Continental Song City [Release date: 9.09.16]
Richard Shindell is one of those enigmas whose talent is in reverse proportion to his commerciality.
A native New Yorker now residing in Buenos Aries, he is a contemporary singer-songwriter of the highest order whose storytelling and stellar guitar work have captivated a small but dedicated fan base for more than twenty years.
I fell in love with his music when I heard a track from his debut album ‘Sparrow’s Point’ on the Bob Harris radio show and have remained so for the subsequent eight studio albums.
And so we reach studio album number nine, ‘Careless’, a result of three years work writing, recording, scrapping, writing and recording again, that finds Shindell plugging in the electric as a foil to his sublime acoustic playing.
This has resulted in a more up-beat feel to the album than in recent outings, but which loses none of the trademark killer songs and ‘straight through the heart’ lyrics that we have come to expect.
Appropriately the album kicks off with one such song. ‘Stray Cow Blues’ is a blues shuffle with lyrics that cleverly make you feel empathy for a fictitious cow and demonstrates just how good an electric guitar player Shindell really is.
This great storytelling continues on the title track ‘Careless’ – a gentle acoustic workout detailing a relationship breakdown which carries an almost jazzy vibe replete with a forlorn, distant trumpet.
And if you need definitive proof of Shindell’s mastery of the storyteller’s art, look no further than ‘Infrared’ – a song of falling in love for the first time but using the application of scientific jargon to reveal what is happening. Absolutely inspired and flagging the track up as the outstanding cut – though it’s a tough call.
The highlights continue unabated with the bluesy acoustics of ‘The Deer On The Parkway’, the Shawn Colvin ‘Sunny Came Home’ vibe of ‘All Wide Open’, the rants against the establishment and big business of ‘Atlas Choking’ and ‘Satellites’ and the almost unbearable beauty of ‘Your Guitar’.
The album is topped off off with the celestial, almost Gregorian chant and swirling keys of closer ‘The Dome’ – an apposite and ethereal way to bookend a quite superlative piece of work.
Shindell deserves to be better known than he is and ‘Careless’ might well do the trick – but heaven forfend that he ever becomes mainstream – the loss of albums such as this would be hard to take.
Touching, intelligent and staggeringly good. As usual. *****
Review by Alan Jones
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