In December 2016, after more than a year of touring the world behind her 2015 LP Over and Even, Joan Shelley and Nathan Salsburg headed a few hours north to Chicago, where they joined Jeff Tweedy in Wilco's Loft studio for five days. Spencer Tweedy, home from college, joined on drums, while James Elkington (a collaborator to both Tweedy and Salsburg) shifted between piano and resonator guitar. Jeff added electric accents and some bass, but mostly, he helped the band stay out of its own way. "He was protecting the songs. He was stopping us before we went too far." Shelley says.
The Loft proved essential for that approach, as it was wired to capture every musical moment, so no take was lost. If, for instance, some magic happened while Spencer added drums to a tune he’d never heard, or while Elkington tinkered behind a piano, the tape was rolling. Indeed, half of these songs are first takes.
"The first time is always the best. That’s when everyone’s on the edge of their seats, listening to not mess it up,” Shelley says. “They’re depending on each other to get through it."
It's fitting that the resulting set is self-titled. These are, after all, Shelley's most assured and complete thoughts to date, with lyrics as subtle and sensitive as her peerless voice and a band that offers support through restraint and nuance. In eleven songs, this is the sound of Joan Shelley emerging as one of music's most expressive emotional syndicates.
Joan Shelley follows up her massively successful LP Over and Even with 2 new songs recorded in Chicago. Shelley will enter the studio in late 2016 to record a new LP, but until then she'll be on tour with Wilco and Patty Griffin with headlining dates in between.
Joan Shelley quickly follows her acclaimed 2014 album Electric Ursa with Over and Even, a quieter, more contemplative set recorded in a farmhouse in her home state of Kentucky. The New York Times said "her music is folky and pastoral, with a sense of scale that makes her humble about her place in mankind and the universe, and her songs are serene but never complacent." Over and Even is her third record.
Electric Ursa is the second solo album by Joan Shelley. Recorded in her hometown of Lousiville, KY with producer Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, Houndmouth), it's comprised of eight songs, startling in their quietness and closeness. The Chicago Reader wrote that "she sings with striking intimacy, as though addressing someone sitting just a few feet away". Shelley has toured the US and Europe both solo and with her band (The June Brides). Her latest release Farthest Field (2012) was a duo album with Daniel Martin Moore, of which Jim James said was "destined to become a classic. It already is for those who know."