The Moon Shells
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What will we do? For Lula Wiles, the trio made up of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin, the question is central to the creation of their music—and it’s the title of their sophomore album, out in 2019 on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. “We wanted to make an album that reflected, in a current way, what we are all staying up late thinking about and talking about over drinks at the dinner table,” says Obomsawin. “What is everyone worried about, confiding in their friends about, losing sleep about?” Anchoring the band’s sharp, provocative songcraft is a mastery of folk music, and a willingness to subvert its hallowed conventions. They infuse their songs with distinctly modern sounds: pop hooks, distorted electric guitars, and dissonant multi-layered vocals, all employed in the service of songs that reclaim folk music in their own voice. The musicians take turns in different roles––Burke and Buckland on guitar and fiddle, Obomsawin on bass, all three singing and writing—but no matter who’s playing what, they operate in close tandem. All three members grew up in small-town Maine, and the band came of age in Boston’s lively roots scene. Since then, they have toured internationally, winning fans at the Newport Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, garnering acclaim from NPR Music and a Boston Music Awards nomination, and sharing stages with the likes of Aoife O’Donovan, the Wood Brothers, and Tim O’Brien. Lula Wiles exists in the tense space where tradition and revolution meet, from which their harmonies rise into the air to create new American music.
The Moon Shells are a new project from Maggie Shar, Laura Murawski, and Brian Slattery, who met one another through the Appalachian fiddle community. As musicians they were drawn to each other by a shared sense of rhythm and improvisation, grounded in Appalachian fiddling but drawing from the many kinds of music they love.