On June 8th, multi-talented singer/songwriter Andy Shauf releases his new album The Bearer Of Bad News, an eleven track masterpiece that took four years to write and another to record in a makeshift studio in his parents’ basement. On its own the record is an astounding accomplishment, crafted over time under makeshift circumstances much as a diamond is, but after taking into consideration that Andy also provides almost the entirety of the instrumental on the album, there’s a whole new dimension of wonder in the album.
Many albums come with a few words on the physical copy, mostly acknowledgements or mock-handwritten lyrics; few come with a letter that’s not necessarily even addressed to the reader. Signed from Kyle Morton – a name that later appears in the thanks – the letter introduces the album and puts it in good stead to be a moving forty five minute episode of emotion, though its reason or purpose never has a full explanation.
From the word go, Andy exhibits his storytelling ability, speaking of the eponymous figure in opening track Hometown Hero over the raw sound of his grandfather’s timeworn guitar. Though a simplistic set up, when Andy’s timeless vocals meet the character of a such an instrument, there’s a little more magic present than merely one man and his guitar.
A clunky piano welcomes Drink My Rivers, with a feel that the basic melody is an intentional factor to contrast the dexterous capabilities of Andy’s vocal work, whilst another piano lead number, I’m Not Falling Asleep, manages to wrap you up in his alluring voice with a lullaby quality that throughout the album lies side by side with spectacular clarinet solos.
With any artist of this genre, comparisons to Ben Howard and the like are obviously unavoidable, especially in terms of technicalities. However, come Covered In Dust, there’s more than the set up that makes the links apparent, with the vocal style almost imitative of Howard’s following into Wendell Walker and stretching throughout the album.
With a relatively simplistic basis for the music comes the ability to exercise a great deal on control and variation in the structure, with no song off the album showing it better than Jesus, She’s A Good Girl. Asking the imploring question of, “why do you always call me a liar / when I’m trying to tell the truth?”, with such an apathetic tone makes the line beg your attention, before the hooked middle eight of the title line rolls the song to a close with backing vocals blended sublimely. Nostalgic and longing, My Dear Helen closes the album with another piano ballad, five and a half minutes of reflection that evokes a sense of subdued melancholy.
If you have a forty five minutes gap in your day and need it filled with a sign that simplicity and beauty are as linked as they ever were, allow me to recommend Andy Shauf’s work – I assure you won’t be disappointed.