Shadyside was recorded and mixed by J.D. Foster (Dwight Yoakam, Richard Buckner) and Sue Garner in Brooklyn, except for some of "Beach" and "Old Women," recorded by Jim O'Rourke in Chicago. The album features four poems by Fay Hart set to music by Garner, four songs written entirely by Garner, a cover of Michael Hurley's "Paint a Design," and songwriting collaborations between Garner and Jonathan Thomas, her husband Rick Brown, and former Shams bandmate Amanda Uprichard. Garner's warm, intimate, homespun, and sultry voice enables her to preserve the emotional core of her songs even when they seem like melodic fragments glued together by artsy instrumentation and digital effects. Consequently, she sounds just as good rocking out with bass/guitar/drums on "Handful of Ghosts" and performing a solo acoustic rendition of "Paint a Design" as she does when accompanied by Brown's intriguing percussion sounds on "Yes" and Doug Wieselman's bass clarinet and harmonica on "Don't Still the Flicker." The album encompasses straightforward songs such as "Come Again," which is performed as a country tune, as well as ethereal tracks such as "Tapas Bar," which consists of spoken word over bass clarinet, electric piano, and guitar. Shadyside may be too hushed and understated for some listeners, but the performances are both low-key and emotive enough to keep the album from becoming overly self-indulgent or precious.
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AllMusic Review by Todd Kristel