Joan Shelley’s third solo album, Over and Even, came out Friday, September 4th. Though she has recorded multiple records as a member of a group, it was her 2014 sophomore record, released on Philadelphia label No Quarter Records, that found Shelley a wider audience and distribution.
Shelley hails from Kentucky, rather than the Philadelphia area, however. Her voice is powerful and sweet, not unlike—if you will pardon the comparison—her state’s most well-known export. Often backed by nothing more than acoustic guitar from bandmate Nathan Salsburg, Shelley’s voice stands out, gorgeous and bright. Guest musicians, including Rachel Grimes of Rachel’s, drift in and out of Over and Even, but the songs remain focused. Like the music itself, Shelley’s lyrics are deeply rooted in tradition. They are rustic and deal in natural imagery.
There is a beauty in the simplicity of the music on Over and Even that is nothing short of breathtaking. To put it as simply as possible, Shelley has released one of the best albums of 2015. Acoustic folk may have had its heyday in the 1960s, but Over and Even shows that music firmly based in traditional styles, sonically and lyrically, can remain vital today.
Joan Shelley is on tour this fall, with a variety of artists. She, Glen Dentinger (who also appears on the record), and Nathan Salsburg were recently in Philadelphia where they performed at World Cafe Live and recorded a session with Folkadelphia. Listen to that here.