Music collided head on with politics in this much awaited project; expectations for Shake the Chains were sky high due to the sheer talent of the artists involved. Culminating in a tour, and a mighty 15 track live album, it did not disappoint.

Five renowned musicians, led by Greg Russell, paid a visit to Sheffield’s own Firth Hall for a show in February. Exceeding expectations, the five gave a breathtaking performance, making the general release of this album on September 15th all the more anticipated.

Luckily, pre-orders arrived in July so I’ve been soaking up the tunes for well over a month now. It’s an intricate album addressing such issues as nuclear disarmament, sexual equality and environmental crises. To say the album inspires is something of an understatement, it is an album that makes your heart swell with hope for the future and with admiration for the resolute individuals that are the subject of many of these songs.

Shake the Chains – Hannah Martin, Tim Yates, Greg Russel, Finlay Napier and Nancy Kerr

Launching the album is a superb piece of songwriting from Nancy Kerr, an artist who makes songwriting appear totally effortless. So beautiful and complex are her lyrics that you might not at first realise the song is considering the threat of nuclear war.

The booming Scottish tones of Findlay Napier later sing the anthemic ‘Shake the Chains’. Encompassing the whole vibe of the project when the line ‘we are many they are few’ is repeatedly sung in harmony.

After some choice comments from Nigel Farage a few years ago, Greg Russell concluded that he didn’t fancy living next to the man, and from this he wrote ‘Bunch Next Door’. This comedic and very clever song sent ripples of laughter through the crowd when hearing it for the first time. Many a rhyme and canny metaphor makes this a delicate break from the more raucous tracks on the album.

The admiration I have for these artists is evident here and the chances of me disliking the album were pretty slim. However, for those looking for recommendations when it comes to folk music, I truly think this is an accessible record. Due to both the topical content and the diversity of styles across of the album, it will appeal to a number of demographics. Whether you listen for its political agenda or the allure of its beautiful sounds, it is indeed very, very good.


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