On her third album, Shannon Stephens reins in her chamber-folk experimentalism in favor of a bluesy little band that takes her songs to unexpected places. Her sound remains relatively subdued, yet it grooves and pops and even swaggers.
The first question to ask about a Paul McCartney standards album is why it took him so long. The guy’s always been fascinated by the American Songbook, and unlike some pop singers who have taken detours to the land of jazzy old tunes and swinging little combos, Sir Paul has a powerful and chameleonic voice.
Pinning down this Chicago-based group’s sound is difficult. But it’s easy to name resemblances: the progressive song structure and guitar work of Yes; the spoken-word interludes of Frank Zappa and Ken Nordine; the slithery funk of 1970s David Bowie.
Finally, Guy Clark has received a thorough tribute that lives up to his mastery and honors the way he does things: live, spontaneous, without studio trickery to supplant the energy that players create in the moment.
The Minneapolis-based Rundman has built an unlikely career as a scruffy Lutheran rocker, tackling scripture and spirituality with finesse that transcends the vapid Christian rock scene. This disc surveys Rundman’s career from 2000 to the present, with cuts from the 52-song Sound Theology project such as “Carol of the Bells,” which celebrates a cute girl in the handbell choir.
The feel of awl and augur in his hardened hands, the rough hull rimed with salt, a whittled plug he made himself, so tight he set his teeth! His handiwork behind him, Norway a miniature carved in the distance, he watched the gray Atlantic like a ravenous whale devour everything between.
The story ends, and yet begins again. Here in a foreign port, his touch begins to read each sign, the curves and swellings, splintered keel and patchwork. How his heart quickens when he finds his father’s fishing boat, familiar as his name, the family build, their house nailed fast above the rocky harbor.
And yet begins again. How the found word both fits and startles, an oracle recovered just in time, just when it’s needed, just before faith slips away like my great-grandfather’s wedding coat, ruined in a flooded basement with old books and portraits, speckled sepia like a gull’s egg, water-marked and too far gone to keep.