Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

April 19, 2011

Shayfer James ~ The Owl And The Elephant

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: folk rock, experimental
Label: Strike Line Media
Year: 2010
Home: New Jersey

Members: Shayfer James ~ vocals/piano
Dusty Bones ~ drums
Anna Gale ~ cello
Chris Hower ~ bass

Additional: Peter Horn ~ violin
Alex Raunjak ~ bass
Ian Scratch, Dony Wynn ~ drums
Sarah Zar ~ saw

Following a string section plucking out the sound of rain & a drum roll comes "I think I've found a passage out of here/maybe we could make our great escape/you didn't think we'd make it, did you dear/somewhere in this dark you lost your faith" opening the album via "Life Is Beautiful" sung over a pounding piano with a only a couple chords per bar, a trademarkable playing technique by James that recalls days of Seeger & Guthrie-esque travelling balladeers. From there the story unfolds in this noirpop, as James labels himself, landscape. 'Story' is the key word considering the linear notes read "all stories written & arranged". It's a story much in the same way that one uses the word when talking about Tom Waits, whose sound is very different though his early albums are a close cousin, but both Waits & James have created albums of mini-worlds, hopes & dreams over unique memorable rhythm arrangements using a sparcity of instruments that sound like their out of another time. British writer G.K. Chesterton once wrote that a miracle is the fact that the sun always rises & sets in the same way because to all logic it should eventually break the routine. In Shayfer's landscape, in Chestertonian spirit, the world itself is a miracle where the unexpected is the only thing to be expected & the intertwined spirit of hope & pain is as normal as salt & pepper. This is not one of those albums that you can listen to in the background or pull out a single or two ... there are no standout tracks just ten great tracks ... because, like Tom Waits, you've really got to just let this spin around & around on your player & really give it some attention. Don't worry about getting tired of it. It's one of those rare albums that you can listen to over & over & won't ever tire of ... I know, I've done it in trying to find the right words for this review.

(featured on the Roman Midnight Music CD Reviews & Interviews podcast: episode 32 "Interview: Shayfer James," September 2011, click here to listen)

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