Joan Shelley‘s music is startling, but not for its racket. It startles because of its closeness, the near-instant sense of familiarity we feel when we hear it. Her songs fill up the air around us, echoing like a voice lost in the later American and British folk revivals – some Anne Briggs here, a little Hedy West there. But none of them are “trad arr. Shelley.” Joan wrote them all. Listen to her sing and it’s evident. You’ve never heard that voice before, either.
The new LP – Electric Ursa – was recorded in Louisville, Kentucky and marks Joan’s first release for No Quarter Records. It includes collaborations with new labelmate Nathan Salsburg, as well as several other of Louisville’s fine musicians. In the eight songs that make up this record, we are seeing an artist in her stride, able to move seamlessly between darkness & light, attempting to reconcile the wild expanse of the future with the burdens of memory. At the center of it all are songs of a nature beautiful, precise, and clear, delivered to us by her singular voice.