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Shelley Short

A Cave, A Canoo

(Hush; US: 13 Oct 2009; UK: 13 Oct 2009)

In a lot of ways, Shelley Short fits into the female singer-songwriter mold pretty well. She plays a quiet acoustic guitar, and her voice is sweet, hushed, and seemingly confessional. But hold on before you paint her into that corner because A Cave, A Canoo has some subtle surprises and noise play that distinguishes it from the pack. During the verses in “Familiar”, guitars buzz, notes drop in off-key and off-time, and strings squeak in complaint, but the chorus is all shimmering haze. Pedal steel, soaking in reverb, creates a wide space about the sinister, playful hiss of Short’s vocals. “Hard to Tell” rests on the laid-bare buzz of accordion. On “Tap the Old Bell,” a huge space exists between Short’s far-off guitar and her up-front vocals, making for a haunting lullaby. At their core, these may all be contained folk songs, but Short, never quiet, comes at them from the same angle, moving away from a simple guitar/vocals construction and, in the process, creating an album that seeps into the skin, that refuses—despite all its quiet—to let you dismiss it as something you’ve heard before.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

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