Shannon Wright Let in the Light [Quarterstick Records]

Rating: 8.0

When one thinks about light or music that is brimming with it, Shannon Wright hardly comes to mind. A few adjectives that spring up when pondering her back catalog are: cathartic, desperate and intense. These words are even intensified that much more if you have seen her live. To paraphrase a press release statement of hers, with her new release she wanted to write some songs that were direct and simple. Bob Dylan’s devastating masterpiece “Sara,” a kind of forlorn afterthought written before he was actually separated from his wife, was the ultimate type of composition that she was aiming for when writing this material. Once again, Shannon Wright releases a fair amount of her emotional burden with Let in the Light, but this time around the piano is her main instrument, and that actually makes for a wonderful record.

St. Pete [mp3]
Everybody’s got their own Part to Play [mp3]

As the title suggests, it appears that she has tried to embrace a lighter approach with this album, albeit this record is still nowhere near joyous. Opening with “Defy this Love,” which is lead by a cabaret style piano and her unique breathy, but strong voice, the listener is treated to her impressive musicianship. She juxtaposes some sharp piano playing with sparse and spacey Can-like guitars. The next track, “St. Pete” is both poppy and dirge-like. Poppy is not a work that one would normally associate with Shannon Wright, but here she does it and it does not sound at all contrived. In the track, she goes back and forth between playing some impressive finger-picked guitar lines and the strummed chords of the verse.

Let in the Light has some beautiful piano focused songs. “You Baffle Me” is an example. Backed by some great drumming and what sounds like a string quartet, this song is one of the most memorable in the collection. Shannon Wright has such an original style of playing the piano. “Idle Hands” and “They’ll Kill the Actor in the End” are tracks that typify her stark and lonely playing. “Everybody’s got their own Part to Play” is another song that inches her into the pop realm, but once again, she is rather effective at doing it. This is a welcome change in style for her because it is not strained. Her previous two records, Dyed in the Wool and Over the Sun, were both more guitar heavy and they were great, but one had to be in a certain mood to listen to them with any regularity. With those two records, it sounded as though Shannon was going through some dark times, and it is reassuring to see that she has emerged with a little bit of hope emanating from just underneath the surface.

-Andrew Boe

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