Best-of ’10:: Les Shelleys self-titled

It’s not very often I cover stuff that originates outside the friendly confines of the Canadian borders these days, but when it comes to Tom Brosseau (and anything he’s affiliated with), I make an exception. In this case, it’s the collection of stripped down duets he recorded with Angela Correa. The recipe might sound familiar to herohill readers, as Tom and Angela’s output mirrors what Daniel, Fred & Julie created simply by sitting down in a garage with a traditional song book, some microphones and some recording equipment.

 

Tucked comfortably into a kitchen, the duo - Les Shelleys - recorded stripped down versions of classics from the likes of Dylan, The Andrews Sisters, and John Prine, using only a mini-disc player and a single mic to document the event. Obviously, it’s an invitation for Tom and Angela to pay tribute to artists that helped shape their own musical visions, but really the reward is more for those that take the time to listen. Handled poorly, this type of effort often leaves a bad taste in a your mouth but Brosseau and Correa treat each song with the respect and humility it deserves. By removing any excess, their stunning vocals move in and around the few simple picked notes, passing traffic and occasional barking dog to transform the songs from standard covers, to a series of wonderful moments of music when you play with friends in smile and wine glass filled room, unconcerned with what anyone else thinks.

 

Brosseau or Correa never make the mistake of trying to reinvent the songs by adding layer after layer over top of the recognizable melodies. Instead they opt to deconstruct the arrangements and leave only the lyrics and powerful emotions to shine brightly. The simple means from which the songs are born keep the duo and the results honest. You can’t help but picture both singing, eyes closed with heads nodding along, and even though you are sitting in your own home in a different time, you are afraid to even exhale fearing the broken silence will spoil the purity of the affair.

 

Trying to point out the highlights is nearly impossible as their isn’t a note out of place or wasted, but Correa’s vocals on “Deep Purple” stop you in your tracks, which is shocking considering she only has minimal vocal support from Brosseau and the faintest of guitar strums and picks. Even at their most accessible - the their take on the calaypso anthem from The Andrew Sisters, “Rum and Coca Cola” - they strip the horns and clack percussion, but magically still transport the listener to the beach in their own unique way. For me, the duo is most successful when they transform “Green Door.” I’ve heard whimsical Lowe version hundreds of time, but the way the duo retreats to simple snaps and body percussion turns the song from smiles to a more melancholic alienation that humbly surpasses the original.

 

But quite honestly, even though this record is indebted to the past, what makes Les Shelleys so enjoyable is not that it’s a collection of “timeless” tracks, it’s that Brosseau and Correa have captured a snapshot in time from their own lives. The barking dogs and the close proximity captured on the mini-disc back in 2003 help this record grow into something larger than life. It moves past the ghosts that are captured in the originals and gives the words and emotions new life.

 

Les Shelleys are opening up for Mice Parade on Sept 29th @ El Mocambo. If you are in TO and love music, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go out and see this show. You won’t be disappointed.

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MP3:: Les Shelleys - The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
WEB:: http://www.lesshelleys.com/

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 27th, 2010 at 9:33 am and is filed under 2010, Best-of '10, Music, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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