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11/2005 Blues In Britain Review
Lauren Sheehan - Two Wings
By Robert Tilling
As far as I know, this Portland - Oregon based singer and musician has not performed in Europe but going by this set of fourteen beautifully crafted acoustic titles I am sure she will come our way before too long. This is a well-balanced set of country blues and ballads, including two infectious original instrumentals and with material from, among others, Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, and Robert Johnson.
There are two titles from Blind Willie McTell, "Lonesome Day Blues", and his classic "Statesboro Blues". I have heard the latter recorded countless times but I really enjoyed the way in which Sheehan has slowed the tempo down giving the title both grace and strength. Sheehan is a very tasteful guitar picker always controlled and crystal clear and on the six titles performed alongside the harmonica master Phil Wiggins (of the internationally acclaimed duo Cephas and Wiggins) she certainly holds her own. The presence of Wiggins certainly gives this very entertaining set an extra energy and class, but above all it is Sheehan's vocals that really shine through. Sheehan is an exceptional vocalist and is quite faultless and engaging throughout this highly recommended set.
I am always a little anxious when I see new recordings of Robert Johnson material, as he is probably one of the most covered acoustic musicians. I was not disappointed in Sheehan's interpretation of Johnson's very popular "Kind Hearted Woman" where she has changed the lyrics a little to making the song very much her own. In the version of Memphis Minnie's "In My Girlish Days" Sheehan is backed by the trumpet player Dick Titterington, and the combination of guitar, trumpet, and some solid bass from Bill Uhlig, works to great effect.
The original guitar instrumental "Farewell Swallowtail" has a lilting melody while the other original instrumental, performed on a banjo, and inspired by the popular blues performer Del Rey, has a timeless quality. This is a thoughtfully chosen set of titles illustrating Sheehan's broad musical interests including other titles from the likes of Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson - all performed with sincerity and imagination. Sheehan has surrounded herself with some highly skilled and sympathetic fellow musicians making this a disc well worth tracking down.
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