Former hardcore punk exponent and sometime Quiet Holler, Shadwick Wilde, indulges his domestic passions
Release Date: 22nd September 2023
Label: SofaBurn Records
Formats: Vinyl / Download / Streaming
After spending his early years variously in San Francisco, Havana and Amsterdam, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shadwick Wilde is now relatively settled in Louisville, Kentucky. His interesting musical past has helped him to develop a versatility that must surely be the envy of his peers; he served his early apprenticeship as a guitarist with hardcore punk outfits like Wahington DC band Iron Cross, before going on to form Quiet Hollers, the enterprise with which he’s spent most of the past ten years.
It was through Quiet Hollers that Shadwick’s songwriting talents first attracted widespread attention, principally with the band’s 2013 debut album, Unforgivable Things. Quiet Hollers never stayed in one place for too long and they made it their business to release a record every couple of years – alongside a frenetic programme of US and European tours and the press and publicity activities that are part of that particular load. And now, Shadwick has taken the decision to step away – albeit (I suspect) temporarily – from that whirling carousel, to indulge in a little bit of ‘self’ time with his impressive solo album, Forever Home.
Shadwick describes himself as a Buddhist-Nihilist, yet, sadly, depression and insecurity have been regular visitors to his doorstep. He credits meditation, therapy and a focus upon compassion and presence with saving his life and, after having given Forever Home a thorough listen, I’m pretty sure that the composition and recording of these ten songs formed a significant element of each of those life-saving activities. Forever Home is described as “Ten beautiful songs that forge the emotional aspect of family life” and that’s no idle boast; the album deals with such pleasurable mundanities as driving, gardening, home life and the comfort of relationships and, although the spectre of insecurity and domestic collapse is never far away, the overall vibe from the songs is warm and comforting.
And that warm and comforting feel is helped, in no short measure, by Ken Coomer’s thoughtful and respectful production. Shadwick’s lyrics and voice are given priority in each and every song and the well-structured instrumentation – notably Ted Pecchio’s bass, Sam Wilson’s electric guitar and pedal steel, Coomer’s own drums and Shadwick’s acoustic guitar and piano are all given the room they need to breathe properly. And the result is a collection of well-written and well-crafted songs that are a delight to hear.
It’s lead single, Easy Rider that gets Forever Home underway. It’s a song that exudes calming reassurance as Shadwick sings lines like: “I’m your easy rider, your precious cargo is safe with me” and “Don’t worry momma, I drive real, real slow these days,” and the sparse backing – Shadwick’s acoustic guitar, Ken’s soft drums and the delightfully subtle vocal harmonies – are all that’s needed to convey the song’s reassuring message. Summer is just about over now, but I had a gorgeous flashback to those warm, heady days when I listened to Gardener’s Blues, a song that’s as honey-sweet as anything ever peddled by James Taylor. Lines like “I spent the whole summer pecking at the weeds” recall an aspect of summer that some would, maybe, rather forget, but the happy waltz-time interlude captures the pastoral joy of a warm summer’s day entirely.
The sound gets richer as Shadwick’s piano and keyboard are brought into play for Floating Away, a song that gets almost rocky as Shadwick sings: “You wanna walk around with Jesus, like it isn’t some disease you’ve been born into.” And we stick with a full-band sound for Without You, the album’s second single and one of the collection’s real highlights. The song is described as “An existentialist love ballad… examining the frailty of memory, the truth of impermanence and our clinging to one another,” and lyrics like “I don’t wanna leave this place without you – but everybody leaves alone,” demonstrate the potency of the insecurities that prompted Shadwick to write these songs in the first place. It’s the first place on the album that Ken has utilized a more ‘widescreen’ production and Ted’s swooping bass and Sam’s glorious electric guitar licks suggest that it won’t be the last.
Shadwick sings a bright, upbeat, song to a ragtime guitar accompaniment on Two Girls With Hazel Eyes – the album’s short, yet highly-addictive earworm, before things take a genuinely surprising turn, with the bossa nova rhythms of Better Vision of You. Ken has roped in the full band for this one, even including some lovely Mariachi trumpet fills from Scotty Huff. It’s light and poppy, and I love the way that Shadwick shows that he’s equally comfortable with both the lowest and the highest notes as he delivers one of his strongest vocals on the album.
And the surprises keep on coming. Please Love Me (I’m Drowning) is a tasty slice of bluesy doo-wop, which Shadwick sings in a 50s-style voice. Ted plays a rock-solid bassline and Sam adds a wonderfully restrained, yet fully effective, electric guitar solo and, as Shadwick’s tinkly piano is added to the mix, you kinda sense that these guys are having great fun.
Shadwick is an accomplished and melodic acoustic guitarist and he demonstrates that to full effect on Lonesome Road – and Diederik van Wassenaer’s string arrangement is a nice touch that adds sweetness and drama in all the right places. The anthemic Dark Hours opens with a children’s vocal chorus before Shadwick steps in with a reassuring “Don’t be afraid; my love for you will carry me through space – just to see your face.” It’s another track with a big, big sound – in fact, it seems that Ken has drafted in just about every instrument at his disposal, particularly as the song reaches its climatic refrain: “There will be dark hours in our life – don’t be afraid.”
This excellent album is brought to its close with yet another real highlight. Shadwick’s lyrics to the 60s-sounding Forever Home are exactly as comforting as the song’s title would suggest, and they’re not lacking in humour either, especially as Shadwick sings: “Cos you’re my forever home/ I think that I’ve always known/ You bought me my Stylophone/ And you call me when I’m alone.” The sound is as rich as anywhere on the album, with Ted’s resonant bass and Diederik’s strings providing a luxury cushion that not even a Stylophone solo can ruffle!
Shadwick Wilde – you’ve just made one hell of an album!
Watch the official video to Without You – the second single to be taken from the album – here: