Shane Nicholson: Familiar Ghosts


A few weeks back, I wrote about my experiences at the Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson concert at the Bijou Theatre here in Knoxville. As part of that, I mentioned how pleasantly surprised I was by the music of Shane Nicholson.

I had been a fan of Kasey’s for some time, but was completely unfamiliar with Shane prior to the Rattlin’ Bones album. I feel bad about this now, but before Saturday night, I never really viewed Shane as an equal collaborator in the project. In my mind, the album was KASEY CHAMBERS and shane nicholson… I hardly gave him a fair shake. Unfortunately, I often fall under the trap of, “If I haven’t heard of you, then you must not be any good.” It’s probably not the best trait for a music blogger/radio dj to possess, but it does still happen from time to time.
In the case of Rattlin’ Bones, Kasey was one of my favorite artists of all time, and I had never heard of Shane before. He was also her husband… so he must have just been riding her coattails. It was all so clear in my head. I thought…
Turns out I was wrong… and pretty dang far from being right.
The first evidence of my ignorance came fairly early in the concert at the Bijou when Shane played an original tune called “God & Elvis.” The song presents three separate case studies of lost souls who aren’t sure which way to turn to find salvation. The other original we were treated to that night was a song that Shane described as his first attempt at writing a murder ballad. Eventually though, the song “Summer Dress” became what he calls a “missing persons ballad” because he found the murder in the song to be too depressing.
Turns out Shane also wrote some of my favorite tracks from Rattlin’ Bones. Most of the songs were co-writes with Kasey, but “Monkey on a Wire,” “Once In a While,” and “One More Year” were all solo compositions by Shane. The fact that he performed a solo reading of “Once in a While” on piano further cemented in my mind that Shane Nicholson is, in fact, a very talented artist in his own right.
After the show, my wife and I got to go backstage to chat with Kasey and Shane. I asked him about the album that contained “God & Elvis” and “Summer Dress.” Unfortunately, he said the album (Familiar Ghosts) was currently only available in his native Australia, and he didn’t know when or if it would ever make its way to the States. He also said he would love to give me a copy for review, but he didn’t bring any copies with him. He did promise to make sure to send a few copies to WDVX when the album finally got U.S. distribution.
As we were leaving the theatre, I took one last look back toward the stage to see Shane waving at my wife and I. Thinking he was just saying good night, I waved back and kept walking toward the door. That’s when I heard him yelling for me to stop. He had jumped off the stage and was running toward us up the aisle. It seems Kasey had found an extra copy of Familiar Ghosts on the bus, and Shane chased us down to give it to me.
We listened to the album on the way home, and fell in love with it immediately. Sonically, it is a continuation of the stripped down, rustic and rootsy sounds found on Rattlin’ Bones. The opening track, “Easy Now,” rolls along over slide and resonator guitars (all instruments on the album were played by Shane), and sets the tone for the rest of what’s to come. Shane shows off his mandolin and banjo skills on the up-tempo “Where the Water Goes,” falls prey to his suspicious nature on the accusatory “Who’s at Your Window,” and shows a dark side on “You and Your Enemy.”
There is nothing shiny about this album. Instead, the songs have an instant familiarity… as though they’ve been around for a while and are nice and broken in. There’s a warmth to these eleven tracks that keeps bringing me back again and again. The album takes the title Familiar Ghosts from a song that didn’t make the record but still seems somehow appropriate given its haunting and comfortable nature.
Familiar Ghosts is not yet available in The United States, but you can purchase it on iTunes, and I highly recommend that you do so. If you enjoyed Rattlin’ Bones, I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t like this one as well.
Shane Nicholson: God & Elvis (Buy Album)
Shane Nicholson: Where the Water Goes (Buy Album)

2 Responses to “Shane Nicholson: Familiar Ghosts”

  1. Great write-up. IMHO, Shane is the better of the two when it comes to songwriting. Indeed, i don;t like Kasey's solo material, whereas I like Shane's.

    I stumbled upon a promo cds of Shane's a few weeks back that has a good Neil Young cover on it. Think i might post it for ya over at the Saloon.

  2. I would like to hear that.

    All I have from Shane right now is this one and Rattlin' Bones. I still haven't heard anything else.

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