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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.

Rating:

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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