Joan Shelley

Joan Shelley

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The eponymous follow-up to 2015's lovely and understated Over and Even, Joan Shelley sees the Louisville, Kentucky-based singer/songwriter and her partner in crime Nathan Salsburg delivering a warm breeze of a record that unfolds like a curl of smoke from a damp bonfire. Recorded in Chicago with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, the 11-track set is loose, yet never directionless, with melodies that are less stately, though no less comforting than those found on the album's predecessor -- Shelley's voice itself is a marvel of sonic palliation. The additions of frequent Tweedy collaborators Spencer Tweedy (drums) and James Elkington (guitar) to the recipe provide some tasty results, especially on the dark and bluesy "I Got What I Wanted," and "Where I'll Find You" and "If the Storms Never Came", the former a heartfelt love song teaming with nautical metaphors and the latter a salt spray-lined almost-shantey that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief. Even at her weariest and most wistful, Shelley exudes a steely pragmatism and a natural geniality that feel deeply rooted in the south -- "I've been a chaser too long/ain't it lonely," she reflects, on the languid single "Wild Indifference." That approachability extends to the music as well, with each note ringing true and unfettered, proving that just like their last outing together, it's the interplay between Shelley and Salsburg -- imagine a less strident, bluegrass state version of David Rawlings and Gillian Welch -- that administers the bulk of the album's emotional heft. It's comfort food that's as nourishing as it is tasty.

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