009) is a collection of songs for lovers, and love-themed tunes for dancers…. By now, we hope you’ll be thinking about buying a copy for your Valentine!
“Irish music with a wonderfully rich and earthy sound—bright, uplifting music that will make you smile.” –Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen
“Tight, sweet, and tasteful, lacking nothing on either technical expertise or instrumental virtuosity.” —John O’Regan, Irish Music Magazine
“Their playing is masterful and inventive, their arrangements city-smart and spacious.” —Scott Alarik, Boston Globe
“If Matt’s solid guitar playing is the rock, Shannon’s voice is the sun: remarkably light yet powerful.” —Molly Snyder Edler, OnMilwaukee
YOU READ TO THE END! Please do be in touch if you have any comments, questions, or would like to share news about your music. Best wishes from Matt & Shannon Heaton.