maandag 18 juli 2016

Bliss. Shane Alexander

It's a while back that I was introduced to Shane Alexander. "Here's a cd you might like", Hans, of Q-Bus Leiden said to me. Was it 2005 or 2006? "By the way, he will be playing here soon". So I went home with "The Middle Way" and mused about the drifter musician on the cover who's music did not really correspond with the smooth singer-songwriter songs on the album. I heard the beauty in several songs, but not all, I'll admit. Whether I saw Shane Alexander that tour, I do not know for sure, but I did see him play several times since then, like I followed his career over the years. We even became acquainted. With 'Mono Solo' (2010) a page was turned in my view, followed with a monumental 'Ladera' (2013). Shane Alexander had come into his strength and touched upon a level of songwriting he hinted at on his first three albums and reached incidentally. In other words: expectations are so high with his new album. The question at hand is: does Bliss fullfill?

There's no need for suspense. Oh yes, it does. "Right from the start", Alexander sings in 'Heart of California', that bliss laden song with a great totally unsuspecting chorus. That line from the fifth song on Bliss answers my question aptly. In the very first moments of Bliss I somehow knew that this album was going to be so nice. Even those moments of hesitation or even disappointment that a new album by a favourite artist often seems to bring at the first listening sessions, were absent. And I mean totally. I really only have one complaint. After that beautiful cover of 'Ladera' this cover is a bit disappointing. Though clearly well-chosen for this title.

Bliss starts with 'Evergreen'. Shane Alexander tips his hat to the guitar playing of Paul Simon in the second half of the 60s and Paul McCartney is his acoustic endeavours. The fingerpicking is great, the accents so nice and the song as a whole so beautiful. There's nothing "green" about the quality of the songwriting. Staying "Evergreen" may help to find that level of inspiration though. An inner playfulness combined with experience and proficiency. The years of training have found the best of all worlds.

The surprise into 'Something Real Never Dies' is quite big. A full band starts the intro. Firm drums, bass and strumming, a pedal steel and a playful keyboard accompany the singing. The song is graced with a beautiful bridge section, that flows back into the piano sequence so naturally. 'In The High' keeps the band approach, but is so much more subtle in the flow of the melody.

All through the album the pure singer-songwriter element comes back, as does the band. In 'I Will Die alone" the singer-songwriter element of Lee Hazlewood is mixed with ever so light The Moody Blues orchestral brush strokes, colouring the song in ever so subtly. The best hybrid song is 'Heart Of California'. The switch is so unexpected, yet so fantastic. Almost as if two songs were glued together in such a perfect way that the seems are undetectable.

I could go on all through the album and mention each and every song, but there is no need. You know all you need to know. This   is   it.

As I wrote, I think 'Mono Solo' was a breakthrough in Shane Alexander's songwriter. With 'Ladera' he went through a barrier. Although I had some trouble connecting emotionally to the album, the quality was undeniably there. With Bliss everything that needs to be present on a singer-songwriter's album to make it successful is there and then some more. Bliss is one of the most beautiful albums I've heard this year and ought to be Shane Alexander's breakthrough. This comes with consequences. I will never see him play up close again, most likely never meet him again. If so, it would be well deserved. A beautiful album like Bliss ought to be heard by the world and not by a 30 strong something in Q-Bus, Leiden. Aim high, Shane!


You can listen to 'Bliss' here:

or buy Bliss one Shane's website

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