Shannon and the Clams frontwoman, Shannon Shaw reignites country’s old sad soul on her solo debut.
Shannon and the Clams has always infused 1950s rockabilly with 1980s punk into their sound, but with Shannon venturing into her own career, what direction will she head in? As the title and cover art suggests, Shaw is going classical country.
Featuring production from, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, of all people, this thing sounds like a mixture of Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison only with much clearer production. The singing also remind me heavily of Elle King. There is a rough nasal quality to her voice, but it is melodic and powerful enough to carry itself. Even though it has some flaws, there is a sense of humanity coming through the vocals.
“Golden Frames” is a dramatic country ballad that actually acts as a decent opener. On the chorus, Shaw soars over the ascending piano chords while orchestral instrumentation guides her into the heavens. On the second verse is simple, but mesmerizing acoustic guitar arpeggios. Towards the backend of the second chorus of the track are these twinkling spurts of xylophone added in for extra flavor.
It surprises me that “Broke My Own,” is the leading single off of this considering how forgettable it is. There is moody quality in the lyrics and instrumentation, but there isn’t much that truly feels captivating. The background vocals feel more engaging than the lead melody. I guess it is an accurate representation of the rest of the album sounds like, but it does not come close to the quality found on other songs.
“Freddies ‘n’ Teddies” is another one of the big singles to come off of this album. It has admittedly grown on me somewhat. I have come to appreciate the production with each additional listen. The chorus continues to be pretty underwhelming, however.
“Cryin’ My Eyes Out” feels like the first time Shaw really embraces her influences and digs into what makes this style special. The lyrics are upfront and honest. The background vocals mixed with the hook intermingle beautifully into a melancholic chorus. Shaw sounds rougher than ever, but she also comes out as more expressive. The effects on the guitar towards the end of the bridge give the melody a psychedelic age that I love. I do wish the song ended abruptly rather than fading out a little then ending abruptly. It knocks out the potential punch the end could have had. Other than that, the song’s hook is one of the catchiest and most engaging.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have “Goodbye Summer.” There really isn’t anything interesting happening in terms of chord progressions. It also has an incredibly weak chorus. Not even the background vocals do anything to save the song.
“Cold Pillows” opens with a very solemn set of guitar riffs. Shaw enters in very softly. This is the first time we can hear male background vocals who help guide Shaw’s voice into a forte level. I love the aggressive strumming on the acoustic guitar as well as the punchier rhythm. They help enunciate the chorus a lot.
The drumming on, “Make Believe” is very punchy and contrasts nicely with the pillowy melodies sung by Shaw and her background vocals. The multiple layers of instrumentation blend together smoothly with them constantly transitioning between each other.
Shaw really dives into her country influences for the closing track, “Coal on the Fire.” There is a definite enunciation on throwing in a southern twang on her voice. It does come off a bit forced, but it does not sound entirely as though she is merely doing an impression of already established country singers.
While there are multiple shortcomings, this is a solidly cohesive debut project. Shaw renews a classic style and does it some justice by adding in clearer production while remaining true to the principles. Her flawed singing makes some moments rougher than others, but for the most part it is quite expressive and can lead to some awe-inspiring instances.
Favorite songs: “Cryin’ My Eyes Out,” “Golden Frames,” “Make Believe,” “Cold Pillows”
Least favorite song: “Goodbye Summer”