Music Matters Review

Carolann Solebello—Shiver

Modern folk often is defined by what it’s not, rather than by what it is. Not twangy enough for country, yet too soft for rock (or even soft rock). It’s acoustic, yet hardly as musically intricate as bluegrass. It’s singer-songwriter, but much more traditional than what’s typically heard on pop radio. It’s unlikely that Carolann Solebello experiences issues concerning categorization; she has one of those Joan Baez-like pure singing voices, which always leaves her sounding conspicuously folk.
Solebello, known to many folk fans as a founding member of Red Molly, also has a flair for the eclectic, exemplified by the Spanish-sounding backing for “Meeting the Muse.” Lyrically it personifies creative inspiration as an exotic woman found in a bar.
The album hits its peak with “Our Lady of Sorrows” and “Jesus Played Guitar,” tracks six and seven respectively. In “Our Lady of Sorrows,” Solebello sings longingly to a religious icon, imagining the statue is really listening and empathetic to her needs. “Our Lady of Sorrows,” she requests, “comfort us.” This song is performed with just Solebello’s voice and guitar, with unobtrusive bell tower chimes nicely added into the mix. “Jesus Played Guitar” paints a picture of Jesus that is far more friendly than religious. This Jesus is not just a savior of souls, but also a working musician, much like Solebello. This track also utilizes nothing more than Solebello’s voice and acoustic guitar. Solebello wonders out loud about Jesus’ humanity. “I wonder if Jesus was afraid,” she muses.
One of the best tracks is the overtly country “So Bad.” Over a honky-tonking swaying beat colored by down-home fiddle, Solebello clearly has fun belting out this tavern lament. Solebello has a strong singing voice, and it’s a sincere joy just to hear her let her hair down. “Listen” is also sweet, as this one is augmented by mandolin and what sounds like a cello. Solebello closes the album with another acoustic folk number called “Right Here.” She sings this in a clipped rhythm, a little like Suzanne Vega.
Shiver is a strong effort showcasing Carolann Solebello’s smart songwriting chops and bell-clear singing voice. She is an unashamed folk singer, and while she may mix in a few other musical styles, it’s clear her bread and butter is traditional folk singing and songwriting. Even those who are not interested in albums categorized as folk will likely gravitate to Carolann Solebello’s real deal folk music. —Dan MacIntosh