Most artist bios have glorious descriptions of the act, and you have to take them with a large salt grain. Not that they’re incorrect, but sometimes you have to wonder if you can believe the hype. I got this CD (yay, a CD!) in the mail from Linus Entertainment and just listened to it before reading the accompanying bio. I didn’t want the words to taint my listening experience at all. Turns out, I could have written the bio myself after giving Elizabeth Shepherd’s The Signal (out on September 30, Linus) a thorough listen.

“Eclectic” doesn’t even begin to explain how Ms. Shepherd approaches things. A quote from her bio that I wish I had written:

With ‘The Signal’, Shepherd joins the ranks of an exclusive group of artists committed to uncompromising and playful exploration, unafraid of falling between the genre cracks.

While not every track on the album resonates with me, the majority appeal to my most progressive musical tendencies. Firmly rooted in jazz, she explores funk and soul and challenges the listener to ride along unpredictable musical backroads. One part jazz, one part Sade-pop, one part downtempo, one part soul. It’s always a challenge to describe such a unique artist. So have a listen to some of the new tracks at her website (it’s not yet streaming anywhere embeddable at time of writing this article).

As for my thoughts on the tracks. Lion’s Den is simply fabulous. Mild chords and double-tracked vocals with some mad drumming, it’s as if she wrote the music for me. Lyrically, it’s a powerful indictment of forced marriage and the treatment of women in areas of Africa. Not an artist to shy from tough or controversial topics, she also tackles the murder of Trayvon Martin in Another Day. The one track that didn’t work for me is the title track, The Signal. Again, this is lyrically powerful, and a very intriguing concept, but for me the piece as a “song” doesn’t quite deliver the promise of the other songs. It could just be a little too “arty” for my taste, but it fell a bit flat compared to the other tracks.

If you’re not familar with Elizabeth Shepherd, this (her fourth album) is well worth your time. Existing fans will eat this up as another great record from a powerful and wildly creative artist, but it will also serve as an easy entry-point for her back-catalog.

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