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Richard Shindell


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Contemporary folk

Status:

Most recent release, Careless (2016)

See also:

Richard Shindell's web site

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Cry Cry Cry, a side project with Lucy Kaplansky and Dar Williams

Comparisons:

John Gorka, Dar Williams

As far as what his voice sounds like, I would say that to me, he sounds similar to James Taylor...not an exact match, I'm sure, but that's the closest comparison I can make. (kbpease@concentric.net)

Covers/own material:

Own material (other people cover his songs)

General comments:

I'm starting to think that when it comes to songwriting, Richard Shindell is damn close to godhood. His songs have the ability to wrap themselves right around your gut and squeeze, and at the end of one of his performances I'm always left drained. He just makes me sit up and listen, no matter what he's doing. (meth@smoe.org)

The man is a genius. (mcurry@io.com)

Richard Shindell is fabulous. As someone who listens to female singers almost exclusively, I can't quite explain what my attraction to Richard is. He's male, his music is more "country"-tinged than most I like, but his songwriting is wonderful. He manages to tell wonderful little stories. I have not been able to get his latest, Reunion Hill out of my CD player, but all 3 of his releases—Reunion Hill, Sparrow's Point, and Blue Divide—are worth getting.
     He's got a really pleasant voice that is capable of expressing quite a bit of emotion without ever getting overly-emotive (a trait I love in females, but can really turn me off when males try it.) He's also a very accomplished guitar player, but the thing I like best about him, is that he's never flashy. His arrangements are always perfect, but never excessive—quite like his voice. This allows his songwriting to really shine—he writes about all kinds of common things but does it in a manner that avoids clichés. I highly recommend him. I have all 3 of his solo discs, and the Cry Cry Cry group disc, and there are great tracks on them all. (jjhanson@att.net)

Richard Shindell is definitely a folk singer/songwriter, though he can do convincing country if he wants to. He's got a voice that does something undefinable. I can't describe it, but it really catches my attention and holds my interest, no matter what he's singing. In all the direct comparisons I've had a chance to hear, where I can listen to the same song sung by him or by someone else, I've always preferred his version (over Dar Williams, James Keelaghan, Robert Earl Keen...). Although he is one of my favorite male vocalists, he also really shines in his songwriting. He can write about any subject and make it new, and his lyrics are evocative and intelligent. I call him a "songwriting genius" and I don't think that's overstated. He's also got a weird talent for writing songs that, upon hearing, I think I've always known. It's as if some of the songs he writes were always there in our collective subconscious and he discovered them and made them real.
     A paraphrase of a conversation I had with meth (I think it was her):
     meth:...yeah, but how can you write a folk song about a truck?
     cos: There's Richard Shindell's "Kenworth of My Dreams"
     meth: well, sure, but he's Richard Shindell. He can do things like that.
     My favorite Richard Shindell album, and the one I think most shows off his songwriting skills, is Blue Divide. On this album is "Fishing", a really creepy song that's probably one of my top ten favorite songs of all time. Also on this album is "The Ballad of Mary Magdalene", a classic example of the sort of song that seems to have always existed. After Blue Divide, I'd recommend Cry Cry Cry.
     By this time, you'll probably be wanting to buy Richard Shindell's other albums, and be rather disappointed to find that there are only two more: Sparrow's Point and Reunion Hill. If your reaction is at all like mine, you'll find his voice somewhat addictive, and want to hear more more more more.... (cos@wbrs.org)

Comments about live performance:

his voice is excellent and his guitar-style is yummy and his songs are great. after he started the set with "the shamrock shore," i was secretly hoping that he would spend the rest of the evening playing nova scotian traditional tunes—his voice would be *perfect* for that style. alas, he did not, but is still liked his show anyways. (woj@smoe.org)

Now that I'm familiar with some of the music, I figured I'd like the performance better. And I did, but I still thought Richard Shindell with guitar just wasn't anywhere near as compelling as he is on the album. The voice wasn't as smooth and the songs lacked some punch. (neal)

Recommended first album:

Whichever one you find first :)

Recordings:

  • Sparrows Point (1992)
  • Blue Divide (1994)
  • Reunion Hill (1997)
  • Somewhere Near Paterson (2000)
  • Courier (2002)
  • Vuelta (2004)
  • South of Delia (2007)
  • Not Far Now (2009)
  • Mariana's EP: Alt Versions and No Shows from Not Far Now (EP, 2009)
  • Thirteen Songs You May Or May Not Have Heard Before (compilation of re-recordings, 2011)
  • Careless (2016)

Sparrows Point

Release info:

1992—Shanachie—8002

Availability:

Available across the U.S. wherever well-stocked folk sections can be found, and of course at shows

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk fans and those of us who have an occasional weakness for a male voice. :)

Group members:

Richard Shindell—vocals, acoustic & electric guitar

Guest artists:

Steve Addabo—electric guitars, Hammond organ, harmony
Greg Anderson—bass, electric guitar
Chris Bishop—bass
Kenneth Blevins—drums
Larry Campbell—banjo, violin, pedal steel
Diane Chodkowski—harmony
Mark Dann—bass
John Gorka—harmony
Mark Hamza—Hammond organ
Jack Hardy—harmony
Margo Hennebach—Hammond organ
Winifred Horan—violin
Lucy Kaplansky—harmony
Joanie Madden—whistles
Mark McColl—percussion
Marshal Rosenberg—percussion
Ilene Weiss—harmony
Howie Wyeth—drums

Produced by:

Richard Shindell, David Seitz, & Steve Addabo

Comments:

I bought Sparrow's Point (a locale right here in Baltimore) for someone else who never claimed it, and since then I have become completely enamoured with the disc. I think "Are You Happy Now?" is one of the most finely crafted songs I have ever heard, with stunning, vivid images of a breakup and aftermath on Halloween. And the rest of the album is almost as good. The arrangements compliment the songs beautifully, and the songs tell such detailed stories. Each one needs to be read carefully to fully absorb the nuances. This has grown into one of my favorite discs in the last year. (neal)

This is good—an album that in my opinion is very listenable. (Alvin.Brattli@phys.uit.no)


Blue Divide

Release info:

1994—Shanachie Entertainment—SH-8014

Availability:

Available across the U.S. wherever well-stocked folk sections can be found, and of course at shows

Ecto priority:

Like Sparrows Point, highly recommended for folk fans and lovers of good songwriting and a good male voice.

Group members:

Richard Shindell—acoustic, electric, and high-strung guitar, cittern

Guest artists:

Steve Addabo—electric guitar, Hammond organ
Kenneth Blevins—drums
Larry Campbell—violin, pedal and lap steel, electric guitar, mandolin
Seamus Egan—mandolin, Uillean pipes
Peter Freeman—synthesizer
Mark Hamza—Hammond organ, accordion
Winifred Horan—violin
Lucy Kaplansky—harmony
Juan Patiño—percussion
Dave Richards—electric and upright bass
John Whelan—button accordion
Michael Visceglia—bass

Produced by:

Steve Addabo

Comments:

I already knew I liked his songwriting sensibility (I really love his imagery, especially in songs like "Blue Divide" and "Fishing") and his voice. We listened to Blue Divide about four times last Sunday. What an amazing record that is. You should definitely buy it if you see it. (meth@smoe.org)

Although Richard Shindell plays music that I normally do not listen much to (and in some cases avoid), I must confess that after I had listened to Blue Divide a few times, I felt I had to reconsider my attitude towards it. It seems to me that some people like Sparrows Point better than Blue Divide, but I don't. I don't know why, but to me, Blue Divide is just considerably better than Sparrows Point. Anyway, it's very good—an album I do not hesitate for a second to put in my CD player. (Alvin.Brattli@phys.uit.no)


Reunion Hill

Release info:

1997—Shanachie Entertainment

Availability:

Available across the U.S. wherever well-stocked folk sections can be found, and of course at shows

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk fans and lovers of good songwriting and a good male voice.

Comments:

On my top 10 for 1997. Every bit as good as his previous two releases. Richard is one of the supreme gods of songwriting. I still think I like Sparrows Point better, but there are some real gems here, and I've listened to it quite a lot. (meth@smoe.org)

I can't say enough good about this album, but I can't really explain why I like it so much either. Right now this is probably the album in the top spot for album of the year for me, which totally surprises me. However, I just relate to Richard's songs so much, and keep find myself returning to it. Both lyrically and musically, everything seems to make sense on this album. Nothing is overdone or flashy, but everything comes together in great, tight, powerful little songs. I love "The Next Best Western" and its expression of yearning for faith one doesn't have. I also particularly like his cover of Lacy J. Dalton's "Darkness, Darkness". For many ectophiles, this album may be too male, too folk, too country, but to me it makes sense. It was number 1 on my year-end list for 1997—a surprise, but undoubtedly the album I played most that year. (jjhanson@att.net)

Another amazing release from this master storyteller. (mcurry@io.com)


Somewhere Near Paterson

Release info:

2000—Signature Sounds/Richard Shindell Recordings—SIG 1256

Availability:

Wide in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Richard Shindell—vocals, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Larry Campbell—cittern, pedal steel, electric & acoustic guitar, dulcimer, fiddle, dobro, mandolin
Denny McDermott—drums
Lincoln Schlieffer—upright & electric bass, harmonium
Billy Masters—electric guitar
Siobhan Egan—bodhran
Lucy Kaplansky—harmony vocals
Dar Williams—harmony vocals
Joanie Madden—wooden flute
Kenny White—piano

Produced by:

Larry Campbell

Comments:

Others have said it, I will reaffirm it, Richard Shindell is perhaps the most intellectual songwriter out there. His lyrics are always intelligent, thoughtful, and draw you into each song (and tattoo themselves to your cerebellum). With this new album, Richard has signed an interesting agreement with Signature Sounds; he pays to make the album, they pay to mass produce and distribute, and they share the profits. This way, Richard retains the masters (a very unique and intelligent way of not having to be "indie").
     My first exposure to Richard was when a dear friend suggested Cry Cry Cry to me; I devoured the album, and moved to each individual performer. That's how I ended with this album.
     Orchestration is lush on most of this album, but even the solo efforts present are highly enjoyable. The first track ("Confession") is a novel topic, a proto-yuppie basically describing how happy he is to have a pill to fix his problems! This is followed by another Richard habit of taking on the roll of a woman ("Abuelita"), in this case a grandmother, looking in the crowd for the granddaughter she's never met (who was taken by soldiers from her son and his wife.)
     Our next topic is (my interpretation here) about people in a civil-war infested type place (eastern Europe perhaps?) with a man telling his wife what he is going to do (go find wood to keep the fire burning, look for food, pickup some coats which probably have bloodstains on them, look for guns, and look for god—who's not with them) very haunting and all the guitar playing is flat picked—not fingerpicking which means this guy is FAST ("You Stay Here"). The next song, "My Love Will Follow You", is a Cry Cry Cry type of song with Lucy Kaplansky & Dar Williams supplying backup. We follow this with a jaunting tribute to spring, aptly called, "Spring". Very lighthearted, and enjoyable.
     Track six, "Wisteria", is by far my favorite song on this album. A story of remembering a life spent in a home since sold, this one will be embedded in your mind, and you will NEVER get it out. "Waiting for the Storm", is of a man, waiting for a tornado-type storm to come and destroy his entire life, and he actually seems to be looking forward to it. "The Grocer's Broom", is a lament to the end of a life's work. "Merritt Parkway, 2am" is a pure instrumental, and highly enjoyable to listen to. "Transit", which supplies the name of this album, is just something you have to listen to...Traffic jams, a nun, a prison choir—again, only Richard could make this topic work.
     The final song, "Calling the Moon", is a Richard interpretation of a Dar Williams song. I actually had to listen to the Dar version twice to recognize it. It's my humble opinion that Richard's version is far better, a fine lament.
     For some, Richard's voice may be a bit nasal; but he is a virtuoso guitarist and his songs are intelligent and even when challenging you, they make you think. As one of the common Ecto-types, I usually listen to female artists, but Richard Shindell went from unknown to owning four albums and absorbing them in one month. (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

On one listen, it's definitely better than his last release, but I don't think anything will ever surpass Sparrows Point in my heart. It's got more of his trademark hit-you-in-the-gut songwriting, though, and Dar Williams and Lucy Kaplansky provide lovely harmonies in all the right places, as usual. Richard even performs a Dar song, "Calling The Moon" (which I don't believe she's recorded yet herself). Any album that contains a piece entitled "Merritt Parkway, 2 am" is automatically going to get points in my book, anyway. :) Good stuff, as usual. (meth@smoe.org)


Further info:

The Folkbook biography and Dirty Linen Tour Dates


Thanks to Troy Shadbolt and Meredith Tarr for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2017-01-22 17:02:13.
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