Elizabeth Shepherd: A Jewel is Born
Placing the needle gingerly into the groove (pun intended), Rewind does not disappoint in unearthing a few gems that may not have had their fare share of time in the spotlight; in particular, "Lonely House" sees Shepherd's ethereal voice hanging in the air like the wisp of tinsel dangling from a fir tree late at night on Christmas Eve. The ethereal wanderings of "Lonely House" do not, however, tell the whole story: Rewind also features funk and soul sounds parsed with jazz harmonies that characterize the flavor of Shepherd's earlier releasesthough the exception, in this instance, is that her piano spends much of the time riding in the sidecar. "I was really drawing on more of a folk tradition in how to present the songs. In jazz, the lyrics often get bogged down in the harmony and the complexity, but when you're talking about a song with lyrics, the main thing is the narrative of the tune, and if that gets obscured then I feel like you've kind of missed the point."
The paradox of any contemporary record of cover tunes is that it must deftly attempt to blend the past with the present in a way that suffuses the two into something unique. Presented with this option even the most road-weary music veteran may balk; but in Shepherd's case the evolution of embracing the past was a natural one. "The impetus for this album was when I was in Japan touring Heavy Falls the Night (Pinwheel Music, 2010), and some A&R reps approached me to do a standards album. I dismissed the idea at the time, but then when I was four-months pregnant, I thought, 'Okay what are my limitations? Things are going to change; a new album of original material is just not going to happen under the circumstances.'" Confronted with the limitations of bringing a new person into the world, Shepherd was undaunted and pursued what felt like the only option, "Realizing that I would have nothing to keep me busy for the last five months of pregnancy and nothing to look forward to after the baby was born, I revisited the idea of covers, knowing it was something I could record and be connected to."
That said, Rewind is not a direct homage to Shepherd's daughter, and it's not an album designed to assuage tears, or throw on the turntable to induce heavy little eyelids. In fact, Shepherd indicates that this is a far cry from singing, "Love for Sale" to induce sleep (a beautiful tune, but perhaps not the first lullaby that comes to mind. "My daughter informed the process all along the way; I could feel her growing in me, we would be in the studio and she would have the hiccups while I was trying to sing, and we would just crack up laughing. So, she informed the process, she is in there." Shepherd says in her mellifluous voice, "Now I realize that though, in the beginning the album came from a place of apprehension, I ended up with something where I can sit down with her 15 years from nowif she wantsand say, you are in there, you are a great part of this."
Elizabeth Shepherd, Rewind (Pinwheel Music, 2012)
Elizabeth Shepherd, Heavy Falls the Night (Pinwheel Music, 2010)
Elizabeth Shepherd, Parkdale (Pinwheel Music, 2008)
Elizabeth Shepherd, Start To Move (Pinwheel Music, 2006)
All Photos: Courtesy of Elizabeth Shepherd