July 29, 2011

Shenandoah Davis – The Company We Keep

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Shenandoah Davis is intimidatingly talented.

Classicaly trained with a background in opera, but gifted in a way that evokes more nature than nurture, Shenandoah’s skill is the kind that intimidates not just music writers, but fellow musicians. I will never forget seeing Shenandoah perform at the first BARE event at the Fremont Abbey. Shenandoah opened the show, standing there with perfect poise, hands clasped in front of her as if she were about to sing an aria at The Met. She performed a traditional Greek song; the room fell silent and enraptured, jaws dropped. Around me, musicians scheduled to perform a cappella that evening and already nervous, began wiping sweat off their brows. As the aria ended and Shenandoah’s bow was met with thunderous applause, a musician sitting in front of me summed it up, “Well, the rest of us are fucked.”

Luckily for the other artists performing at The Fremont Abbey tonight, they won’t have the unenviable task of following Shenandoah. Tonight is her show, the celebration of her lovely full-length, the Kick-Starter funded The Company We Keep. When listening to the record one word rises above all else: accomplished. Shenandoah isn’t just a gifted vocalist, but pianist, song-writer and composer. The Company We Keep is achingly lovely in every way: the words, the instrumentation, the emotion held in her falsetto trill enough to make you reach for a handkerchief. The complexity of instrumentation and Shenandoah’s voice, makes the words themselves seem like a supporting role to a listener, but if you peel through the layers of strings, wind instruments and operatic vocals, there is poetry.

But The Company We Keep isn’t just an intellectual exercise, and one of Shenandoah’s truest talents is her restraint. She could compose songs like bebop jazz solos, an exercise solely in skill, to see who can play the most complicated notes the fastest, but she doesn’t. As accomplished as The Company We Keep is, it is also accessible. These are still songs that will get stuck in your head, that you’ll find your toe tapping along to. These are still songs you’ll want to sing along to, but unless you also happen to be a brilliant opera singer, you should probably just listen. These aren’t participatory songs, as so much of what’s happening in local music is. These are more sit back in your chair and prepare to be wowed, as you would a symphony.

She’s one of a kind, Shenandoah. The Company We Keep puts both what elevates Shenandoah above us all, a rare talent, and what makes her just like us, the characters that inhabit all our lives and how our hearts open and break because of them, on display. And it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Shenandoah Davis celebrates the release of The Company We Keep tonight at The Fremont Abbey with Paleo and Led to the Sea opening. Tickets are $12 at the door, but get there early to get them. The show starts at 8pm sharp and the doors are at 7pm.

And if you live outside Seattle, you’re in luck. Shenandoah is about to embark on an extensive national tour this August.

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