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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

Shelley Short
Oh' Say Little Dogies, Why? (CD)

It's sort of difficult to classify this music, though in my heart (and from the bio) I know that at its most accessible level it's some sort of blend of country-folk music. It's not as preternaturally dark as Edith Frost, nor as uptempo as Neko Case, not as poppy as Mary Lou Lord. Shelley Short's songs seem to hover at times between straightforward country inflections and an even more primal Americana sound that really gets under your skin in a good way.

This is perfect for listening to on soft summer nights while sitting on the porch with a fifth of Jack Daniels. No, you don't have to be drunk to appreciate it. Not by any stretch. But like Norfolk and Western (whose key member Adam Selzer played bass on several songs and also runs Type Foundry, where parts of Shelley's album was recorded) you get a certain sense of distance and even melancholy sadness from all the empty space within the songs. That sadness is there, but it ain't all bad. It just makes you think about things other than what reality TV show's on the boob tube. And thinking puts you in a meditative state of mind where you're apt to amble out onto the front steps and look at the sunset with a drink if there is one nearby (I mean the sunset, not the drink). So it goes.

The atmosphere is probably the most important element in these songs, and helps transport the album away from the rut that other more straightforward alt country acts dawdle in. For instance, "Even The Water" has a strange little clarinet submerged in the background. And "Pullin', Pullin', Pullin'" has drums that sound more like kettles and cans, and the whole song has an A.M. radio type of quality. The tinkling piano hovering far on the horizon on "Trouble Takes A Long Time" adds depth and character to an otherwise typical song. I don't ever doubt that these extra things are important. Even so, one of my favorites was the more straightforward folky picker "Giving Someone Giving" with it's simple approach and great harmonies. Really reminded of Edith Frost here. The beautiful vibrato electric guitar on songs like "Buy A Fish" sets up a pretty background for Shelley's personable twang. At times Shelley's singing voice is so innocently sweet and childlike (not childish) as to trick the listener into thinking that this is some 14 year old prairie girl singing her heart out. But thankfully, she's no Lee Ann Rimes. That much is quite clear from the subject material and the arrangements that she uses to great effect to complement her style. "Heavy Flowers" almost feels like a slow Neil Young song, especially that picking near the beginning and end. Some strange type of glasses or metal plates clinking in the background add even more atmosphere to this song. "Singing Brigade" is very Southwesternly minor in feel, at times nearing the hushed whispers of Calexico's stuff. And why not, since the CD is out on Arizona's finest limited edition label, Keep Recordings. Although, Shelley's actually from Portland, OR. Could have fooled me any day.

- review by RABBIT (8.9.04)        

Keep Recordings
PO Box 18972
Tucson, AZ 85731

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