Review: The Shants – Beautiful Was the Night (Self-Released, 2011)
This Oakland, California quartet first turned up two years ago with the rustic, down-tempo Russian River Songs, a short collection that brought to mind the minimalism and melancholy of Richard Buckner’s early works. After gigging and developing their sound, they’ve returned to the studio to record this first full-length. The focal points of their sound remain Skip Allums’ languid vocals and Sam Tokheim’s pedal steel, and though the tempos remain restrained, the subdued tone of their debut has given way to the more aggressive energy of Adam Burstein’s drumming and guitars that are strummed with purpose. Allums has written several songs for his native Baton Rouge, but the lyrical voice is as much that of an ex-lover as an ex-pat. He rummages through bittersweet memories, happily nostalgic from across the physical and temporal divide that separates him from the flawed object of his desire. He longs to return to a place that only exists in his rose-colored memory, just as one might long for a relationship whose rough edges have been obscured by time. He’s homesick, but not enough to actually return. The band adds brass (courtesy of Ralph Carney) to “Brother,” rocks a Velvet Underground rhythm riff on “Evangeline Blues” and strikes a New Orleans groove for the closing “(I’m Not) Gonna Waste Another Song on You,” but it’s their weathered Americana that remains their calling card.