I’ve long been a fan of La Luz’ surf-soaked garage pop, and that’s in large part to the contributions to guitarist/singer Shana Cleveland. As she’s built up a body of work apart from the group, first with the Sandcastles and now standing alone with the imminent release of Night of the Worm Moon, she’s proving to be a nuanced and nimble songwriter capable of shaking off the both the garage and surf tags to explore waters well beyond her original launching grounds. I implored Shana to pick out a record for the Hidden Gems series that she though was a true hidden gem, lost to the ages and slipping between the cracks of culture. She’s chosen Norton’s roundup of Charlie Feather’s acoustic obscurities. Check out what brought this record into her life and what impact its had on her personally and artistically.
Regarding the record’s entry into her view, Cleveland recalls, “I first heard this record at an old friend’s house, early in the morning while breakfast was cooking. Charlie Feathers is probably best known as an originator of rockabilly – a happily unsubtle genre – and I don’t know the story of how Norton came to release this record but it seems so unlikely that these recordings ever saw the light of day. Three of the album’s tracks are just Charlie trying out different ways of playing the same song. At times it sounds like he’s half-mumbling to himself and on the next track he’s howling into an abyss. There’s a spooky intimacy going on here that is really special.”
Diving in further, she explains, ‘On “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” Charlie switches between a bluesy yell and sort of John-Wayne-whisper while pleading (With God? With himself?) that he doesn’t “cross over” which in the context of the song seems meant to refer to cheating on his woman, but his schizo delivery makes it feel more like he’s talking about leaving this earthly realm. The preceding track, “Johnny Come Listen” is a sweet little duet about the apocalypse. I’ve always been a sucker for a record that let’s you feel close to it right away, like a good live recording, and this whole album feels like you’re a fly on the wall while Charlie’s trying out different ideas and even different singing voices.”
Naturally I asked if Charlie’s experimentation had an impact on her own writing. She admits, “As a songwriter I feel like records this loose are a real gift, you get to see the coal and the diamond and it’s a reminder that even great songs start as these weird private moments. Listening to Tip Top Daddy always makes me want to go pick up my guitar and write a song. It’s also a great record to eat breakfast to. Not sure where this comes from but I always want to hear country music while I eat breakfast.”
The collection’s, thankfully, still available from the source. Norton’s not only keeping Feathers’ collection fresh, but while you’re there sift through their collection of other rockabilly and garage gems. You’re not finished until there’s an Equerita or Hasil Adkins cut in the cart too. Plus, they redid that Real Kids record with the original cover for the 40th anniversary, so we can all rest easy. Before that, though, its recommended that you check Shana’s latest solo record – an intimate collection in its own right, slipping on the veil of midnight and walking in the shadows of the soul. Hit up Hardly Art and score a copy now.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.