Shannon Lay: Covers Vol. 1 [Album Review]

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Shannon Lay
Covers Vol. 1
Sub Pop Records [2023]

Shannon Lay, formerly with the band Feels and part of Ty Segall’s backing band, has released a handful of indie releases as well as Sub Pop. On the abtly titled Covers Vol. 1 she serves up 9 songs written by her influences, past and current. Largely played on acoustic guitar with delicate finger-picking the norm and minimal instrumental support from the occasional piano or keyboard, they are sung with the vocal intimacy of a live performance as Lay interprets these songs, or as she says “shannonizing them.”

Reviews of her 2017 release Living Water compared Lay’s songwriting and style to those of English singer-songwriters Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan, so their appearance here along with a song by Ty Segall makes perfect sense, as well as the influential Elliott Smith’s tribute to her own hometown, “Angeles.” Lay’s work here is substantive as she takes on these songs, breathing her own personality into them, and notably with Drake’s “From the Morning,” she displays the song’s intricately played finger-picked melody by extending it with a couple minutes of instrumental playing, delicate and beautifully musical.

Like her pick of Bunyan, Lay reveals her discriminating taste by drawing attention to more obscure artists like Jackson C. Frank, once associated with Paul Simon, and avant garde New York musician Arthur Russell, with lovely renditions of “Blues Run the Game” and “Close My Eyes,” respectively. Even when turning to the oft-praised influence of Velvet Underground she avoids the obvious, recognizable hits to pull out a golden nugget like “I’m Set Free,” the one song where she includes a special effect on her voice to give her harmonizing a delightful, haunted impact where Lou Reed included a guitar solo.

Much like Too Late for Edelweiss by The Tallest Man on Earth last year, an album of folk covers not only gives Lay an opportunity to celebrate her musical influences, but it is a way to artfully put her own talent on display as she brings a unique interpretation to a smartly curated collection of musical tributes.

“Angeles” / “Blues Run The Game” / “From The Morning”

Nick Drake / Elliott Smith / Ty Segall

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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