You may remember Dennis Young from the ‘80s band Liquid Liquid fame. With his solo effort Shadow, it appears he wants to convey the idea that all you really need to make music is your voice and an acoustic guitar. Originally released in 2006, Shadow has been stripped down, so there are no drums, bass, or other supporting instruments to be found. Dennis Young has a strong, almost eerie voice that wafts over an assortment of strummed chords. What seems like it may be a boring and unsubstantiated sound actually brings a sort of familiar comfort, as the album harkens back to simpler days when computer programming didn’t exist.
Further, the lack of background instrumentation leaves your mind open to truly devour the lyrics, which here are full of stories of life and struggle, and are all easily relatable. You’ll find themes of love, loss, confusion and a higher pull to respect our elders, amongst other ideas. For a good example of the album’s overall direction, listen to title song “Shadow,” which is also one of the more exciting and gnarly songs on the album.
There are many different moods present on the album, too, all running parallel to the heavier themes introduced. For example, “Beautiful Dream” is a happier, more wistful song with higher vocals, and stands out as one of the more catchy songs. A little later, however, you’re treated to “Make It Clear,” a decidedly darker and heavier song with corresponding deep chords and a lower tone of voice.
You’ll also note that the songs are mostly shorter in length, ranging from roughly 2½ to 3 minutes. This seems to be an effective length, keeping each song interesting while being just long enough to feel satisfied with the beginning and end.
Overall, it was a nice change to listen to music in which the vocals and instruments didn’t need to compete for ear space, and where the stories could carry me though the entire album. It’s the perfect length, and the vocals are both soothing and powerful, which has made for an all-around solid folk album. Having heard the vocals and acoustic guitar portion, I now want to hear his other work and the original album as a point of reference; it will be interesting to see how music that stands so well alone can meld with other sounds.
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