Shantell Ogden is a Nashville based singer-songwriter who has steadily built a reputation as an artist of real note amongst Americana/Country aficionados. Her last album (her third release) ‘Better At Goodbye’ earned glowing reviews and was awarded at the 2014 IMEA Awards with Americana Album of the Year. Determined to share her music with as many people as possible, Shantell has applied the same work ethic developed whilst growing up on a farm to her craft of writing & performing songs. Last month saw the release of her new album, ‘Ghosts In The Field’, which offers up a musical bumper crop.
Title track ‘Ghosts In The Field’ sets the bar high for the record, a gloriously reflective track affirming the need to regain perspective on life by returning home for a whimsical trip down memory lane. The most mainstream sounding cut on the album, with its atmospheric piano chords & electric guitar bed, it manages to retain a homespun charm thanks to the idyllic images its lyrics expertly convey. More traditional sounding is the waltz-like ‘Who Comes First’, which finds the singer competing with the bottle for the affections of her partner. ‘If you reach for me when you’re hurting, I’ll be your glass of top shelf bourbon‘ Shantell promises in vain, the resignation in her vocals hinting she knows that the battle may well have already been lost.
The playful ‘Just A Little’ and its sweet tale of falling in love, has a subtle Tex-Mex flavour lending it a memorable sound. The joy in the lyrics come across delightfully in Shantell’s vocals, evoking memories of Nanci Griffith or Mary Chapin Carpenter in their lighter moments. Brooding ballad ‘Be My Rain’ was co-written with fellow singer Judy Rodman who also features on a track which proves to be a powerful centrepiece of the album. With its sombre electric guitar chords and sympathetic mandolin licks setting the mood, Shantell delivers a compelling performance.
A tale of overcoming adversity is adorably recited in the gorgeous ‘Blossom In The Dust’, a lighter acoustic sound enhancing the floating agility of the track and its free-flowing lyrics. Banjo, mandolin and Ogden’s effortless vocals combine to heart-warming effect, earning the song countless repeat plays. Current single ‘God Counts Every Tear’ explores the most desperate moments in life, reassuring us that we are never alone. Cleverly avoiding getting bogged down in cliché or the weight of its worthy message, the slow-burn track packs just the right emotional punch.
‘As Long As You’re Mine’ proves to be a fabulous surprise on the album, adopting a laidback bluesy groove to its musical make-up, fully embraced by Shantell who shows that she can deliver more than a little attitude when needed. Cutting loose in her description of a woman defiantly refusing to allow life’s pitfalls affect her, as long she has her man…a lucky man by the sounds of it. The strong gospel choir style background vocals as the song reaches its pleasing climax serve to add even more impact to one of the finest entries on the album. ‘The Other Woman’ is the most traditionally constructed Country track here, in both its structure and theme. Featuring only the singer and an acoustic guitar, the pain in the lyrics are palpable and receive the perfect balance of sadness & restraint in Ogden’s performance.
For those unfamiliar with Shantell Ogden and her music, ‘Ghosts In The Field’ acts as an excellent introduction. Having co-written six of the eight tracks Ogden displays a knack for adding a unique & fresh insight to familiar themes, and painting remarkably vivid pictures with her lyrics. As a singer she possesses a warm, absorbing voice which is incredibly easy on the ear whilst captivating at the same time. There is a strong theme of family, values and home peppered throughout the album, in an increasingly cynical world ‘Ghosts In The Field’ becomes an even more welcoming musical place to get lost in.