LONSGHOT Review: American Songwriter

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Shelly Colvin
(self released)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

There are kiss-offs, and then there are “you can have whatever you want/ but you’re never, never, never, never, never, never, never gonna be as cool/ as Tony Joe White” kiss-offs. Ouch! Especially when it’s sung with an ice-princess gripping combination of Chrissie Hynde and Sheryl Crow on singer-songwriter Colvin’s first release since 2012’s impressive if somewhat inconsistent California rock-influenced Up the Hickory Down the Pine.

A switch in producers to Cosmic Thug (multi-instrumentalist and second in command Adam Landry along with guitarist Justin Collins) pushes the often moody Longshot into far more dangerous and harder-edged territory. It’s a place where Colvin feels comfortable as evidenced from these 11 fully realized tunes. Even though things start off floating on the sweetly melodic strummy cloud of the radio-ready “Be With You,” with swirling, atmospheric pedal steel from My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel (who also contributes to four other tracks), the ambiance turns considerably darker and more menacing as the album progresses.

It makes for an unswerving, frequently compelling set reminiscent in its tone at times of early Chris Isaak. Credit sideman Landry for practically being a one-man band, overdubbing himself on drums, bass, keyboards and guitars while creating a vicious, viscous fog of sound that grounds Colvin’s opaque vocals and hypnotic songs. It’s a furtive groove that’s easy to take for granted, yet one that few artists or albums can duplicate, especially in the singer-songwriter field. Longshot feels like a cohesive work, one that maintains its cool/detached style like an artsy European film.

Longer tracks such as “Ojai” allow Colvin’s drifting vocals to lock into a dreamy melody while providing room for three overdubbed guitars to lay down a reverbed bed of music that leads into a final brittle solo worthy of Tom Verlaine. The all-acoustic affecting “Your Sweet Time” asks a lover if she is wasting his time even though she already knows the answer. But the gripping guitar freak-out of “Minimum Wage” brings back the electric attack with Landry and Justin Collins sounding somewhat like Crazy Horse on a hot night as Colvin moans and wails with restrained passion.

Even the stripped-down closer “Get You Alone,” appropriately a solo performance with haunting backing vocals, feels shadowy and spellbinding. It ends an outstanding album that makes Shelly Colvin, if not quite as cool as Tony Joe White, certainly not far from his distinctively eerie, dusky vibe.