Artist: Andy Shauf
Album: The Bearer of Bad News
Label: Tender Loving Empire
Release Date: 02/03/2015
“My Dear Friend,” reads a note inside the cover of Andy Shauf’s The Bearer of Bad News, “These songs belong to the winter…Some of them are warm and radiant, like small fires built when the wood is scarce. Others cold and desolate, like houses abandoned to a polar night.”
The description on an album doesn’t always say much about what’s actually inside, but in Shauf’s case, the summary falls pretty near the mark. The Bearer of Bad News is an assemblage of lyrical stories about tragedy, loneliness and small events that offer a glimpse of a grander whole. The standout track of the album is the haunting “Wendell Walker,” one of three murder ballads that populate the release. The others, “Jerry Was A Clerk” and “My Dear Helen,” ingeniously tell the tale of the same death from both perspectives of the crime. It’s this clear attention to detail that unifies the songs in Bearer, creating an overall effect of a reflective, thought-provoking collection.
Shauf’s quiet tenor, reminiscent of Elliot Smith, lends itself well to the sense of weariness and isolation that permeates even the more upbeat tracks. A few notes of piano and clarinet (also played by Shauf) round out the background, but it’s as a songwriter that the Canadian artist shines most brilliantly.
– Leah Dearborn