TIME-TESTED | Shea Seger
I AM SHEA SEGER: Shea Seger’s new self-titled record has been a long time comin’. It’s been 10-years since her debut, “The May Street Project”. Over the years, she and RCA Records parted ways; she moved to London, got married, gave birth to a daughter, and struggled for years after flying back to Austin, Texas to try to take care of a seriously ailing father. But it’s the time between releases that has fueled Seger’s current record. Her story inhabits the ups-and-downs we all have over the course of a lifetime. She’s poured her experiences into a tight, moody and beautiful 11-track album. The record opens with two tracks about finding comfort in a world of broken dreams; trying to begin life anew, and finding grace in the face of hardship. The honky-tonkin’ piano cut, “Piper’s Dream”, is an emboldened plea of desperation, finding musical heights in persistent drumming, hard-rocking guitar and lyrics written with a Dylanesque flair: “Wrap me up and make it true / Make me feel like I’m brand new / If you leave me here / I promise you, I’ll bleed / You can wrap me up and show your friends / C’mon show ‘em how a queen descends … / You can strap my mouth / Refine my oil / C’mon plant my feet on dead man’s soil / Just don’t leave me here to bleed.”
“Wishing Trees” is the dreamy Americana sister-song to “Piper’s Dream”, even using the song title itself in one verse: “Dream a day with me / Out of this factory / Somewhere wild and free / Full of wishing trees / I have learned to love to keep / Understood the piping dream.” Seger says that as much as she loves her new record, she hopes to never have to make one like it again. Before this album, she had never really understood the concept of a self-titled release. But there’s so much of herself in the album, that it all now makes sense. These songs are written by someone with a real fire in the belly. They’re about hard nights, long years, doe-eyed dreamers, gutty passion and a driving persistence that one can’t help but equate with Seger’s musical career. “Last Few Standing” is an incendiary monster-of-a-track, angry in its soaring electric guitar, thumping foot-stomps, and Seger’s raspy and scolding vocals:
“You sold out your mercy / You won the chance to begin.
Now you’d be lucky in a fight, to get your ass kicked by a couple of friends …
You got some pieces / You like to call them a heart
When they’re just the last few standing, / After most of it was blown apart.
I guess it’s what we’ll end up paying / For a stolen kiss.”
Seger fully inhabits every track, slipping into each one like she’s donning a new skin. You can feel it in her razor-rough vocals on “Wake Up” — a song that seems part rainy-morning reverie and part self-aimed command. Drums, ripping guitar and ragtime piano put an emphatic stamp on her verses. But it’s Seger’s voice that highlights this juke-joint jumper, as her tone shifts from low growl to roaring lion. “Drummer Boy” is a dusty Appalachia-based marvel, reveling in old-world violin. It’s a song about tempting fate, the struggle of innocents and hard-lessons learned: “I guess you don’t know / Didn’t your daddy ever tell you boy / This life is not a game / Or did he feel he’d done enough, / Just by giving you his name.”
There’s a reliance on easy end-rhymes on a couple tracks, but it’s a soothing trait too, like landing one’s head on a familiar pillow. Lyricism is one of this record’s many strengths. “Dew Drops” could have turned into syrupy cliche — but for its honesty, universality, pretty melodies and the soft choral alliteration of lines like, “dew drops do.” There’s something quite heartbreaking in the light adornment of guitar and violin, combined with such elegant phrasing: “No one has fun, / When they lose all they won … / So when the outside caves in / When you’ve leathered your skin / Your age will wake you up / Put some mercy in your cup.” “Songs to Forget” might be the album pinnacle. The smokey sound of Seger’s voice mixes with the gentle sway of piano and violin, giving the track a crumbling fragility. It’s a tale of a disintegrating relationship, and dreaming of better times and simpler moments, like driving along the seaside and sleeping under stars.
This record isn’t about the present tense, it’s about soaking in the past and trying to make sense of things. It’s about losing oneself, only to come back around and realize you’ve been there standing strong the whole time. Seger’s new record was something she had to make, while she had that fire on her tongue. Note: You can buy Seger’s new record at I-Tunes. — David D. Robbins Jr.
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