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.
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.
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.
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.
Why does the moon seem so intent to cry, and yet it is your tears that give us dew? Why do the flags grasp silently at wind? Why does the sun refuse to let me stare, and yet it is your hand upon my face that burns? Why does my mother die without remembering my name, while she still sings in church? Why does the IV bag float like my prayer does in this emptiness? Where was it that I lost my way? Why do I see the cross in window panes, in two downed branches broken in the road, in shirts hung out to dry? Why does the mystery of faith sustain us when we keep on asking such questions? Why must we ask such questions?