Review: No need for Joan Shelley to scream for attention

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Posted: Sep 04, 2015 1:43 PM
Review: No need for Joan Shelley to scream for attention

Joan Shelley, "Over and Even" (No Quarter)

The album title and Joan Shelley's name appear in the corner of the cover in small type, which is truth in advertising. Her music doesn't scream for attention, and on "Over and Even," there's not a forte to be found.

Most of the 12 songs are framed by a couple of acoustic guitars, with an occasional keyboard, light percussion or harmony vocal from guest Will Oldham. Such sparse arrangements wisely leave plenty of room for Shelley's soprano, which effortlessly leaps octaves and recalls Joan Baez, Sandy Denny and Linda Thompson in its soft but sturdy grace.

There's a formality to Shelley's delivery — "paved" becomes a two-syllable word — as she weighs the relative merits of solitude and companionship. The Kentuckian sings of stars and birds and vines and leaves and rocks and rivers, conjuring images of natural beauty to match that marvelous voice.