Sign up for newsletter
 

Live, Shelley proves she's the real deal

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., June 4, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

After the concert, Joan Shelley was greeted by a fan at the near sold-out club who had never seen her before. The first timer told the Louisville, Ky.-based folk-oriented singer that she wanted to see for herself if Shelley's vocals were the real deal live.

The fan walked away mighty impressed -based on her comments - and it was easy to see why.

Shelley has a pretty, evocative (the somewhat more uptempo "Jenny Come In," "I Got What I Wanted" with a haunting delivery and an a capella solo take on The Lonesome Sisters' "Darlin' Don't You Know That's Wrong" to close out the set) voice that carried through in song-after-song during the 80-minute show. There's a lot of color and beauty to Shelley's vocal delivery, made even more evident by the sparseness of much of the material.

In this day and age of musical genre mash-ups, Shelley hews pretty darn close to being a straight-ahead folkie, a rarity these days. While it was her own song, Shelley referenced British mainstay June Tabor as an influence before launching into "If the Storm Never Comes" on her most recent album. The link was appropriate as the song had a British folk feel.

Shelley was aided by sidekick Nathan Salsburg, mainly on acoustic guitar with an occasional electric accompaniment. Salsburg often colored the songs with some of his own sharp playing and backing vocals. Together, they stretched out a few songs with extended musical outros putting an emphasis on their musical interplay. Salsburg also was not a wallflower since he was certainly unafraid to air a few of his own - almost always humorous - stage banter. And Shelley gave him the chance to take lead vocals on one song.

But this was, of course, Shelley's night, and she made the most of it. With her own true-to-life voice.