It’s rare to be lulled into a state of complete calmness after only the first sixteen seconds of an album, but Joan Shelley’s most recent self-titled release rose to the challenge. Close your eyes and you are effortlessly transported to a place of tranquillity free from word limits and exam codes, at least for half an hour or so.
The folksy familiarity of the melodies make each song seem recognisable, offering a timeless feel often absent from mainstream music. However, her subtle Kentuckian lilt creates a characteristic authenticity which marries beautifully with the minimalist production of the tracks.
Jeff Tweedy’s producing style isolates Shelley’s stunningly sweet vocals, her almost hypnotic melodies captivating from the opening track ‘We’d Be Home’. The atmospheric album presents a maturity, approaching an unstable love relationship with poignant uncomplicated lyrics alike those in the bluesy ‘If the Storms Never Came’. Although a more pacey country vibe is found in ‘I Didn’t Know’, Shelley indicates her stylistic variation through ‘The Push and Pull’, a number you can only describe as the love child of folk and a 50s doo wop number.
In all honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this album and found myself shamelessly swaying along with ‘Where I’ll Find You’ on repeat. The songs injected a moment of peace into a day (and night) filled with violent, never-ending essay writing, and for that I can only offer them my highest praise.
Shelley has created a professional record with such authenticity that you feel like you are there alongside her in the recording studio, or in a very prestigious live mic session in Louisville, where her welcoming tone invites you to listen again and again and again.