On her fifth album, Tracy Shedd goes acoustic, but these stark arrangements only serve to heighten the intensity of her songwriting.
Shedd may have left Tucson, but if Arizona is any indication, the seven years she and guitarist/husband James Tritten spent here made lasting impacts. The stripped-down intimacy of Arizona is a departure only in style, one that beautifully frames her direct and poignant tone lyrically, while making for a fascinating backdrop for her reinterpretations of songs by Sonic Youth and The Magnetic Fields.
The most personal songs—"Sing to Me," "Control" "You're No Fool"—are a bit veiled lyrically, but whatever narrative gaps exist are still packed with emotion.
Shedd writes with imagery of a coming storm on "Boats," a song that spins sorrow and gratefulness together in a meditation on love and mortality: "Tell your loved ones how you feel while you still can."
The quiet album serves up a pair of jaunty highlights in the middle—an ode to friendship on "Ninety-Five to Ten" and the jazzy "Broken Arrows" (with backing vocals from Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds).
The album's closer is an out-of-left-field cover of Sonic Youth's "Teenage Riot," the riot being replaced by a friendly embrace, with Howe Gelb's rough and dusty vocals counterbalancing Shedd's sweet tones.
Across the 13 songs, Shedd's voice is closer and clearer than ever, drawing an intimate connection with the listener. Arizona is a candle flame of an album, mesmerizing, calming, each subtle variation casting shadows in the desert night.