Andy Shauf returns in full stride with a masterful album. Rhyme and melody — so often the killers of meaning — are balanced with a gift for story that shakes the bones. Shauf’s expert lyricism is on full display: these are songs of small town characters, adulterous and violent and motionless. And here lies another great balance: the dead-end character of “Hometown Hero” is always countered by the quiet dynamic of a band that instills urgency, but never robs Shauf of his storyteller’s pulpit.
Listen to “Wendell Walker,” a visceral, haunting, 8:23 odyssey. The strength of the images is such that you can close your eyes, turn up the song and let Shauf direct a film against the inside of your eyelids. The last line of the song gives an excellent commentary on the record: “I stood inside the room that I’d created.” Great storytellers create worlds and set their characters free in them to meet and fall in love and live and die — to face the consequences of their actions. Settle down for the evening with the lyrics in front of you and dig into the world of these songs.