Shaina Hayes – To Coax a Waltz
Montreal’s Shaina Hayes’ 9-cut debut is compelling. What’s of interest is that Shaina (vocals, guitar) performs a bit differently than most. There’s an airiness, atmosphere, mood & ambiance that she creates in each tune. “Honey Friend,” may remind one of the more haunting songs of Jane Siberry (“The White Tent The Raft”) & Kate Bush. But there’s a subdued style at work that allows Ms. Hayes’ to carve out her own domain.
Especially with the “Hawaiian-guitar” strains of David Marchand’s pedal steel (guitar/bass/keyboard & voice) dipped in the noir music of “Half a Mind.” A little jarring at first but then it takes shape & works. Works to the point that it has an Appalachian flavor. Strange. Shaina’s vocal wavers & soars with ease which makes the song all the more interesting.
“Mud,” is haunting in its melodic groove. Acoustic & lead guitar paint vivid pictures. It isn’t deviant, isn’t dark like Dead Can Dance or The Swans. Shaina manages her music & keeps it tightly melodic, enjoyable & broad.
The music’s not very commercial but it’s always solid & enticing. Wonderful acoustic guitar picking on “Weather.” Shaina again sings with restrained power, good tone & style. Style. That’s the key – her delivery is somewhat unique but not in a manner so different as to be for selective tastes like Valerie June. Shaina could easily switch paths. Become an effective jazz singer. She has intonation, phrasing & timbre.
All songs are originals. Produced by Francis LeDoux (drums/voice) To Coax a Waltz (Drops April 29–CALQ) is a collection with lots of creativity that shapes the somewhat at times spare music. Less is more.
The inherent issue is the CD package. A lovely B&W front shot, a beautiful side shot of Ms. Hayes on the back. Except for the thin spine, nowhere on the CD is Shaina’s name. A most important feature one would think. Since few familiar with this work will recognize it. I understand Elvis Presley, the Beatles releasing LPs without their name, but they had worldwide facial recognition. An independent artist? Not wise. Ms. Hayes’ name could’ve been ghosted in the sky.
Many songs are accessible but I’m not a big fan of 1-word titles. They don’t tell me anything. It doesn’t show ingenuity. Especially when the works deserve attention.
The most intense song with the most upbeat approach is “King” which is delightfully charged. It almost suggests a Frank Zappa continuity with all the attractive sounds that run through this exuberant piece. Impressive. Ms. Hayes’ has versatile goods.
Musicians: Thanya Iyer (voice, violin, synth), Alexander Kasirer-Smibert (bass/voice), Jesse MacCormack (guitar/bass/piano/voice), Maude Lussier (French horn), Guillaume Bourque (clarinet/bass clarinet), Nathan Hayes (guitar), Scott Bevins (trumpet), Sarah Rossy, Shelby Cohen & Noemie Sylvestre (individual voices) with horn arrangements by Gabriel Desjardins.
Photos courtesy of Shaina’s Bandcamp site. The 38-minute CD available @ https://shainahayes.bandcamp.com/album/to-coax-a-waltz