Album Review: Rees Shad’s “Six Strings & A Story”

With his latest record, Six Strings & A Story, Rees Shad has truly made a statement of what one instrument and one voice can do. Blending wonderful dynamic playing with lyrics that practically paint upon countless canvases right in front of listeners’ eyes, Shad has released a great collection of tunes.

Six Strings & A Story, album cover art.

The intro song, “Mustard in the Gravy,” quickly showcases Shad’s rhythmic prowess. He plays the chords in such a swinging fashion that it gives the illusion of there being a walking bass line present. The random changes in rhythms prevent the song from ever sounding formulaic, and his vocals bebop all over the place quite effortlessly. It’s a quirky tune that draws you into the record.

For track two, “Faulkner County Blues”, a slow blues progression is featured that is reminiscent of blues stylings the likes of John Mayer, et al. What I really enjoy about Shad’s playing is his ability to switch between lead and rhythm guitar roles within the same bar of music. During sections of the song, you can even hear the knocking of the guitar; he’s really beating the hell out of it!

Utilizing a vocal style in “Anyone But You” that lands somewhere between Elton John and Tom Petty, listeners are greeted to a more subdued piece. Rife with fingerpicking and gentler strumming, the track takes the album into a mellower state. During the latter half of the tune, Shad really opens up his voice, and the ballad is taken to its powerful climax before coming to an end.

For this listener, having a record be comprised solely of one guitar and voice, is a tricky thing to pull off. Whoever is making the record needs to have lots of interesting musical nuggets along the way to keep their audience away from boredom. Shad does just that, such as in the song “The Roses and the Wine,” with his aggressive glissandos that are sprinkled heavily throughout the piece. In “Down in the Bedrock,” the main thing that grabbed my ears was the almost relentlessly repeated rhythmic figure that spelled out a rather well-arranged chord progression.

Rees Shad. Photo credit: Lindsey Morano.

While the album features strong lyrics throughout, the latter half of the record is where Shad especially shines in this manner. “Hero’s Son” is about a changing dynamic and legacy across a multitude of a family’s generations, and offers a lot to wrap one’s mind around as they listen. Those listening should really lean in to hear all that Shad has to lyrically offer. Gentle fingerpicking on a drop D tuned guitar start out the closing track, “The Mrs. and Me.” Unlike the past few tracks, these lyrics are steeped in gratitude, and paint quite a nice picture in the mind of those who grab on to the words. It is an extremely heartwarming end to the record.

Whether it’s with a band or in a solo setting, Shad demonstrates he’s one heck of a songwriter. Captivating throughout, Six Strings & A Story showcases his ability to make compelling tune-after-tune using just a guitar and his voice. A fantastic record that builds upon his catalogue, I strongly recommend you take time to check the record out for yourself today.

Six Strings & A Story is out today.

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