Release Date: Jun 15, 2018
Record label: Nonesuch
The sophomore long-player from the English folk singer and multi-instrumentalist, Shelter arrives just one year after the electrifying Queen of Hearts, Olivia Chaney's 2017 collaboration with the Decemberists under the Offa Rex moniker. The latter outing, an homage to late-'60s and early-'70s British-folk-rock, bristled with intent, skillfully evoking the eclecticism of bands like Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and Steeleye Span -- Chaney's performance alone was worth the price of admission. Like her 2015 debut, Longest River, Shelter is a more uncomplicated affair, with less attention paid to traditional folk songs (there are two, and both are delightful, as is a compelling rework of the Tex Ritter-penned "Long Time Gone") and a tighter focus on slow-burn originals that owe more to Blue-era Joni Mitchell and early Kate Bush than they do Maddy Prior and Jacqui McShee -- Sandy Denny remains both a sonic and lyrical linchpin.
The challenge of making folk modern is one Chaney tackles head-on, both lyrically and musically. Highlight "Colin and Clem," about lovers from opposing backgrounds, specifically focuses on tradition in a secular world. The conclusion that Chaney comes to is that the two sides can coexist, religion giving structure and meaning to a rapidly shifting world: "Never been a puritan / Never liked their wine much / But I like the way her mother gives / Each guest a simple task/ For the future, for the past." For an album Chaney describes as "Simplicity versus sophistication...