Shana Cleveland is a Seattle-based singer, songwriter, and guitarist known both for her work with noir surf group La Luz and her folk-oriented project Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles. While vintage surf and instrumental rock styles inform Cleveland's music with La Luz, her work outside the group is decidedly different. Her acoustic guitar style recalls artists such as John Fahey and Robbie Basho, who fused "American Primitive" traditionalism with an adventurous melodic sense, and on her 2015 album Oh Man, Cover the Ground (credited to Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles) and 2019's Night of the Worm Moon, the cool but emphatic approach of her picking was matched by low-key, dynamic instrumental accompaniment. A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Cleveland relocated to Los Angeles where she began developing the intricate, John Fahey-inspired fingerpicked guitar style she would later employ in her solo work fronting the Sandcastles. Although that project began in 2009, her subsequent move to Seattle and the formation of the all-female rock band La Luz in 2012 demanded the bulk of her artistic focus. Influenced by classic '60s girl groups, doo wop, surf, and garage music, they released their debut album It's Alive in 2013. Prior to La Luz's formation, Cleveland recorded Oh Man, Cover the Ground, her laid-back indie folk debut with the Sandcastles in 2011, which would remain unreleased until 2015 when Seattle-based indie Suicide Squeeze Records issued the album. La Luz kept Cleveland busy, as they toured frequently and released Weirdo Shrine in 2015 and Floating Features in 2018. But she continued to work on her solo projects, and issued Night of the Worm Moon through the Sub Pop-distributed Hardly Art label in 2019, which took on a sound and approach much like her album with the Sandcastles. Cleveland is also a visual artist and in 2012 painted a set of 37 trading cards for folk label Tompkins Square called "Obscure Giants of Acoustic Guitar."
© Timothy Monger & Mark Deming /TiVo
© Timothy Monger & Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 5, 2019 | Hardly Art
Shana Cleveland has found an audience in the indie rock community as the leader of the fine surf-infused band La Luz, but before the group took off, she was recording her own variety of idiosyncratic indie folk. Taking a busman's holiday from the group, Cleveland has cut a second album of songs fashioned around her acoustic guitar work and evocative melodies (the first, Oh Man, Cover the Ground, was recorded in 2011 and released in 2015), and 2019's Night of the Worm Moon is a quietly dazzling exercise in moody, expressive acoustic music. The heart of these songs can be found in Cleveland's hushed vocals and subtle guitar work, which lend these performances a feeling somewhere between John Fahey and early Leonard Cohen (think Songs of Leonard Cohen, not I'm Your Man). Meanwhile, the arrangements, in particular Will Sprott's keyboards, fill out the melodies with sounds that conjure a cool, forbidding psychedelic undercurrent that are a splendid complement for Cleveland's spectral guitar. This is a far cry from the smart but sunny approach of La Luz, but Cleveland's understated vocal delivery and the impressionistic bent of her lyrics are two areas of common ground between these projects. And if Night of the Worm Moon is a very different kettle of fish than La Luz, it's similarly rewarding. This album is superb rainy-day listening, music that's subtle but effectively draws the listener into its web, and Cleveland's songs cast a spell that's truly beguiling. At its best, Night of the Worm Moon could pass for some forgotten freak-folk classic of the late '60s or early '70s, though you don't have to follow the trippiness of the past to appreciate its many pleasures. © Mark Deming /TiVo