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Joan Shelley carefully calibrates the particular resonances, timbres, and tempos of her music to slow her listeners’ heartbeats and ease their fears. Her songs function as lullabies, calming anxieties about the transition between consciousness and unconsciousness, despair and connection. In the song “Teal,” from her new album, Like the River to the Sea, she expresses her intent to “tear apart summer’s stuffy and stale rooms” to let in “fresh air, wind, and waves.” Her voice is close, pure in tone. It merges seamlessly with her musical partner, guitarist Nathan Salsburg.

Shelley grew up in Kentucky, and there’s a deep undercurrent of old Appalachian music, but the album feels ethereal and unmoored to place. It was recorded in Iceland with producer Jim Elkington and features guest vocals from Bonnie “Prince” Billy (singer-songwriter Will Oldham) on two songs.

Shelley and her band—Salsburg, violinist Anna Krippenstapel, drummer Nathan Bowles, and bassist Jake Xerxes Fussell (who also played an opening solo set)—performed at the arts-friendly Park Church Co-op in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Joan Shelley at soundcheck

Nathan Salsburg and Shelley

Nathan Bowles

Taking a moment to rest before the show

Jake Fussell performing a solo opening set

Cutting a lemon for tea

Set list

Salsburg packing up his guitar after the show

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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