Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
A lot of what was so appealing about old-time country and spiritual music is that it was so practical and so Folger's coffee-like. It was made by young people who were not anything close to youthful in soul. To give you a sense of what's generally meant here, look at any high school athletic team photograph from the 1920s or 30s - 40s or 50s too - and tell me that those kids don't all look like they're grown up men with three or four kids at home, a back-breaking ay job that pays next to nothing and a mortgage that sucks them dry. Ty Cobb looked like a 64-year-old man playing for the Tigers when he was just a 23-year-old son of a bitch. But that was the youth of the day, not only forced into the factories or Great Wars earlier than they should have been, but also incredibly harrowing and depressing as they were seen at their leisure, in their woolen knickers. They were already drinkers, carrying flasks under their suspenders and they were hairier chested. They girls were already getting rounder, looking as if they were hardened and worked over, though still the strongest forces in whatever house they were in. These were the people who were the young guns and yet everyone was so damned old. The songs were not about girls kissing girls and didn't include gratuitous cursing or vulgar language. The songs were of the purest fiber, with any sort of liberties with taste and color being those of clever pun amongst a larger portion of candor and sincerity. Samantha Shelton brings some of that old standard intrigue to her music, which is less about the hard living times of the Great Depression and more about the purity of a flame, or many flames - the way that they burn true and burn cleanly if given the chance. The young Los Angeles born and bred actress and singer has so much of the feeling of music long gone in her countrified songs that they seem of that era when young men were balding severely by their late 20s and women were wrinkled and done bearing the last of their 10 children by the age of 30. Shelton, who has performed in an old-timey group with her buddy Zooey Deschanel, sings soundly like a veteran, not a kid trying to out-do a veteran with some of the new-fangled extravagancies that always turn out sounding unforgivably wrong for many reasons. She's got a way of turning all of the appropriate tunings and awnings into meaningful additions to her music - making it something that sounds of a different time period and not just simply retro-fitted.