The M Shanghai String Bands upcoming CD

The M Shanghai String Band is, well, a string band comprised of a collective of musicians. At any given show you’ll find up to eleven members playing: Harrison Cannon (bass, vocals), Austin Hughes (guitar, vocals), Patty Hughes (banjo, vocals), Glendon Jones (fiddle, guitar), Richard Morris (mandolin, sound engineer), Dave Pollack (harmonica), Matt Schickele (guitar, vocals), Corin See (vocals), John Shanchuk (banjo), Philippa Thompson (fiddle, spoons, washboard, saw, vocals), and Rose Thomson (guitar, vocals). They got their name courtesy of the place they got their start: The M Shanghai Bistro in Brooklyn (there is a den downstairs where private parties and concerts are held). That’s where the musicians that form the band first got together for music, and so that is what the band was determindly named. Their live shows are awesome! However many members are playing, they always use one mic. Pretty impressive. It’s actually just as cool seeing how they navigate around the stage for solos as it is actually hearing them. Okay, that’s a lie. It is way, way, waaaay cooler hearing them (but it’s still pretty amazing seeing them move around. They’ve got it down to an art form, similar to a ballet with the choreography…) The M Shanghai String Band has two CD’s out, and are releasing a third in the late fall sometime, probably around October. I had the good fortune of getting my hands on some recordings for the bands upcoming cd, called “Mapmaker’s Daughter.” Lemme tell ya, it’s exciting stuff!

*Note: The final order of the tracks may be different, but I will write about them in the order they appear on the CD I’ve been listening to.

The cd opens with the title track, Mapmaker’s Daughter. The song is folksy, and I LOVE the banjo and the harmonica on it. The second song, Sun is Gone, is a slow waltz. It has a gorgeous melody, and parts of the song sound as though there’s a small orchestra playing . Well, I guess the M Shanghai String Band kind of is a small orchestra… Groundhog’s Day opens with violin, and Philippa singing. Piano softly joins in the backround, followed by quietly eerie backup vocals. All of a sudden, unexpectedly, the whole darn company enters with rollicking waves of sweet strings crashing through the air. I love when the M Shanghai String Band does that. Same Old Moon begins with pleasant bluegrassy goodness, and is full of banjo and fiddle throughout.

I’ve loved Angel Full of Bourbon  since the first time I heard the opening. Didn’t need to hear the whole song to figure out it was one of my favorites (though of course I have since listened to the whole song. Many times). The harmonica just draws you in, and the lyrics are so poetic: “River of whiskey ran hard through her veins….. Don’t wanna think about/the troubles they both see so plain/Angel full of bourbon/and the man made of rain…” If Angel Full of Bourbon is one of my favorites, then Meteor Storm is my number one favorite song on the new album. Beautiful lyrics, gentle vocals, soaring violin,  rolling banjo, what more could one ask for? A short (two minutes and forty three seconds) but sweet song that captures your spirit and runs away with it. Next is Cookie Jar. There’s clarinet on this track, which is a nice bluesy swing number. Listening to it just makes you feel good, and puts a smile on your face. The spoons and saw get a short duet in the middle which just up’s this song even more. I mean really, how many bands play either the spoons or the saw? And these guys play both. I have never seen or heard anyone play the saw the way Philippa does… It is truly a wonder.

You can tell from the fiery fiddle in the beggining of Gadzooks that’s it’s going to be a good old rowdy song, and it doesn’t dissapoint. The high energy, fast paced playing is kept up till the end. Dying Day is a nice ballady waltz. It’s a touching song, almost like a lullaby. One with a really nice combo of mandolin, banjo, guitar, and fiddle… Listening to it made me daydream. Hey, wanna know what funk inspired bluegrass/folk sounds like? Listen to Hart Island. Or, if you’re in the mood for an unusual love song, skip ahead to Corny Love Song (contrary to it’s title, it is not a corny love song…) If you want an uplifting and empowering song, you can listen to Poor Luck. Then put on your Sunday Best and contra dance to the jolly moderate tempi tune. The next song, Muleskin Girl, opens a cappella. It then pauses momentarily, before starting up again with the instrumental focus being on the fiddle and banjo. Track 15, Gallows Bird, is fast paced, old-fashioned hoedown music. The fiddle is played with fire and fury. The closing song, Windsor County, is a beautifully flowing slow country waltz. The vocals are so sweet, and are accompanied by a perfect blend of steel guitar and harmonica, with mandolin playing softly in the background… The perfect choice for ending the entirely wonderful album.

“Mapmaker’s Daughter” truly has something for everyone on it. Being that I already have my copy, I can’t wait till it comes out so everyone else can enjoy it too!!! Actually, I’ll be purchasing some copies of the album anyway. CD’s make great Christmas gifts you know… And who wouldn’t want this particular one? You’ll know you’re a good friend of mine if you recieve it as a gift. If I can wait until December to give it to you that is…

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