Richard Shindell - Not Far Now
- cd - £ 11.99
Not Far Now is Richard Shindell's first collection of new original songs in five years, and he knew it was overdue. "There are various subtle indications that it is time to make a new album," he explains from his adopted hometown of Buenos Aires. "Like when my fans start looking at me funny, when I've run through every puzzle at every level in the sudoku book, or when my children start to ask me what I do for a living…"
Widely acclaimed as one of today's finest narrative songwriters, Shindell has a rare gift for using detail to illuminate his characters' motivations and actions without ever getting mired in minutiae. Not Far Now's nine new compositions (complimented by a pair of outside songs) are haunting vignettes that exist vividly beyond the song that documents them: Shindell gives the listener a window into these lives, but their story continues long after the window is shut. "Time deposits me, the character I'm writing about, and a listener there at the first line," he observes. "Then, at the end of the song, at the end of the last line, life and time go on. The song happens in between those two moments."
Despite his expatriate status, digital technology enables him to collaborate with musicians around the world. For Not Far Now, Shindell recorded basic tracks in his dining room, which he and co-producer Greg Anderson then transmit digitally to other musicians. "They send them back to us," he explains, "at which point they are incorporated into the master recording. This back and forth goes on until the money runs out." While Shindell can describe what he is looking for each musician to add, not being in the same room when the parts are recorded means that he was in store for a surprise each time a track came back in. "The entire process," he says, smiling, "from beginning to end, is a series of happy accidents!"
Of all the themes and characters investigated on Not Far Now, a surprising favorite emerges: "Get Up Clara," a soliloquy delivered by a weary traveler to his mule as he wanders rootlessly through the backroads, set in the later days of the Roman Empire. The song's appeal is obvious, Shindell insists. "Of the eleven songs on this record," Shindell reflects, "there are three that have shown up pretty regularly in my live sets during the past year or two. People seem to like 'Clara' the most, as do I. This is perhaps explained by the fact that Clara is a mule, and people generally like songs about mules."