Erik Shepard - Chasing Storms
Record Label: Self-released in association with HEAL
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Erik Shepard has been a part of the Chicago underground music scene as long as some other legendary Chicago figureheads, and he is arguably the most underrated of the bunch. While almost everyone reading this review has probably heard of bands like Braid, Cap’n Jazz, and any other projects involving the Kinsellas, unfortunately not as many have heard of Shepard’s critically lauded outfit, Life At Sea. Over the course of one full length and two independently released EP’s, Shepard and his bandmates perfected a lush, layered indie rock sound that struck right at the emotional core of the listener. While working on the second Life At Sea record, Shepard had finished all of the basic parts to the songs and was working on fleshing them out when he found himself continually drawn to just the acoustic guitar. Thus, Chasing Storms was born.
Being familiar with Shepard’s work in Life At Sea, I was initially shocked with the stripped down approach immediately displayed by Quiet Storms opener “Here Comes The Rain”. Whereas Life At Sea thrived amongst layers of instruments and an ethereal ambience, “Here Comes The Rain” is indicative of the more organic approach Shepard chose to take with his solo material. “Understated” picks up the pace of the album and allows Shepard’s pop sensibilities to shine through. One of my personal favorite tracks on the record is the re-worked version of the Life At Sea song “Sirens”. While I love the original because of the shimmering guitars and the infectious nature of the chorus, I was attracted to the vulnerability of this version. Being stripped down to just acoustic guitar, “Sirens” allows Shepard’s voice take the forefront and his soothing vocals are best experienced in this setting.
“Moon Compass” is an instrumental track that showcases Shepard’s guitar playing abilities and is accentuated beautifully with violin accompaniment. “Zoe’s Song” features guitar work that would not be out of place on an Owen record, and this style of music fits the smooth vocal stylings of Shepard perfectly. Chasing Storms is the perfect blend of heart-wrenching ballads and more up tempo tracks that highlight Shepard’s ability to create subtle yet long lasting melodies. The album follows a “less is more” policy and while the album is mainly Shepard with an acoustic guitar, there are subtle string arrangements and piano melodies placed at opportune times that help add another layer to the album. Although I think I will always prefer his work in Life At Sea, Chasing Storms is an excellent listen and offers a view of a different side from one of the most underrated musicians in the scene today.
The album is available as a digital download at this link on a donation based pay scale. I urge everyone to donate some money to get this record because all of the initial proceeds are given to The Shinners, a group started in the 90’s by two Kenyan women for the purpose of helping the women and children of one of Kenya’s most impoverished areas by educating the children, providing health care, and food among other benefits. Based on the pay-what-you-want scale popularized by Radiohead, it is refreshing to see an artist and organization utilize this strategy and put the profits towards a good cause.
Awesome! Let me know how you like it. I highly suggest checking out his band Life At Sea, its really good stuff.
Will do. Wish more bands aligned themselves with a cause. Granted, some do and there are tours for certain causes, but I love being able to get music, support an artist and support a cause at the same time. Seems like the ideal purchase to me.