Shannon Lay - Covers Vol. 1 Music Album Reviews

Shannon Lay - Covers Vol. 1 Music Album Reviews
The singer-songwriter pays tribute to Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Arthur Russell, and more on a set of covers that play like quiet seances.

Shannon Lay has always had an intimate connection with her heroes. On “November,” from her 2019 album August, she pondered the fate of Nick Drake and tried to consider him as a flesh-and-blood human rather than just another influence: “I think of him often,” she sings softly. “Wonder if he’s listening/I wonder if a voice so quiet could ever die.” For Lay there is consolation in the notion that Drake might live on in the songs he left behind, and perhaps even in her songs, whether they mention him or not.

It's telling that more than half of the artists on Lay’s first covers album are dead: Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Jackson C. Frank, Arthur Russell, and Lou Reed. Lay’s versions of their songs are seances, a means of direct communication, but her music is never overly reverent or indulgently ghostly. Rather, she respects the quietness of the originals, that undying quality, and Lay knows that restraint can focus the melancholy of Sibylle Baier’s “I Lost Something in the Hills” and sharpen the barbs of Russell’s “Close My Eyes.”

Nothing here is as transformative as Lay’s live cover of Black Box’s “Everybody, Everybody,” which recasts the ’90s dance banger as an indie-folk call-and-response—without the back-patting irony of so many cross-genre covers. Rather than grand or ambitious, her interpretations rely on subtle changes, things you might not pick up the first time around. She distinguishes her version of Frank’s “Blues Run the Game” from the many, many, many others by employing a more forceful vocal to give it an unexpectedly optimistic tone. Rather than a lament like the original, hers is a rumination on interconnectedness: It becomes oddly reassuring to know that everybody everywhere is motivated by the same blues.

Lay can’t quite muster the spite and bitterness of Smith’s “Angeles,” but through her deft fingerpicking and Debbie Neigher’s piano flourishes she recasts the song more as a question than a statement. Drake’s “From the Morning” ends with a coda cribbed from the instrumental “Horn,” also from Pink Moon. It’s a nice, knowing touch that reminds you that she’s drawing inspiration not only as a singer and songwriter but also as a guitarist.

Among these heroes, it’s especially interesting to hear her tackle songs by her peers. Lay has toured as a guitarist with Ty Segall, so she’s intimately familiar with his sense of melody and lyrics, with his own set of heroes. “The Keepers,” from his 2013 album Sleeper, settles comfortably among these older songs, with Lay adding a new layer to its exhortation to radical creativity: “We can still dream and shake our hands /And sing a song so grand.” By contrast, she drains the psychedelic queasiness from OCS’s “I Am Slow,” replacing it with a halting guitar theme that sounds like an ellipsis at the end of this collection. It’s not the most satisfying conclusion, but it does remind you that Covers Vol. 1 is not a self-contained album but the first installment of a larger project. These recordings suggest Lay isn’t merely cataloging her influences: She is showing us how she continues to live with them.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Shannon Lay - Covers Vol. 1 Music Album Reviews Shannon Lay - Covers Vol. 1 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on April 25, 2023 Rating: 5


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