Out of the batch of new CD’s I bought recently, none has enchanted my quite as much as Joan Shelley’s 2014 album Electric Ursa. Being previously unbeknownst to me, a favourable review of her new album Over And Even attracted my attention to her, a quick listen of Electric Ursa on iTunes quickly made me realise I might be in for something very good. Which Electric Ursa indeed did turn out to be.
Joan Shelley hails from Louisville, KY. I am as yet not too informed on her musical background, but some tracks, especially the utterly fabulous album opener Something Small make me suspect she’s rather from an Independent Rock/Post-Rock background than from a straight Folk or Country one as wouldn’t be totally surprising given where she’s from. Although Folk clearly is the style most prominent in her work, even more so on her new album than on here. Something Small also is the highlight for me on Electric Ursa, it’s full of tension, and the hypnotic, mantra-like chorus of ‘It’s all layed out in front for you to take it’ is just magic. It’s the melodic phrasing and some of the guitar work on many tracks making her work stand out from many of her Folk contemporaries. I don’t even know if she herself would put herself in that musical corner, but the review mentioned above made me believe that.
River Low is turning up the tempo a little bit on here and is a VERY lovely and straightforward piece of acoustic Folk magic – just as I like it.
Moss and Marrow and First Of August both slow things down considerably and are dominated by the hushed sounds of gently strummed acoustic guitars, only sparsely augmented by instruments such as keyboards (Moss And Marrow) and lead guitar (First of August). They also, like many of her songs (on Over And Even as well), remind me a bit of a not-quite-so-dark Low, coupled with some prime Cowboy Junkies. Another comparison coming to mind (mine at least, I’m probably one of only few people still remembering them) mid-90’s alt country band Tarnation, mainly due to the reverb-drenched lead guitar on First Of August.
The short Remedios is a gorgeous instrumental (featuring her choir voice, but no words) and starting off with a lone and lonesome banjo to be accompanied by violin and dreamy keyboard sounds later in the song, giving it a hymnal, pastoral lullaby feeling. Dreamy being the appropriate word anyway to describe her music, all of her songs I so far know (on here and on her new album) possess that late night, sleepy atmosphere I am very much drawn to.
A short album (only about 33 minutes) but one sure to linger in my mind for a very long time.