Joan Shelley – Over And Even

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The third solo outing from the spell-casting Kentucky songstress, Over and Even is a breezy, lyrically bold, sonically beautiful soft barrage of bucolic country-folk that evokes Linda Thompson, Joni Mitchell, Vashti Bunyan, and Hem. It would be easy to peg Shelley and crafty six-string co-conspirator Nathan Salsburg as the Bluegrass State’s answer to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings,
but they lack that duos’ trad-folk stridency and penchant for dust bowl
pageantry, and their particular brand of mountain music feels much more
rooted in the immigrant-rich Appalachian traditions, where a misty
morning is just as likely to invoke fog rising over the Shannon or the
Thames as it is the Mississippi. Recorded in an old farmhouse with very
few takes, the 12-track set feels rooted but not rootsy. Highlights like
“Brighter Than the Blues,” “No More Shelter,” “Stay on My Shore,” and
the hypnotic title track are as spectral as they are homey, due in large
part to Shelley‘s
unfussy, yet poetic lyrics and warm, open-hearted voice, which is easy
like Sunday morning, but carries with it the burdens of the week prior. Salsburg
peppers each of these songs with tasteful runs seasoned with generous
amounts of reverb, and between the two, it’s a wonder that they manage
to keep things from simply rising up out of the valley and into the
ether, but like fellow Kentuckian Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who lends his high and lonesome croon to three of the quietly magnificent Over and Even‘s
best cuts, there’s a bold stroke of genial Southerness that runs
through the music and keeps things tempered, honest, and effortlessly
authentic, despite a predilection for eccentricity.

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