photo by Joe Dominguez
Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray
with Shoot Out The Lights, Quiet Holler
April 18, 2014
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St, Newport, KY
8pm doors, 9pm show, $10, Buy Tickets
Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray were on a train traveling to get treatment for Miss Shevaughn’s recently diagnosed cervical cancer in early 2013. “We decided three important things on that train ride,” says Yuma Wray, “We decided to set a date for our wedding (March 1, 2014), to push ahead with the already booked spring tour and to write this album not knowing at all what the future would bring.”
Lean Into the Wind, the second full-length album from hard touring rock band Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray is the product of a year plagued by the chaos of friends passing, illness, depression and self-doubt, but also one of adventure, travel, friendship and the kinds of life events that ultimately help us to cut through the noise.
“We had a pretty emotional year, I don’t think you can assign one emotion to something as complex as a series of songs, emotion shouldn’t be a stylistic choice. Unless you’re sedated, no one exists like that. Sometimes you feel happy or angry or inadequate, this album captures every nuance of what we were feeling last year,” explains Yuma Wray.
For the two songwriters settling, for the moment, in California seems to have had more than just a slight effect on their music. Many of the dreamy guitar and vocal textures harken back to the days of the Flying Burrito Brothers or the Byrds Sweetheart Of The Rodeo period. Lean Into The Wind is as twangy as it is fuzzy – striking a perfect balance between the jittery, noisy heyday of the late sixties and the more subdued, experimental sounds of the early seventies.
The album opens with a nod to those sounds, and introduces the rich three-part vocal harmonies that are woven into the fabric of the album. “Drifter’s Compass” is a manifesto of sorts. “It’s a kind of defiant anthem for the underdogs and artists who create outside of the mainstream because they just simply must, “ says Miss Shevaughn.
“This is the hardest part of living, right past the point of giving in, don’t need your prayers or your permission, just need a road without an end” – “Drifter’s Compass”
The band has undergone rapid evolution since 2012’s We’re From Here – hundreds of shows and over 100,000 miles on the road will do that. “The last album catalogued our transition from an intimate duo to playing with other musicians as a band. Lean Into the Wind was written over months and road tested with all four band members contributing to the final recording,” says Yuma.
Fans describe Miss Shevaughn’s voice as “mesmerizing.” She’s drawn critical comparisons to Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell. On Lean Into the Wind she also explores a more forceful, gutsy side of her voice. “One of my favorite moments on the road with these new songs was when an audience member, who was about my dad’s age, ran up after the show, embraced me and blurted out ‘Janis Joplin lives!’” recalls Miss Shevaughn. But the singer is just as likely to rip into a fuzzed out slide guitar solo or saturated rock organ hook.
And that’s the thing with this band, on stage and in the studio they’re a whirlwind of creative activity. Yuma Wray, aside from having developed an easily recognizable “less is more” guitar sound that’s been praised for creative soundscaping and chunky Jimmy Page inspired riffs, has come into his own vocally on this album. He has branched out, tackling duties on keys and flute as well as the vocal harmonies that wend their way through the record. Drummer Ben Tufts, from Washington D.C. also contributed vocal harmonies, mandolin and bass. Additionally, guest musician Ikey Owens (The Mars Volta, Jack White’s Buzzards) played piano on the raucous, bluesy “Bleed Me” and Philly-based artist Bile Greene wrote “Blue Dream.”
This record, that celebrates those who travel the outskirts and explores the push and pull between creativity and destruction, hope and despair, ends much as it started, with a statement of defiance, spirit and perseverance. Lean Into the Wind invites the adventurous to time travel with the band through the past, present and several imagined futures. Whispers and roars fill these songs – yet each tune, in it’s own way, has a thin veneer of that California sunlight that streams golden just before the sun sets over the mountains.
Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray’s new album Lean Into The Wind will be available on CD and digital formats on March 25th via Seven Dead Arson Records.