Pamela Wyn Shannon
Courting Autumn


3.0
good

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
November 29th, 2007 | 10 replies | 8,502 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Courting Autumn proves Shannon is a beautiful, blooming folk artist; if only her ideas didn't fall to attrition.

Pamela Wyn Shannon has no qualms about what she’s creating. In the first album in a series of four seasonal albums, brazenly titled Courting Autumn, she doesn’t so much as court autumn as she does trample it. What this does for the record is left to the eye of the beholder: Courting Autumn, at best, is the kind of melancholic folk that breathes with the musky scent of its Irish setting and influences, among them the likes of Nick Drake and Pentangle. At its worst, Courting Autumn comes off like an uninspired, ham-fisted spiel that proves Shannon is more interested in showing off her concept than naturally exuding it. Fortunately for Shannon, Courting Autumn is more solid than not, even if she does stumble through her roots.

Stumble she does in the string arrangements of “O Bittersweet Dear Madeline,” the heavy-handed recorders more distracting than atmospheric, a conscious decision to call forth the inspiration Shannon got from her one-way ticket to Ireland. Shannon’s vocals, which flow best when she doesn’t work so hard to inject variety, feel constrained and too focused, unnatural in direct contrast with her natural setting. But the rustle of leaves that begin the rustic guitar chords of “Tis Rambletide in Ambleside” march into a more organic, billowing segment of Courting Autumn, the violins and cellos a wavering balance for Shannon’s higher notes and poetic ramblings. When she parts into a sparse tempo midway through, “Tis Rambletide in Ambleside” takes on a more appropriate improvised feel, the twangs and slides the product of luxurious craftsmanship.

At these intervals throughout Courting Autumn, Shannon creates some of the most beautiful folk songs the year has seen. “Vespertine Autumn,” the slow shudder of its violin and breathless clarinet residing neatly under Shannon’s shifting falsetto, creates one of the album’s more memorable folklore. “Ca’ The Yowes” stands out as the most beautiful track, a strong sitar based track that complements Shannon’s vocal inflections and whose careful arrangements tend to the song’s running time without noticeably padding it out. “Cold Blows the Wind” could be viewed as Courting Autumn’s most festive tune, seemingly lifted straight from a bonfire gathering with the lull of its country twang. Elsewhere, the sinister down tuned “Netherworld” darkens its cello arrangements into a fitful nightmare, Shannon’s vocals occasionally pushed into a wind tunnel that gives the song an appropriate, dream-like essence.

Otherwise, Courting Autumn repeats too many of its faults, the wispy “Michaelmastide” placated by the jarring recorders, while the tedious “September’s Way” shifts Shannon uncomfortably behind the instruments so that she’s almost lost amongst the mix. Courting Autumn regains itself for the soft viola and cello arrange “Fare-Thee-Forlorn,” a spoken track that cements Pamela Wyn Shannon as a blooming folk artist and storyteller. Had Courting Autumn been as immediate and inspired as its best segments, as telling as its sporadic recording (parts of Courting Autumn were made in bathrooms and barns), and as timeless as its medieval construction, it could have been proven more than the sum of its parts. As is, Courting Autumn is just as solid as an autumn leaf, and hopefully by the time winter settles in, Shannon has figured out how to write about it without swallowing it whole.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jom
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2007



2634 Comments


Good to see that you received this; I'll be sure to e-mail.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2007



16081 Comments


Shannon has figured out how to write about it without swallowing it whole.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2007



2634 Comments


Yeah I just saw it you fucking african fusty walrus sea lion gentleman spatula sticks

plane
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2007



6085 Comments


I hope they love it enough to send me the next three!

BallsToTheWall
November 29th 2007



44164 Comments


I enjoy netherworld and pipkin. Plan on picking this up when I have some free time.

Tyler
Emeritus
November 30th 2007



7928 Comments


"pastoral folk"

AshleyHobbes
January 5th 2008



1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Were you having a bad day when you wrote this review? Someone deny you a b!0W j$B and it was heavily on your mind? How could you be so sleazy about this beautiful, talented, emerging artist who seems to be getting rave reviews everywhere else I've looked -- like this one: http://www.terrascope.co.uk/Reviews/Reviews_October07.htm#PamelaWS

Not sure about your ear, either! Evidently you just don't like the sound of recorders, if you find them "jarring," etc., everywhere. And how closely were you listening, anyway? There IS NO string arrangement on "O Bittersweet Dear Madeline!"

One of your alternate personalities must have come out when you wrote your third paragraph -- the only one that got it all right!

Don't you GET IT? This album IS about autumn, so, yeah, she's gonna sing about autumnal imagery! And it's a beautiful album... poetic, lyrical, evocative, and sumptuously embellished by Shannon's exquisite guitar. Oh, wait -- you don't get it because this site doesn't even have a category for folk music! No wonder....


plane
Staff Reviewer
January 5th 2008



6085 Comments


Yes, I did take all my sexual frustration out on Pamela!

plane
Staff Reviewer
January 5th 2008



6085 Comments


Okay, really, this is reading way too far into the review (sound-off included). The fellatio comment, however in bad taste you might think it is, is meant to show that Shannon takes on too many influences and decides to show up to all of them. Misogyny is certainly the farthest thing from what I was trying to get at here, considering that I did enjoy the album and I do believe Pamela is a wonderful artist. The album itself just can't live up to its best moments and buckles under all that she tries to do. The fact that I do love artists like Pamela, and female artists as a whole (I recently praised Joanna Newsom quite strongly in a review) kind of shows that I wasn't going for "crass" or "offensive," but that as far as imagery goes it was the first word that I thought would convey what I meant and it does.
I'll change it for the sake of those that seem to have traipsed in from whatever site happened to feature this (and I'm betting does the exact same thing of dissecting the review as some misogynistic, biased attack on Pamela, though the 3-star rating matches the uneven amount of praise-to-criticism ratio, so of course my criticism is going to overshadow the praise), but it's not meant to be sleazy or condescending, or even as more than what it's written as. The fact that I don't give the album some lauded rating that it doesn't deserve doesn't mean that my opinion shouldn't matter, or that I just "don't GET IT."

Jom
Staff Reviewer
January 5th 2008



2634 Comments


great job dude now we're going to get Ms. Magazine and NOW posting here and we're going to have to enlist George Carlin to bail us out



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