Wednesday, January 05, 2011

man who shows nothing

Like Birds, Too Tired To Fly
- Shawn Clarke

There's a deceptive simplicity to the arrangements on Shawn Clarke's debut full length release. With his clear agreeable voice and a sweetly folky style of finger-picking, the subversiveness of many of Shawn Clarke's lyrics may not be immediately evident. With the exception of the gleefully repeated chorus of "fuck you, I hate you, fuck you, no I don't" on Hurt Before, the caustic emotions behind many of the lyrics are rather more subtle.

The tracks comprising Like Birds, Too Tired To Fly are a pleasing mix of toe-tapping banjo (Working Man), sweetly crying guitars (Empty House), upbeat finger-picking (Hurt Before), and quiet introspection (I'll Miss You When You're Gone). The lovely To Think I Once Was Lost is a particularly noteworthy track, a love song to Toronto, made sweetly poignant with gorgeous harmonies and weeping instrumentation.

Shawn Clarke has called in some big guns to back him on Like Birds, Too Tired To Fly. With the backing of Olenka Krakus (Olenka and the Autumn Lovers), The Wilderness of Manitoba, Nick Zubeck, Mark Hart (Carly and Mark), and Rebecca Rowen (Kensington Prairies), this album is elevated from a simple acoustic effort into a fully rounded offering.

There's an autobiographical feel to many of the tracks on this album. Although the decidedly anecdotal nature of Sick Song conjures up flashbacks of that Family Guy episode in which Randy Newman makes up songs about what he sees, it's still a fun ditty, with a charming la-de-dah chorus that's difficult to resist.

Requiem for 33 Yale, an instrumental piece, is cleverly placed as the lead-in song to the final track, Untitled, which serves as a tutorial about songwriting and the elusiveness of lyrics. The latter part of this song ultimately showcases the power of the backing talent lending their voices to this album. When that final chorus begins and builds into a pinnacle of of la-la-las, words seem completely unnecessary.


BeckEye said...

That Randy Newman bit is the funniest thing I've ever seen on Family Guy.

Sean Wraight said...

Real nice review Barbara! Hope you get a chance to see Shawn perform live sometime too. He's a terrific singer songwriter and a very nice fellow to boot. Congratulations on your scoop on No Depression with this one as well. Mighty impressive that is!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I love that episode, Beckeye, but Randy Newman sure could have benefitted from a power chord or two.

Thanks, Sean! The golden circle surrounding Sean Wraight keeps expanding, doesn't it? And the list of musicians I must see keeps doing the same.
No Depression and I seem to have settled into a comfortable understanding.