Shelley Short‘s Pacific City opens with the sweetest song about death you’ve ever heard. “Death” comes wistfully, with guitar jangle, while pondering a terrible accident she wonders aloud, “is it true what they say about dying?” Slide guitar and violins join the conversation, about dying and being carried away and soon the song is awash in sound, carrying you off into the songwriter’s imagination.
“Muddy River” has the impenetrable sense of time of a blues player, the bass string and strum of her guitar dependable as geology while she ruminates on the gifts that present themselves when one steps outside.
Ultimately Shelley Short is a folk-blues singer, playing killer riffs softly on acoustic guitar, singing way up high about being the fool in a relationship, becoming fearless, or at least not afraid. The production on the album compliments her. Short songs sometimes scratchy like old records, distant as if through a gramophone, coming to you from another time. It’s an experimental aesthetic choice nailed perfectly. When Short performs the centuries old folk song “Wagoner’s Lad” there is wind, or waves in the background, and a droning hum with Shelley virtually A Capella so her voice can shine.
While the record is minimalist in it’s compositions the array of instruments is dazzling. Piano is a surprise addition on “Lists” a jingle giddy with love with a wobbly magnetic tape sound. “Book Under A Tree” turns right around and employs a drum machine, to lay down a sequenced beat, samples, and organic splashes. Acoustic guitar, cello, and field recordings, and odd drum sounds abound on the rare, modern folk album that pays homage to tradition, while looking forward tastefully.