Album Review: Glens Falls’ Carolyn Shapiro’s ‘Take It Easy’

GLENS FALLS – Following up her debut release with “Take It Easy”, Carolyn Shapiro shows stunning improvement in her craft – one she was already well-versed in! From the arrangements, to the lyrics, and musicality, there’s a lot to enjoy on this EP. Featuring just six songs, each having a healthy dose of all things Americana, Shapiro has truly put out an endearing gem of a record.

A plaintive, clawhammer banjo part soon opens up to a bigger production of bass, guitar, and violin on the album opener, “Red River Bound.” The interplay between these acoustic instruments is quite lovely to the ears, and the haunting melody is simple, yet memorable. It all works together so well. One part of the instrumentation that really stands out is how you can almost “feel” the violin bow bouncing off the strings. There are times in the recording where it sounds like the band is in the same room.

The chord progression on this tune is accented in such a punchy way on the guitar and banjo. Throughout the tune, the stylish fills of the violin float in and out of the mix. During the latter half of the song, the majority of the instrumental bombast gives way to subtle banjo and violin, before the band kicks back in. It’s a nice change of pace, one that is complemented further by the rich imagery laid out in the lyrics.

Though this album features more of an expansive sense of arrangements, the title track features a much more familiar sound to it. Much more laid back and banjo-centric, “Take It Easy” sounds just like the material that initially turned this particular author’s ears to Carolyn and her music. Continuing along the same thread as the previous track, “Time to Yourself,” with the vocals right out front, allows listeners to really focus their attention on Shapiro’s undeniable artistry. As the song builds steadily, it becomes extremely lush with its warm harmonies provided by Raya Malcom, Shannon Rafferty, and Emily Curro – some of the overtones are so calming and resonant. The drones of the strings against the strumming banjo and guitar round out the tune perfectly.

Bubbling along, the instrumentation in this track doesn’t have as much definition as previous ones. It isn’t until the bass enters that we start hearing some really cool rhythmic push and pull in the arrangement. What especially stands out in this track is Shapiro forcing her voice higher. Often heard in a subdued manner, vocally speaking, it’s nice to hear her reach for higher tones; dramatic and effective in the delivery, to say the least.

On the closing track, we hear a much more forward leaning tempo. Pushing the tune along, the bass part serves as a nice bedrock for the harmonies that pop up during the choruses. Ending seemingly moments after it began, the conclusion of the song has this listener wanting to hear more from the artist as soon as possible!

Carolyn Shapiro’s “Take It Easy” is a great sophomore release from the artist. Featuring Shapiro on banjo and vocals, James Gascoyne on guitar, Oona Grady on bass, and Connor Armbruster on violin, there’s a lot of great material to sift through in just six songs. Improving upon her debut, and then some, it is a welcomed addition to this budding songwriter’s repertoire, and an album that fans of the Americana genre should definitely check out.

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