I read a review recently which claimed Carrie Shepard's voice was smoky so I listened to it with that in mind. I found it more textured than smoky but I'm a picky sonofabitch. Just ask Axl Rose and Steven Tyler who have been banned from my system for... uh, life. Yep. I kicked them to the curb, Axl right off the bat and Steven right after my head exploded from hearing “Dream On” for the ten millionth time. I was worried that “smoky” might turn into something like that if it was maybe too much so but, luckily, it did not. Because it isn't. Not to me, anyway. That reviewer shouldn't worry, though. I agreed with him/her about everything else. Good? You bet. Noteworthy? For sure.
Shepard's voice reminds me, in fact, of two of my favorite country-leaning female vocalists--- Amanda Anne Platt (The Honeycutters) and Zoe Muth, of The Lost High Rollers fame. Just hints, mind you, but hints of what they do speak volumes. When they sing it is fresh air against my skin and a breeze across my psyche. Ditto, Shepard.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Shepard also has songwriting talent way above the norm. It didn't come through right away but by the end of the album I got it. Eleven solid songs, all penned by Shepard except for three--- “Coal,” "Desert," and "Meet Me There", co-written with music partner (the other Charmer) Lawrence Daversa, and not a clunker in the bunch.
You know, writing reviews can sometimes be a chore, the occasional five-song EP hard to get through, but The Valley left me wanting more. In fact, the ender (“Warnings”) has me stopped in my tracks. It is reminiscent of a song I have heard many times and holds a very special place in my heart but I'll be damned if I can remember who did it. What I do remember is that it had a major impact on me when I heard it and that I played the hell out of it for a long time. No worries. It will come to me and “Warnings” will suffice for now, but, damn, I wish I could remember. If only to compare what I consider excellent tunes.
Carrie contacted me months ago about this album. I was just starting a long period of writers (and listeners) block. I tried, but most words I wrote just did not sound right, so I told to keep on me. She battered me to death. It's okay. In fact, she should have. I knew I wanted to write about the album but when your brain is in neutral, the bus won't go. I received the last email yesterday.
In a way, I am disappointed. I know the beatings will stop but, truth be told, I need them. I need them to force myself to listen and listen well. I need them to remind me why I write articles and reviews. I need them to put me in my place. I need them to rearrange my priorities. Shepard helped me to do that. And The Valley helped, too. Now, if only I could see The Charmers live. I have a feeling they put on an exceptional show.
For your listening pleasure...