Another perfectly balanced folk record from Joan Shelley. Joan’s band on this album features Spencer Tweedy, James Elkington, Nathan Salsburg and Wilco main-man Jeff Tweedy, who also produces. Joan Shelley is a personal, sensitive and intimate set of songs from a wonderful voice. CD / LP release on No Quarter.
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Here’s a super gentle and super sincere folk record from Joan Shelley, who’s supported by a recurring cast of the Tweedy family in dad Jeff and son Spencer. Shelley has described her wish for all songs to carry “empathy”, and these songs sound at least halfway there, their rather traditional plucked folk sound carrying an adjacent kindliness that makes me feel nothing less than content.
It’s one of those records where the picks and plucks walk the record to its destination while bonus instrumentation flourishes little details: a gust of the wind from a banjo melody, a brushed soft drum for the clouds and the occasional warm winter coat of a bassline. Shelley’s voice shines at the half-pace stupor, sounding both majestic and rather absent-mindedly in control. With this kind of poignant calm, she writes direct and conversational songs, with “Where I’ll Find You” talking knowingly to its other half amidst the shimmer of organs and percussion.
There’s nary a surprise to be had here, with Tweedy’s production joining Shelley’s excellent and plainspoken songwriting at the meeting point of tradition: tunes like “I Didn’t Know” are like Fairport Convention songs with arrangements to showcase, while the more ominous songs, a la “Go Wild”, feel rooted in a not-so-distant country Western past. Rather familiar and rather good.
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