A most appealing collection of traditional dance tunes with Irish flute/whistles and guitar/bodhran--from fresh sets of tunes, to moody songs, to funky low whistle moments, "Dearga" is Matt & Shannon Heatons' 2003 release.... Also from the Heatons: "Blue Skies Above," released in 2006, and "Fine Winter's Night" (Celtic Christmas album) released in 2007.
The husband-and-wife team of Matt and Shannon Heaton honed their style in Irish traditional sessions in Chicago, Boston and County Clare. "We can play straight-ahead, old-school tunes in the States or Ireland and hold our own," says Shannon Heaton, who handles vocals, Irish flute and whistles for the duo.
But the Boston-based Heatons are statesiders, and they aren't afraid to let it show in their powerful playing. "We grew up listening to rock, country, American folk, classical and Irish music." Shannon says, "So when we're arranging and presenting songs, we're as likely to get ideas from the Pixies as from Planxty."
Matt and Shannon's Irish music pedigree traces back to their former home of Chicago, where they played in the best Windy City sessions and first began performing together back in 1992. Matt and Shannon have also spent months in Clare and Galway, taking in session tunes and shows in some of the finest venues in the West of Ireland. They are now active participants in Boston's vibrant traditional music scene.
The result -- Irish traditional music that honors the past while giving it a swift American kick into the present. It's pithy, finely crafted acoustic music, songs that break hearts and crack smiles at twenty paces.
"We write a lot of the music," Shannon says, "It sounds traditional, but with these extra wrinkles that keep things fresh and unpredictable." For Matt, "the real joy and art in what we do comes in the details. We never just slap stuff together."
Matt and Shannon also work with Siúcra, critically-acclaimed trio formed in 1998. And since moving to Boston in 2001, they have been touring with former Cherish the Ladies singer Aoife Clancy, playing in folk clubs and halls all over the States. In addition, Matt and Shannon are both becoming increasingly in demand as side musicians for other New England-based groups, both in performance and in the studio.
The fruit of Matt and Shannon's striking, craft-focused approach is acoustic Irish music that stirs the heart, the soul and the soles. No matter where you were born.
The critics weigh in on Matt & Shannon....
"Matt and Shannon strip Irish music to its dazzling melodic essence without sacrificing any of its rhythmic impact. Although solidly rooted in Irish tradition, the group's repertoire betrays its familiarity with American jazz, blues, folk & country music."
Seth Rogovoy, The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts (July 24, 2003)
"The tunes are bracing and energetic.. and they make great use of Shannon Heaton's liquid flute playing and Matt Heaton's nimble guitar." Steve Winick, Dirty Linen (Aug/Sept 2001)
"Young, American-born musicians are now at the forefront of the Irish music scene. This group of musicians would have to include Matt and Shannon Heaton."
John Pattison, Enterprise-Record, Chico, CA (May 22, 2003)
The critics continue to rave about Matt & Shannon's kickin' trio 'Siucra'....
"The music [of Matt & Shannon's trio Siúcra] is pulsing and vibrant, yet warmly embraces the sweet simplicity of classic Irish melody and lyric sentiment." Scott Alarik, Boston Globe (June 6, 2002)
"This is the sort of Celtic folk that wins over the Americana crowd - what Fred Eaglesmith or Lucinda Williams might play if they hailed from Belfast or Dublin.. Adding to [Siúcra's] gifts are the hot-shot jazzy playing of the husband-and-wife Heatons, who aren't afraid to add a few contemporary American touches to their musical mulligan stew. Sweetness never packed so much spank." Marty Jones, Westword, Denver CO (Sept 6, 2000)
"[Siúcra's tunes] are filled with a musical brogue of lilt, soul and heart."
Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Sept 6, 2002)
"This trio is just as fine live as in the studio. [Siucra's] straightforward approach ends up as disarmingly infectious." Rob Weir, Sing Out, (Spring 2003)
"[Siucra] is full of hot musicianship, confidence and unstoppable energy. A 5-piece band would be hard-pressed to match the amount of music these three musicians produce."
Danny Carnahan, Acoustic Guitar (Februaury 2001)