As with their self-titled debut project, SHEL’s vocals and instrumental work are impeccable, but with less bluegrass influence, more introspection, and more aural exploration Just Crazy Enough reaches deeper…
Just Crazy Enough
Mad King Records
10 tracks / 31:17
The long awaited sophomore recording by the four sisters collectively known as SHEL reveals new sonic layers, a fresh approach to their familiar sound, and a re-introduction that sounds like the true launching pad of a career hinted at in their self-titled debut. Even the gatefold packaging, in mostly vintage black and white, holds the unique fingerprint of this group of young women who aren’t content to simply identify themselves musically, but present an artistic sensibility from their hand-crafted clothing to their seeming fascination with the value of found objects.
Speaking of found objects… the songs on Just Crazy Enough tend to describe life on the ‘lost’ side of things – souls that find themselves longing for a world that may or may not be just within reach. Partially thanks to the involvement of Dave Stewart (yes, that Dave Stewart – the co-founder of The Eurythmics and producer for no less than Ringo Starr, among others), there’s a lot of space in the music this time. Instead of feeling like a quartet of musicians in a studio Just Crazy Enough sounds more like four talented souls intersecting in a musical ether and drawn together to form songs. Liza’s drums sound big and in-the-pocket, but spacious and deliberate. Sarah’s violin soars into the forefront with bursts of dazzling sound and slips away again. Hannah’s keyboard textures and melodic phrases run like water under, over, and through the songs. Eva’s ethereal vocals, barely breathed and with some words only half-there, bring a vulnerability and sense of wonder that makes the sure-stance of her mandolin, guitar, or whatever other instrument she’s playing sound that much more anchoring. SHEL has taken a giant-step for this album.
A relatively short 31 minutes, Just Crazy Enough is time well-spent, without any filler material. Opening with the poignant “Is The Doctor In Today,” the album establishes a sense of longing for a lost innocence (“tell me the child is still alive – the one who used to look out through my eyes”) expressed through a minimalist accompaniment that builds in intensity as the other sisters add vocal harmony and building instrumentation to Eva’s plaintive tones. The title track is a hook-filled invitation to their world, where ‘sanity is just a cage,’ and tasty violin phrases lick in and out of the cool-but-funky mix. In many ways the first two tracks represent the ying and the yang of what the album is all about: frailty and survival.
Just Crazy Enough is a trip into our emotional selves – there’s no ’shake your body down to the ground’ here. “Rooftop” returns to the ‘we’re all really a bit crazy’ theme, the wistful “Lost As Anyone” is an admission of vulnerability, “Alternate Universe” cries out for a world where “lovers never lie, fools are free, and dreamers fly,” but it’s a universe within the mind. SHEL’s cover of Metallica’s ominous “Enter Sandman” adds a bit of paranoia to the proceedings, but songs like the more assertive “Let Me Do” and the album’s closing statement, the positive, affirming “Stronger Than My Fears” balance the project nicely and leave the listener feeling that there are, in fact, all kinds of possibilities for the creative soul.
As with the debut project, the vocals and instrumental work are impeccable, but with less bluegrass influence and more aural exploration. Just Crazy Enough is full of lyrical introspection, evocative lead vocals backed by clever harmonies, and a lot of great playing.
As artists, Sarah, Hannah, Eva, and Liza (is it still necessary to point out that the band’s name is an anagram?) are revealing who they are inside – it’s what artists do. Just Crazy Enough must be a cathartic step for them.
The next step should be very interesting.