Home International Joan Shelley: New Album & Video ‘The Spur’

Joan Shelley: New Album & Video ‘The Spur’


Do you know that line of Wendell Berry’s “make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came”? 

Kentucky native, Joan Shelley last graced us with an album in 2019 with Like The River Loves The Sea. As noted then by our reviewer David Weir, Shelley is an artist who doesn’t have to shout to make herself heard. On that album she invited “you in to take shelter from the storm, her simple meditations strike at the heart of what really matters.”

Today, she announces ‘The Spur’ (out on June 24th via No Quarter) that, according to her label, began at Earthwave Farm in the Kentucky countryside with Shelley and Nathan Salsburg alone in duo form recording basic tracks. It was then sent to Chicago where James Elkington (serving as producer) wrote string and horn arrangements and brought in local musicians to perform those parts. Bill Callahan and Meg Baird also contributed vocals.

No Quarter are declaring it hands down, her best album yet. Watch the accompanying video for the title track below directed by The Forman Brothers:

In the accompanying album notes, Shelley reveals the shared anxieties, our guilt, our joy, discomfort and heartbreak that went into the songs:

I want to explain these songs / I want to leave them unexplained.

We’ve all been working with a lot of silence.

I was tired from touring, remembering the long drives across the midwestern plains at dusk, against the pale yellow sky seeing the black outline of the horizon with the occasional silhouette of a little farmstead, a corn crib or windmill, beyond, a breaking society, beyond, the aches of a world in pain.

A powerful tugging between apparently opposite things, hopelessness and resilience, isolation and togetherness, all at once.

A deep connection to our homeplace, to staying, a complex reckoning with family, with the past, with the rubble, with the wind taken out of everyone’s sails, with new life and constant death.

We returned to the feral tree farm.

Raising goats, chickens, listening to birds, watching the river, growing a child.

A deep clean spring.

So I started reaching out. Bringing in.

I wanted these people I admire to be close to me in the game, in the tangle of my emotions, in my unaddressed fears, I wanted them woven into my tapestries, which are songs, because I am only a bird on a branch echoing others, embellishing the present with past inventions.

Let the new world come around.

Together we shook these things out of the rug, our shared anxieties, our guilt, our joy, discomfort and heartbreak. We asked and were asking of each other.

Dying breath, wind-breath, singing breath shared beyond the language song, strings and brass, heartbeats and drums, wooden and stone breath, water and light, non-human breath, written breath, the little breaths of a newborn thing.

Now I sing some of these songs to my daughter. Soothing her discomforts. Especially “completely,” she likes to hear that one. How it goes from low to high.

How it goes from song into silence, and back again.

Do you know that line of Wendell Berry’s “make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came”? 

Pre-order The Spur at No Quarter or Bandcamp where they are offering a limited “Seaglass Wave” vinyl pressing (only 500 made).

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