Shannon LaBrie – Building
It’s obvious Nebraska’s Shannon LaBrie has an effective vocal tone & easily straddles the fence ‘twixt pop & commercial country sensibilities. But she doesn’t possess a traditional country voice.
Some critics rave particularly about her lyrics as “emotionally-charged.” But they fail to mention they’re loaded with clichés. Shannon is a good writer but could be a better one. She has a striking voice filled with vibrancy but she’s following a basic Nashville formula. A road traveled by many.
While millions stream & place songs in TV shows sounds impressive one must remember years ago even the Bay City Rollers, & Ricky Martin sold millions. Where are they today? Shannon needs an audience in her corral. Not just listeners & downloaders. That’s an entirely different bag of apples when many are the flavor of the month.
I’m particularly critical of artists I like — more than those I don’t.
Shannon’s not a dim bulb in the pantheon of country. She’s more authentic than many candy-coated formula singers on radio. It took Lucinda Williams over 20 years before “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” That’s a high-water mark. A totally different flora & fauna. For decades Lucinda believed in her dirt road approach rather than the paved easy street of Nashville where lots of career bodies lie on the side of the road.
Shannon has relevant songs (“Raining Hallelujah”) & (“Angels Fall”) to keep her driving. “The Things We Say” & “One in a Billion” — probably her best lyrics. Her 7-cut 2nd LP Building (drops Sept 25 – Moraine Records) still has a grain of cliché but we can live with it. Her songs are played proficiently, yet — Shannon, a good country singer may be an even better artist. That remains to be seen.
On Building, she taps unknowingly into a stream that flows with the late Judee Sills’ name on the rocks. Sills’ far more serious songs (“The Kiss,” & “Jesus Was a Crossmaker”) is where Shannon should dip her toe. But that takes intestinal fortitude. Shannon needs an edge. An aroma of curiosity should come off her songs to produce a “wow” factor. Building makes that incision but not deep enough. The elements are there but on sticky flypaper of repetitiveness & commerciality.
Produced by Grammy-Award winners Brent Maher & Charles Yingling in Nashville the LP has exceptional sound & focused performances. Nir Z (drums), Ryan Madora (bass), Shannon (guitar/piano/ vocals), Joe Robinson (guitar), Kevin Dailey (keys), & Fats Kaplan (pedal steel).
Shannon should listen to Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, & Ferron to see how they select words. My concern is longevity with compelling songs. If it sounds like someone else – buy a new pen. I have faith. I’m not suggesting she should be Judee Sill. I’m saying absorb the expressive formidable avenues of Sill. Be apart in a crowded field.
So, no gloss over from me. A dash more pepper…the Shannon LaBrie stew is simmering – it will be good.
The 26-minute CD is available at https://www.shannonlabrie.com/