We live in absurd times, but at least we have Joan Shelley's exquisite music. It always helps. Her voice is a warm hug to the soul. Joan Shelley and Nathan Salsburg are minor deities, etc. Favorite track: all of 'em
My God, what a beautiful warm blanket of a record. Ms. Shelley is one of our best living songwriters, full-stop. Her knack for drawing you into a mood in just a few notes is remarkable, her lyrics are lovely, intermingling, the natural world, loss, the apocalypse, and the importance of community.
Favorite track: Teal.
I recently moved to a rural area not far from Louisville around the time I purchased this album. Since then it has been the soundtrack to my new life here. ‘Like The River Loves The Sea’ captures that otherworldly feel of looking out at pastoral landscapes from the window of a moving vehicle. The strings are lush yet delicate; her voice glides over you like a trickling stream. This music will take you to another place, no matter where you reside.
Favorite track: Stay All Night.
It was that Lee Hazlewood Cowboy in Sweden record.
It was learning that the Atlantic Ocean spreads by about an inch each year, pushing apart Europe and America.
It was that Iceland sits on top of that bubbling ridge and gains strange new land by its spreading.
It was the desire to drink in that otherworldly landscape and experience its effect in the music, the way different alcohols have different intoxicating effects on a body.
It was those cheap flights advertised.
It was that you had to leave home to see it for what it is, to frame it neatly: to miss a thing was to know its shape.
These songs deal with the nest that is Kentucky. There’s a saying that goes something like, “When the world comes to an end, I want to be in Kentucky where it's always 5 years behind.” The water they say is good for distilling bourbon. There is something in the water. And what it produces in its people is alternately Dionysian and Apollonian.
Woven into the melodies and rhythms of these songs are fragments of the many musical traditions that comprise what we now call Kentucky music: Irish, British, and African to name a few. The best music would be a conversation with the divine that has seen all of it, or with the oldest trees that have witnessed the whole human story. These songs are partly that conversation, at times through the lens of lovers. They are also a longing cry born of all the dividing; a call across the slowly spreading ocean. Primarily, Like the River Loves the Sea is built as a haven for overstimulated heads in uncertain times. The title (which comes from a song by Si Kahn) speaks of the inevitable and at times indifferent nature of love. Whether it be a physical place or an idea, everyone needs a place of comfort. One where we can look out again from that place of calm and see how to best act and to be in an uncertain world.
- Joan Shelley
Skylight, Ky, April 2019
released August 30, 2019
Produced by James Elkington and Joan Shelley
James Elkington: drums, bass, percussion, guitars, piano, Wurlitzer, JX3F synth, and harmonium
Nathan Salsburg: acoustic and electric guitars
Joan Shelley: classical, resonator, and acoustic guitars
Sigrún Kristbjörg Jónsdóttir: violin and viola
Þórdís Gerður Jónsdóttir: cello
Albert Finnbogason: Wurlitzer (3)
Harmony vocals: Bonnie “Prince” Billy (2, 6), Cheyenne Mize (7, 8, 11), and Julia Purcell (7, 8, 11)
Recorded at Greenhouse and Iðnó in Reykjavik, Iceland by Albert Finnbogason.
Mixed by Kevin Ratterman at La La Land, Mastered by Joe Lambert.
Additional recording by James Elkington, Daniel Martin Moore, and Kevin Ratterman.
Joan Shelley is a songwriter and singer from Louisville, KY. Often joined by guitarist Nathan Salsburg, she has shared shows with the likes of Jake Xerxes Fussell, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Daniel Martin Moore, the Other Years, & Michael Hurley.