Joan Shelley has a voice that would loosen the most coiled and closed-off soul. There is an eerie innocence in her small, bright intonations, a dutiful belief in faithfulness that hasn’t yet been dashed away. Considering she has been writing songs since she was nine years old, perhaps she will never lose this quality. Over And Even is Shelley’s third solo album, but her Bandcamp tells of collaborations Daniel Martin Moore, Joe Manning, and a group called Maiden Radio. Today she’s shared the initial song from her new record, and whatever path led her to this moment, the debut of “Stay On My Shore,” is a blessed one in my book. She wrote and recorded all the songs in a cold Kentucky farmhouse accompanied only by guitarist Nathan Salsburg, save for the few flourishes added by other Kentucky natives like Will Oldham, who shows up here like a tender, unassuming back-up singer. Now he’s meekly keeping to the corners of the song, then he’s dropping out all together to let Shelley’s dizzying vocals stand alone. Even a cult figure like Oldham can’t outshine Shelley here. This is her shore and this is her hymn, a fluid folk paean in worship of light. Listen.
I totally missed 2014’s Electric Ursula so I guess I’m going to have to dive into that one tonight. Her new album Over And Even is out 9/4 via No Quarter. Pre-order it here.