Review: A Rees Revelation

Rees Shad/Six Strings and a Story/independent
Four Out of Five Stars

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Rees Shad can claim an exceptionally prolific career, one that extends across the expanse of a full 40 years as an artist, producer, engineer, and academic. His music is powerful and often provocative, but never bereft of heartfelt feelings and earnest intents. So while it’s hardly surprising that he would choose to revisit some of his signature songs of the past 30-plus years in an acoustic setting, it’s striking the way the material still resonates even without the full band arrangements that graced them early on.

There’s an easy explanation of course. These songs were inspired by actual circumstances, be it the quarrel with his wife and then the L.A. earthquake described in “Down in the Bedrock,” the dream in which Shad imagined he had lost his wife relayed through “Isn’t It the Journey?,” the description of wartime horrors sewn through “Hero’s Son,” or the tale of loss and loneliness that becomes “The Mrs. & Me.” Sometimes terse, always tender, the songs resonate with emphatic emotions convincingly conveyed in every verse and chorus. 

That’s not to say that the prevailing mood is sad or even sobering. Shad purveys empathy and understanding in equal proportion, drawing the listener in as if to allow them to bear witness to each of these striking scenarios. So too, one of the new songs in the set, “Mustard in the Gravy,” is cleverly conveyed, making it equally affecting in terms of both wit and whimsy.

Those who have seen Shad perform in person may already be familiar with some of these songs. Likewise, they’ll likely appreciate the emphatic effort that goes into all of his offerings. In that regard, these eleven songs serve as a superb sampling of the skill and savvy that have been a hallmark of Shad’s career from the very beginning. Those familiar with his work will likely find renewed joy in these stripped-down settings, while newcomers can regale in pure revelation.

Images courtesy Lance Cowan Media

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