Album review: Little Shrine new album a folksy journey to a better place

Artist: Little Shrine

Album: “Wilderness”

There’s only one Little Shrine live performance scheduled this year and it’s past. The show was an October release party for this new album at an arts venue in San Francisco called The Lost Church. 

That was wholly appropriate because although it’s not a religious space in the conventional sense there’s spirituality in Little Shrine’s music. 

The trio takes its name from the common practice in several cultures of making small memorial assemblages of pictures and artifacts honoring the dead. 

The musicians are vocalist Jade Shipman, Tony Schoenberg on guitar and violinist Ryan Avery. Mike Stevens plays drums on half the tracks. Shipman who also plays bass, leads the Little Shrine project. 

The core trio have been playing on the Bay area music scene for a decade separately in various outfits. Shipman is quoted as saying that she didn’t intend to pen folk songs for Little Shrine but they just kept coming out that way because of life’s discouragements. That explanation is helpful because her lyrics are often just cryptic enough to defy understanding. 

Not among those is track 7 “Dreams Are Dead.” There’s no mistaking a marriage going down in flames. The guy is disengaged but still wasting her time. “Take the ring/ Take the dishes/ I’ve had enough of empty wishes.” And no, she will not be sleeping with him tonight. 

This isn’t a folk song. It is full-blown country with violin played fiddle style and musically among the album’s most up-tempo. 

The primary instrument in this album is Shipman’s fine soprano voice. For “Move Forward” she puts it on full soaring display. Her song is about direction and on this one it’s straight up. Shipman wandered through a personal wilderness writing these songs and found her way to a better place.

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