Song You Need To Know: Joan Shelley, ‘Coming Down For You’

Joan Shelley sees Kentucky as her nest, and conceived of her new LP, Like The River Loves The Sea, as “a haven for overstimulated heads in uncertain times,” as she put it in a press note. But looking for fresh perspective and lured by cheap flights, alongside a fascination with Lee Hazelwood’s Cowboy In Sweden LP, she decided to record the album in Reykjavik, at Greenhouse Studios and Iðnó.

This first single suggests it worked out quite well. The sound be familiar territory to fans of her six previous records (not counting three with string band Maiden Radio). Taken at a cantoring pace, it weaves its spell with banjo and electric guitar (virtuosos Nathan Salsburg and James Elkington both contribute to the LP) while frequent Shelley foil Bonnie “Prince” Billy adds wraps her in weathered harmony vocals like an old leather jacket.

Shelley’s lyrics suggest romantic salvation alongside ecological disaster. “And if with scorched lungs you call to me … Up the canyons and the valleys/ I will call back to you,” she sings, conjuring fires in California as well as the long legacy of volcanic activity in Iceland. And when she invokes the title in her cool, luminous alto, it’s easy to imagine a guardian angel sweeping down like a lost scene from Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. It’s gorgeous, timeless stuff.

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