On ‘The Spur,’ Joan Shelley weighs what it takes to be human

Stephen Thomson in NPR:

It’s tempting to fixate on the palliative effects of Joan Shelley‘s music; to liken it to cold compresses or warm breezes, lazy afternoons or headache remedies. But, while it’s hard to overestimate the value of a piece of music that slows the blood on a stressful day, Shelley’s songs are there to provide more than just comfort.

Across several albums, the Kentucky singer-songwriter has set her dusky, softly lived-in voice against spare acoustic arrangements. Her latest, The Spur, finds her expounding on country living, newly married life and the birth of her daughter. But life’s joys are never far removed from the deeply worrying state — and fate — of the world: Shelley may sing of postcard-perfect countrysides and the soothing routines of home, but they’re presented as escape hatches, respites, even hiding places. She knows the wind is howling outside, and where it’s coming from.

More here.