Shantalla are based in Belgium, but don't let that put you off. Despite the fact that Belgium is not renowned for producing great music (with some notable exceptions like Brel, Front 242 and dEUs), Shantalla are not Belgians. There's four Paddies from Monaghan, Galway, Dublin and Down and a Scot, Helen Flaherty. They just live in Belgium. Reading through their biogs, it's obviously that there's are very accomplished musicians, with more than a few notable awards, qualifications and collaborators, and this is evident from the music. There's hardly a note wrong on this CD, a mix of Irish and Scots traditional music. They've received favourable comparisons to the Bothy Band, De Danann and Dervish, which is all well and good, but the obvious exception is KíLA.
The Bothy Band were one of the groups that dragged trad kicking and screaming into the seventies, so they are an important standard by which to measure any new trad band. Whereas De Danann and Dervish, while they play good, competent and lively trad, just like Shantalla, have done little to drag is any way further. KíLA, in comparison, are like the Bothy Band of the today, having dragged the music, still kicking and screaming, into the nineties. Trad is a very safe scene and a band with talent can make a good living playing, especially in Europe. But, it takes a lot of guts to risk messing with the formula and advancing the music to make it truly relevant.
Shantalla don't bother, and while they're quite similar to KíLA's more traditional stuff, they are missing that spark, the freshness and excitement that makes KíLA unique. The thing is though, they're probably not interested in doing that. Shantalla's name is derivative of Sean Talamh, fiddler, Kieran Fahy, and flautist, Michael Horgan's old band. Sean Talamh means 'old ground'. If that's what they're content to keep treading, and make no mistake, they're very good at it, they'll do well. But, they'll just remain good, rather than hitting the brilliant level.
by Donnacha DeLong.