(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, May 9, 2011

CD review - The Shivers, More (2011)

The Shivers offer up a fusion of indie folk and retro R&B, distilled though a singer/songwriter performance feel. Til now, the Shivers has been a band name that Keith Zarriello records under, but now he's partnered with keyboard player Jo Schornikow as a full fledged member. I haven't really heard much of Zarriello's earlier work, but More (releasing this week) is a strong collaboration of these two artists. Other musicians add their backing, but Zarriello's voice and Schornikow's wonderful organ work define the sound.

Keith Zarriello's voice is intriguing -- strongly accented and husky, it resonates perfectly with his lyrics like Leonard Cohen or Bruce Springsteen. And Zarriello's lyrics casually toss out some striking images: "She gave to you a candy, and at the time it was so sweet, but alone in your apartment, now you feel your rotting teeth." Schornikow's piano accompaniment gilds the lines with a kind of wry shake of the head.

More is full of strong songs, but the flow between them occasionally misses the mark. Kisses, my favorite track, is a righteous early '60s evocation of soulful blues. The rich organ sets the era and the bluesy rasp of Zarriello's voice sells it. Opening with the line, "Give me your kisses, baby. I am just a rock and roll kid", the sparse arrangement will set your head to swaying and foot to tapping. "Give me your kisses, baby. I am an altar to your grave." This is perfect simplicity and Schornikow's treacly organ permeates the song like thick incense.

When this lagging blues beat fades into the driving pop sound of Used To Be, it's like a shock of cold water. With Neil Diamond colored vocals against a synth pop arrangement, it's not a bad song, but the contrast is too distracting. Similarly, the slow Leonard Cohen burn of Weapons For Quiet Wars (think Hallelujah) slides into the pop bounce of I Want You Back, weakening both songs.

Ignoring these flow problems, the songs are catchy and More stands up well to repeated listening. And it's easy enough to reorder the songs to solve the problem.

The album wraps up on another gem. The title track, More, stretches from a Jeff Buckley style emotional vocal to add some powerful punches. The song builds peak dynamics to balance the sparse and moody verses. Sit in a darkened room, splash a little bourbon over some crushed ice and get the shivers.

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