There’s a kind of clarity and calm in Joan Shelley’s music that feels especially welcome in these fractious times. Her crystalline voice, with just a touch of vibrato, glides over soft fingerstyle guitar, with melodies and imagery that seem to spring from traditional folk yet are her own.
7:00 PM—The Oxford American is excited to welcome Joan Shelley to the South on Main stage! This is a special addition to our 2018-19 Concert Series, featuring opening act Nathan Salsburg. Doors open at 5:00 PM, with dinner and drinks available for purchase at that time.
Tickets go on sale Thursday, December 13 at noon, and they are available via Metrotix.com or by calling (800) 293-5949. Tickets are $20 (General Admission), $26 (Reserved), and $28 (Premium Reserved). Please take a look at this important ticketing and seating information before purchasing your tickets (view reserved seating chart).
The stunning, self-titled fourth album from the Kentucky singer, songwriter, and guitarist Joan Shelley began with a fiddle.
It’s fitting that the release is self-titled. These are, after all, Shelley’s most assured and complete thoughts to date, with lyrics as subtle and sensitive as her peerless voice and a band that offers support through restraint and nuance. In eleven songs, this is the sound of Joan Shelley emerging as one of music’s most expressive emotional syndicates.
Shelley’s music has never been experimental, at least in some bleeding- edge sense of the word. And she’s comfortable with that, proud of the fact that her simple songs are attempts to express complex emotion and address difficult question about life, love, lust, and existence itself. But in their own personal way, these songs are experimental and risky, built with methods that pushed Shelley out of the comfort zone she’s established on a string of records defined by a mesmerizing sort of grace and clarity.
“I don’t have a concept, and I don’t know the meaning until much later. Whatever I am soaking up or absorbing from the world, there will be songs that reflect all those thoughts,” Shelley says. “I keep my songwriting alive and sustainable by trying to be honest about how it came out—these are all its jagged edges, and that’s what it is to be human.”
Third is the dazzling third album by Nathan Salsburg, one of his generation’s most gifted and idiosyncratic acoustic guitarists. It’s been five years since his last solo record (Hard for to Win and Can’t Be Won)—but not because he hasn’t been playing guitar. In the intervening years he’s backed up Joan Shelley on three releases and several hundred live dates; put out a collection of guitar duets with multi-instrumentalist James Elkington; teamed up with fellow Louisvillian and neighbor Bonnie “Prince” Billy on an EP; and contributed playing to records by The Weather Station, Wooden Wand, Watter (what’s with the Ws?), Jake Fussell, and Red River Dialect. He’s also managed to keep his head above water at his day job as curator of the Alan Lomax Archive, and he has contributed several pieces over the years for Oxford American magazine.
The original pieces on Third, his first strictly solo guitar record—no singing, no guests—were composed in fragments of down-time, with little expectation that they would ever come to comprise a collection. The songs, as others have before them, distill a love of old-time dance music and rural ragtime. They all display a notable increase in confidence and ease, as Salsburg has quietly, persistently established a style marked by a depth and a complexity that are utterly his own.