Published Aug 27, 2019The secret to Joan Shelley's appeal is how she makes collaboration sound so intimate and singular. On her seventh solo LP, Like the River Loves the Sea, the Louisville, Kentucky singer/songwriter is again joined by guitarists James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg, as well as her Maiden Radio bandmates Cheyenne Mize and Julia Purcell. Travelling to Reykjavik, Iceland to record the album in under a week, Shelley enlisted a few locals: producer Albert Finnbogason, Sigrún Kristbjörg Jónsdóttir on violin and viola and Þórdís Gerður Jónsdóttir on cello.
The resulting 12 tracks come off strikingly focused and emotionally sophisticated. The gentle opener, "Haven," demonstrates Shelley's crystalline vocals and virtuosic fingerpicking style, while the subtly bombastic back-up vocal of "High on the Mountain" closes off the 12-track, 38-minute LP. The rest of Like the River Loves the Sea shows Shelley working with a multitude of ideas, as "Coming Down for You" finds her stretching affecting vocals and lyrics overtop bouncing steel guitar, while "The Fading" uses guest vocalist Bonnie 'Prince' Billy as a gritty counterweight and "Stay All Night" inventively plays around with polyrhythms.
On Like the River Loves the Sea, Joan Shelley proves she may be the only active musician who can surround herself with collaborators and sound exactly like herself. (No Quarter)