The Buried Life, Restless
Records CD 72915, 1996
Is it cold on your shoulder?
The Buried Life is the second album by The Shivers, following their well
received 1994 debut. The trio produces sparse, clear music that is at once
traditional and modern, much of it mining the same vein The Band once successfully
claimed as its own. Despite their moments of undeniable brilliance, The
Band was ultimately limited by the tunnel vision of the mythic Canadian-American
experience they so reveled in. The Shivers skirt this problem with a more
varied approach that, while certainly not there yet, may someday lead to
Carey Kemper and Kelly Bell share vocal responsibilities, each singing
lead and backing the other. The mix of male and female voices results in
a richer variety of arrangements than the standard folk-rock instrumentation
might indicate. Kemper's strong, brooding cowboy stance contrasts nicely
with Bell's heavily accented country girl, much like Johnny and June Carter
On the opening cut, "Shade The Light," Kemper's deep vocals,
mandolin lines and traditional sound establishes the ground rules for the
rest of the album. While never reaching into despair, there's an undeniable
haze of melancholy enveloping this disc. But it's tempered by Kemper's sense
of humor, evidenced by the gently self-mocking "Cool to be a Loser"
and "Cult 45."
Bell provides an important balance, but her solo vocals are often wasted
in ballads that sound too much like obligatory female acoustic set pieces.
More interesting is "No Love Lost," which plays her plaintive
voice against Kemper's world-weariness, or "Stranger," with its
pumping X-like sound, complete with the patented Exene Cervenka wail.
Other highlights on this collection include "Cannonball," featuring
a stripped down bass and drum rhythm section, accented by a quiet, surf-soaked
reverbed guitar, in a wonderful rockabilly ballad. "Tumbledown Girl"
is a catchy little barroom rocker: imagine Neil Young's "Barstool Blues"
two or three drinks earlier in the evening.
I've discovered the title "The Buried Life" comes from a poem
by the 19th century British Arthurian poet Matthew Arnold, a reference that
I must admit is entirely lost on me. However, I have also discovered thatThe
Buried Life album is a very fine piece of work, and I'd watch for The Shivers
to be picked up by a major label soon. They need a big company that is capable
of giving them the promotional push they'll need to squeeze onto the formulaic
radio we seem stuck with these days. If there's any justice, Restless Records
(and The Shivers too) will then reap the rewards from bandwagon sales of
their first two efforts. - Bill Kuhn
Jason Staczek says... Bill's review sent me running after this disc hoping
to catch a few echoes of The Band myself. Well, they were pretty faint by
the time I got there, but I didn't come away disappointed, either. The Shivers
do share a certain melancholia with The Band, but paint their pictures in
shades of black and thunderstorm gray against The Band's brown and sepia.
I think what I wasn't hearing was the influence of Band keyboardists Garth
Hudson and Richard Manuel. As a trio, The Shivers produce a sound that is
much more open and somehow more chilling. I'm reminded of early New England
winters, short days that somehow never seem to fully shake off the night.
We may not agree on the pedigree, but Bill is dead-on calling this a fine
piece of work. It begs repeated listening.
production notes & song titles
Carey Kemper, vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, dobro, fiddle, lap
steel, mandolin; Kelly Bell, vocals, electric and acoustic bass, acoustic
guitar; Barry Haney, drums and percussion.
Produced by The Shivers, Tom Herders and Tom Kilman.
Shade The Light | House Of The Spirits | Stranger | Make
A Wish | Cannonball | Follow The Rain | Tumbledown Girl |
No Love Lost | Cult 45 | Cry Of Love | The Wind In Abilene |
Dark Of The Moon | Cool To Be A Loser | Close Your Eyes