Based out of Louisville, Kentucky, singer/songwriter Joan Shelley has a warm and mellifluous voice that evokes both the Deep South and the West Coast, drawing from both old-time country and '60s folk. Composing melodies that are often quiet but full of drama and emotional shadings, Shelley's music had a dark and bittersweet quality on her early solo material such as 2012's Ginko, despite the primarily acoustic arrangements. As her work matured, she dug deeper into acoustic sounds, and a sweetly sad tone informed albums like 2015's Over and Even and 2019's Like the River Loves the Sea. A talented songwriter and prolific performer, Shelley splits her time between solo outings and collaborations with other area musicians like Daniel Martin Moore and Joe Manning, with whom she issued the albums Farthest Field (2012) and Outside Stay Outside (2014), respectively, and with the old-timey music trio Maiden Radio, which also features the talents of Julia Purcell and Cheyenne Mize. Shelley released her solo debut, Ginko, in 2012, followed by the No Quarter-issued Electric Ursa in 2014, the latter of which saw her working alongside fleet-fingered guitarist Nathan Salsburg. 2015's Over and Even found Shelley and Salsburg delivering an evocative set of country-folk originals that flirted with English and Irish traditional music. For her eponymous fifth studio LP, Shelley, Salsburg, and James Elkington headed up to Chicago to record with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy behind the board. The first single from the record, "Wild Indifference," appeared in March 2017, with the full-length album arriving later that May. For 2019's Billboard-charting Like the River Loves the Sea, Shelley traveled to Reykjavík, Iceland, where she recorded with a handful of local musicians; Bonnie "Prince" Billy also made a cameo appearance on the album. The following year saw the release of the concert LP Live at the Bomhard, which was recorded in Louisville the year prior.
© James Christopher Monger /TiVo
© James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 30, 2019 | No Quarter
A worthy air to Sandy Denny, Vashti Bunyan, Joan Baez, Linda Thompson, Nick Drake and, more suitably, Gillian Welch, the American Joan Shelley carries on their torch. The folk singer from Louisville who had Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy produce her eponymous 2017 debut album continues her scenic journey with a unique and moving grace. The melodies and rhythms of songs on Like the River Loves the Sea contain fragments of the multiple musical traditions that make up the sonority of her native Kentucky: Irish, British, African to only mention a few. For Shelley, “the most beautiful music is that which converses with the all-seeing divine, the trees and ancient beings that are witnesses to the entirety of human history. These songs represent part of this conversation.” And this divinity is indeed present on titles such as When What It Is where a tranquil piano envelops a guitar and pure vocals; the result is dumbfounding… Much like her predecessors, Joan Shelley is never superfluous and delivers an incandescent folk artistry. Calm moments and silences allow her to create an atmosphere of beauty and purity. Less is more, more than ever… © Marc Zisman/Qobuz