Formed and based in Belgium, Shantalla have been on the music scene since the mid 1990's and have already released two highly acclaimed albums. The self titled "Shantalla" was released in 1999 and the follow up "Seven Evenings, Seven Mornings" was released in 2001. In 2005 after eight years on the road they called it a day. "Musical fatigue, life's quirky turns of fate and desires to explore new musical ground were some of the reasons". After six years apart they have reformed and this is their new release.
Not being familiar with their back catalogue I can listen to this album with fresh ears, that haven't been influenced by any previous knowledge of their music. And so what a revelation Turas is, with its fine balance of slow melodic interludes and uptempo reels and jigs set out in arrangements that are complex and multi-layered. They paint a slightly different musical landscape from the norm with the use of low whistles, and the understated uilleann piping of Michael Horgan is central to this sound. Their music reveals itself slowly and the arrangements grow in a measured way. Marching In Jig Time is a typical example, starting slowly with uilleann pipes only and developing and growing into a full blown set. Song choices too are different to what would be the normal fair and are executed with exquisite arrangements supported by the endearing Scottish lilt of Helen Flaherty. Guitar and accordion from our own Gerry Murray on What You Do With What You Got, a song by Si Kahn is perfect. This set likewise grows as it progresses with strings added and closes out with an original composition by Gerry Murray.
Donkey Ride In the Sky is a beautiful haunting set that includes the title track written on a Ryanair flight to Italy by Gerry Murray and closes out with a Joe Liddy composition The Red Bee.
On the strength of Turas, Shantalla are a group that should be more widely known outside of their homeland of Belgium and Europe where they mostly tour. They play music that is tender and delicate at times with pipes and low whistles to the fore, and can raise the levels to match the best when required. Their arrangements are extremely well orchestrated and are always engaging with the production and mastering of the album as good as you will get. All groups that have been on the road for some time should probably follow Shantalla's lead and take a break to "dream it all up again", if an album like this is the result. Shantalla have "dreamed it all up again" and are enjoying themselves while producing some great music in the process.