Matt and Shannon Heaton pair original songs with traditional Irish flute and guitar numbers. An unusual blend of material? Sure. But a natural one for this Boston-based husband-and-wife pair, who has retained trad music chops while becoming involved in the rich Boston acoustic music scene. Call it Irish Americana, or modern Celtic music—Matt and Shannon's shows feature stunning musicianship, an easy rapport with audiences, and a selection of music you won't hear anywhere else.
Acoustic Guitar magazine summed it all up: "Matt nails it all down with his highly textured guitar playing." His rhythmic integrity and inventive harmonic ideas provide a rich framework for Shannon's timeless, evocative lyrics—and her stunning Irish flute playing. By bringing in wood flute riffs and backing vocal parts that blend with agile guitar lines, the Heatons offer a big, layered, modern sound.
On their latest release, "Blue Skies Above" (March 2006), the Heatons offer a seamless blend of traditional and original music, adding occasional electric guitar, drums, fiddle, banjo, and accordion whenever tracks called for it. Shannon explains, "We never sought to make the old world new—we just went with what was in our heads and hearts. We have some guest musicians on the CD, but made sure that every track on the record could be recreated live, with just the two of us.”
"Matt and Shannon Heaton combine lilt and contemporary sensibility, and sidestep the expected treble timbre of Irish music... Their songs are standouts." Sing Out! Magazine
Their sophomore effort, “Blue Skies Above,” takes its title from Shannon’s self-penned last verse of the traditional song “The Blackbird”, highlighting the Heatons’ style of merging traditional and original lyrics and melodies. “Harvest Time” pairs early 20th century courtship with modern low whistle and fiddle solos. And for the lovely instrumental, “Belle of the South Shore,” Vermont musician Sam Amidon adds clawhammer banjo strains, fusing traditional Irish and American music worlds. Other guests include percussionist Paddy League, Scottish singer/accordion player Emily Smith, New Zealand fiddler Jamie McClennan, and singer/fiddler Laura Cortese.
Matt and Shannon Heaton are keeping their horizons bright with a sunny collection of music, a growing fanbase, and a touring entourage that fits in a compact car.
Click on the following links to expand the content.
Highlander Radio ReviewMatt and Shannon Heaton's third submission to Highlander Radio "Blue Skies Above" and is by far the best (including Siúcra). 'Blues Skies Above' is a bright and uplifting collection of 12 beautiful tracks featuring Matt's powerful guitar rhythms and Shannon's mystical flute playing. This equates to a slendid afternoon of some of the best jigs and reels that we have heard in a long time. Not only that, but these two can sing - with Matt's fresh and commanding vocals, balanced with Shannon's inspiring and flowing vocals blends 'Blue Skies Above' to perfect harmony.
Individual BiographyShannon's mom started her out on the piano at the age of 3. Four years later, she was living in Nigeria and learning flute and whistle from her Belgian neighbor. Throughout her early days, she was exposed to a number of traveling musicians and folklorists who would stay with her family while passing through town. When she settled in Chicago for college, she became involved in the Irish music scene on the north side of the city, where she really started to hunker down to learn traditional Irish flute. She’d spend nights at sessions in the city, summers in Ireland, and has been playing tunes ever since.
After a disastrous start on trumpet (at age 12 he entered a competition, as unprepared as he could have been), Matt fled to the guitar. For $35, he landed a Harmony Electric at a rummage sale in Shadyside (Pittsburgh), complete with amp and new butter dish. Through college he played with surf-rock band The Flavor Channel, fronted neo tango quartet Orquesta Atipica, turned pages and sang in the choir for his organist father, and studied classical guitar… before settling on Irish guitar. Matt has no family ties to Ireland—he's as olive-skinned a trad player as you're likely to meet—but a longtime love of the music drew him to it, and meeting Shannon in Chicago sealed the deal.
From Chicago, Matt and Shannon moved to Boulder Colorado, where they formed Irish trad band Siúcra with singer Beth Leachman. In 2001, they moved to Boston where they worked as sidemen for some of the Celtic music world’s best performers. In late 2003, they decided to emerge as a duo and recorded their debut disc, “Dearga.” They began building their reputation in Celtic music circles, and also more general acoustic music crowds at folk venues and festivals throughout the country.
We have not yet interviewed this artist. Interviews can be submitted
to us for consideration.
Listener CommentsMember Name:
I saw them perform one time a few years ago--their music is great!
Member Name: Macfive
Date Posted: 17-Apr-2006
We recently received Matt & Shannon Heaton's latest CD called "Blue Skies Above" which is simply awesome!A feature is runnin on our mainpage for this CD and we are adding them to our featured artist section. The first artist to be added in over a year!I'd also like to mention their myspace location, which seems to be a popular thing for musicians nowadays!http://www.myspace.com/mattandshannonheaton
Member Name: ChuckDenton
Date Posted: 04-Apr-2004
I've caught them in Irish fests in Kansas City and can't wait to see when they will come here next. Another great couple of groups found here: The Elders...Utterly fantastic. Also Shenanigans. I love them.If you like drums...try (to find) Clann An Drumma. They are awesome. A combination of bagpipes and loud deep drumming. Really moves me!And also a lighter but very effective version is Runrig. But my absolute favorites for all time are The Corrs. My contributions - my favorites.
Member Name: Macfive
Date Posted: 03-Jun-2003
Siúcra is pronounced 'shoo-kruh', and it means 'sugar' in Irish.Siúcra is Beth Leachman (lead vocals, bodhran), Shannon Heaton (Irish flute, whistles, vocals), and Matthew Heaton (guitar, vocals). Formed in 1998, they play a sweet mix of Irish traditional songs and tunes. Danny Carnahan from Acoustic Guitar wrote, "Siucra is full of hot musicianship, confidence, and unstoppable energy. A five-piece band would be hard-pressed to match the amount of music these three musicians produce.."Siúcra ('sugar' in Irish Gaelic) formed in Colorado, with initial tours taking them through the midwestern and western United States. When Matthew and Shannon moved to Boston in 2001, the trio expanded their touring scope to the East Coast. And in May 2002, the group launched its second cd "Here Among Strangers," a kickin' follow up to their first release, "a place i know." Sing-Out magazine called this "solid album sweet and satisfying... disarmingly infectious!"Both Shannon and Matthew have music roots in Chicago. Shannon learned to play Irish flute at sessions on the North Side of the city, with yearly trips to Clare, Galway and Boston. Matthew was exposed to a wide range of musical styles early on - his father is noted organist/composer Charles Heaton. From garage band beginnings, through university degrees in classical guitar he has developed a powerfully rhythmic and resonant style of guitar playing. Shannon & Matthew also perform as a duo, with George Keith (fiddle), and with traditional singer Aoife Clancy.Beth grew up in western Colorado. She learned about sean nos singing and about the Irish language in the West of Ireland. Her clear and tonally inventive bodhran playing have developed over years of sessions and pub gigs; and she has more recently added the harp to her line of talents, which she performs with harpist Margot Krimmel in WesterSnow. With a very Siúcra spin on old and new traditional tunes -- gorgeous melodies, great backing, strong arrangements and exhuberant performances -- Siúcra's future looks sweet indeed.Highlander Radio Comments: We love the heart and soul that Siúcra puts into their jigs and reels! A top notch Boston Irish traditional group! Visit their site for photgraphs, sound clips, tour schedule and more!Siúcra Website.
Write about Matt and Shannon Heaton!
Want to write a review about Matt and Shannon Heaton's music? Or perhaps you would like to share
your experience of seeing Matt and Shannon Heaton in concert. Feel free to use the following form
to post your reviews, comments and thoughts concerning our featured artist!
to write your comments about Matt and Shannon Heaton.