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Icelandic Strings don’t overwhelm Joan Shelley’s honesty 

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When Kentucky roots troubadour Joan Shelley makes her debut visit to Colorado Springs Sept. 29 at Lulu’s Downstairs, it’s unlikely she’ll bring along the Reykjavik string ensemble featured in her latest album, Like the River Loves the Sea (No Quarter). But few fans will notice, as the strings and background vocals from Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) scarcely overwhelm — in fact, the album is as stripped down as 2015’s Over and Even. The subtle production allows Shelley’s unique voice and stark, poetic lyrics to remain front and center.

The dozen songs here are paeans to intimacy and the body, following a broader scope in her 2017 self-titled album produced by Jeff Tweedy. The stark desires voiced in songs like “Any Day Now” and “The Fading” are as arresting as a W.S. Merwin poem. As a result, the viola and cello enhancing the recording are mere icing on a simple but delicious cake.

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