The Space in Between

Guided by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Joan Shelley amplifies the quiet power of her melodies and voice By Bliss Bowen Emmylou Harris has often said, regarding songwriting, that open tunings open up fresh melodies. Reminded of that comment, Joan Shelley agrees. The Kentucky-based singer-songwriter had played around with alternate tunings for her third album, 2015’s dreamy “Over and Even,” but she took “a deeper dive” for her Jeff Tweedy-produced follow-up. “I had found kind of a favorite alternate tuning to standard, but I really pushed it a little further with this last record and kept changing, and kept moving, and kept challenging my muscle memory,” she says. “So that I didn’t have muscle memory, in other words; I’m kind of trusting melody instead of technical scale memory on an instrument, just following the melodies around.” The gently flowing folk melodies she follows on the simply titled “Joan Shelley,” released in May, display careful attention to craft. “If you’re really in a good zone and good at what you’re doing, knowing when to stop is the art of it,” she says, “because the frame is everything, as with visual art.” She shares her less-is-more aesthetic with guitarist Nathan Salsburg, whose John […]

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