REVIEW: Joan Shelley – “Over and Even”


Joan Shelley
Over and Even
No Quarter Records

Over and Even is my first step into this autumn season. The gentle swaying vocal melodies intertwining with the busy but beautifully clean guitar work couldn’t be more welcoming. Who is Joan Shelley? I’m not sure, other than she’s a talented singer-songwriter from Louisville who recorded this album in a Kentucky farmhouse. Outside of those facts there are a few things that become certain from listening to her album.

She is an extremely talented vocalist. Something about her voice makes me feel like I’m riding a carousel; steadily moving up, down, and around with ease and hoping it never ends. Her vocals are intensified when accompanied by Louisville legend Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) on her song “Stay On My Shore.” For that reason, this is my favorite song of the album. I’m a sucker for a female voice accompanied by a man when done right. It’s done perfectly this time.

Joan Shelley is also a poet who seems to pay attention to colors when she sings of the winter “turning her gold to blue,” or “flashing red and blue beneath the green.” I won’t pretend I know what she is singing about all the time, and that’s how a song should be. She writes the perfect, flowing sentences and they affect you in unique ways every time you listen.

Also worthy of note on this album is the guitar work of Nathan Salsburg. For such a quiet and down-tempo album, the guitar is surprisingly active without ever being overwhelming. The tone is unassuming and warm and feels almost as if it’s the other side of the carousel from Shelley’s vocals.

Listen to “Stay On My Shore” below: