Shelley Short 

A Cave, A Canoo

Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter Shelley Short resists easy categorization. She's got a light, sultry, and subtly expressive warble with an ever-so-slight drawl that evokes jazz singers Billie Holiday and Mildred Bailey (along with contemporary folk-rocker Victoria Williams). Stylistically, Short's songs are spare and minimalist in the manner of neo-folk chanteuses Faun Fables and Marissa Nadler, but she's a few shades lighter in tone and lets a few mournful strains of country music waft into the mix.

Her songs have a gentle, languid pace, and her palette includes electric guitar, synthesizer, flute, and trumpet, but chiefly for embellishment, and the acoustic bass of jazz ace Glen Moore (coincidentally a member of the band Oregon) provides a primal foundation on a few tracks. Short's lonesome but compassionate voice conveys the melodies, her lyrics flow with the elemental starkness of ancient nursery rhymes and Anglo-American folk tales and, occasionally, the Gothic poetry/prose of Edward Gorey. "Familiar" has the throbbing cadence of a heartbeat and the resolute drive of Delta blues (And since I met you I'm afraid of dying), while Moore's bowed bass wails and wheezes like a male voice.

A Cave could use a bit more diversity of tempo and mood — it has such a downcast overall ambience that after a thorough listening I felt like playing some Leonard Cohen or Mark Eitzel for a quick pick-me-up. But it's a fascinating set, especially if you're up for a synthesis of Victoria Williams and Lisa Germano. (Hush)


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