Brother and sister Marry Waterson and Oliver Knight are children of folksinger Lal Waterson of the Watersons, but despite that lineage had not pursued professional performing until this album, with Marry Waterson working in graphic design and sculpture, and Knight a gardener who eventually began to work in recording studios. As a team, Knight provides musical accompaniment to Waterson's improvised melodies. "I just sing whatever comes into my head and Olly helps me structure it," she explains in the duo's press biography. The result on The Days That Shaped Me is a series of art songs reminiscent of traditional folk songs in which Waterson's alto is shadowed by Knight's acoustic guitar, with occasional other instruments added. "The Loosened Arrow," for instance, has percussion and a fiddle, and "Windy Day" a piano and reed instrument. Waterson is also joined by the occasional guest singer, such as Kathryn Williams, providing harmony on "Father Us" and "Secret Smile," both of which she co-wrote, and James Yorkston duetting on his co-composition, "Yolk Yellow Legged." The Days That Shaped Me makes few concessions to accessibility. It often isn't clear what Waterson is singing about in her poetic lines ("Curse the Day," says the press biography, "tackles the thorny subject of PMT," i.e., PMS), and the music hardly has a singalong quality. But it also recalls the austere, oral tradition of which the Watersons were a part.