TIS Rock Music 2021
Prime dame of British blues distils her lockdown diaries to bring it to a proper medium.
When she was unleashing weekly live streams upon sequestered listeners, performing things she loves and fans’ requests, there was no intention to appropriate other artists’ songs, yet when Shantel McGregor collected the results on these two albums she shed a fresh light on her interpretative skills. The lady may draw the line between the “Shed Sessions” volumes to separate acoustic pieces from predominantly electric ones – only that’s but a single way to perceive the dichotomy the records propose. Another look at it will show the amassing of mostly classic cuts on the first disc and the prominence of contemporary numbers on the second; or the setting of guitar-accompanied covers on the former against the presence of piano-based tracks of the latter. Whichever approach would be chosen, though, the chanteuse’s selection of tunes is rather fascinating – and uneven, too.
“Volume One” should come across as less imaginative, Ms. McGregor leveling familiar material to make everything sound like Americana and eschewing blues altogether, with her handling of “Voodoo Chile” effectively shedding its hard veneer to reveal Hendrix’s balladry in the heart of Chantel’s delivery, and her dramatic reading of “Gold Dust Woman” baring the roots of the FLEETWOOD MAC gem, while there’s not a lot she could add to “Needle And The Damage Done” from Neil Young’s catalogue – except, perhaps, for some soulful purring. The same can’t be said of her corporeal, if soaring, takes on Steven Wilson‘s “Drive Home” which rubs shoulders on “Volume Two” with such unlikely candidates for the British songstress’ reworking as RADIOHEAD’s “Creep” – although what must truly impress the connoisseur is the unplugging and un-grooving of “Sledgehammer” which emerges as something completely different from Peter Gabriel’s funky original.
McGregor might bridge the two records by splitting a pair of Jewel’s pieces between them but she doesn’t really deviates from the songs’ templates, and neither does the solemn “Winter” by whereas new renditions of her own “Walk On Land” and “April” color these tremulous, stripped-down-now pieces, especially the instrumental, anew. However, there are faithful, albeit strangely cold, cover of METALLICA’s “Nothing Else Matters” and a mundane look at “Summertime” that, nevertheless, displays the depth of Chantel’s voice and six-string romance to be balanced with the inspired drift through BLIND FAITH’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” – turned into a travelogue of sorts – and “Winter” which its writer, Tori Amos, would approve of.
Whether “Shed Sessions” will be approved by those who expected a higher flight of fantasy from this artiste is, sadly, a moot point that may overshadow the occasional wonder hidden here.