Album Review on Tolkien Music Website

Today I received a review of my album from Chris Seeman in the United States who looks after an amazingly comprehensive website dedicated to music inspired by JRR Tolkien and his writings, here is the link to this site. I feel honoured to have my song River Daughter included in it. You might also like to check out the Tolkien Society website.

Here is the review now:

SHANEE TAYLOR, River Daughter Tales (CD 2016) Shanee Taylor Music

When asked to name their favorite part of The Lord of the Rings, readers perennially point to the Hobbits’ detour into the Old Forest during which they encounter the enigmatic Tom Bombadil and his graceful consort, Goldberry, “the River-woman’s daughter.” What makes this interlude so memorable is the way in which Tolkien forces a pause in the grand drama of the Ringbearer’s journey, enabling his characters and readers alike to experience enchantment. Through Goldberry’s singing and Tom’s story-telling, “they began to understand the lives of the Forest, apart from themselves, indeed to feel themselves as the strangers where all other things were at home.” This is what Tolkien described in his essay, On Fairy-stories, as Recovery: “regaining of a clear view…seeing things as we are (or were) meant to see them.” Arguably this is a function (or effect) of all successful art, including music. It is certainly an apt description of the recent CD release from Wales-based musician and songwriter Shanee Taylor.

Taking its moniker from Goldberry’s arresting epithet, River Daughter Tales is a thirteen-song cycle that meanders, Withywindle-like, through eddies of love, loss, and transcendence. While only its titular track, “River Daughter,” references Tolkien’s legendarium, the whole ensemble embodies Tolkien’s dictum that “Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons: it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.” A sense of enchantment – of wonder – pervades the lyrics and instrumentation on this album, whether they are evoking Taylor’s personal experiences, the poems of her father’s secret lover, or the landscapes of Welsh folklore.

Musically, River Daughter Tales is an eclectic blend of East and West, combining traditional European instruments (guitar, piano, clarinet, cello) with the Indian tampura. The latter contributes classical raga “sound-coloring” to many of the songs. Given the rootedness of Tolkien’s mythology in the particularity of English soil, one might expect the intrusion of an alien musical vocabulary into a song about Goldberry to generate awkwardness. But the opposite is the case: ragas are designed to tap and intensify universal human emotions, and Taylor deploys them in an organic way that is entirely appropriate to each musical narrative she undertakes. In fact, rather as Tolkien allowed his linguistic aesthetic to generate his mythology, Taylor remarks that “[m]any of the tunes arose while improvising in a particular Indian raga or scale, and often the tune would come first, the words then arose from these melodies.”

In the case of “River Daughter,” the Gunakali raga supplied the tune. In Indian musical tradition, Gunakali is often associated with bhakti (devotional response to the sacred). This corresponds well to the song’s lyrics, which depict a wanderer who encounters Goldberry at the river’s edge and is invited to “Come and find release / Playing within her realm at ease” – a motif equally at home in Hindu bhakti and Tolkien’s Catholic vision of sub-creation.

River Daughter Tales is a beautifully produced album. From its live, improvised sound (care of Dylan Fowler, who also plays piano and clarinet on “River Daughter”) to its richly textured cover art (care of Tim Rossiter), this is clearly a labor of love. For the Tolkien aficionado, it is very much “a new road and a secret gate” into a beloved yet musically underexplored corner of Middle-earth.

REVIEWER: Chris Seeman (


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