Album Review: RF Shannon – Hunting Songs (Pop Press Pick)

rf_shannon_hunting_songsRF Shannon must’ve been born at some pre-dawn hour—those long, slow hours where minutes tick away like lingering drips from a leaky faucet. The Texas air is thick and humid. The roar of an earlier conversation has dwindled to a whiskey soaked murmur, still rambling on with the utmost truth and sincerity, even in all its muddled slurs. These are moments that transcend human language; communication works invisibly through some secret medium. And on the horizon—that barely visible, soft and warm yellow glow creeping up into the midnight blue—the afterbirth of RF Shannon.

RF Shannon’s debut album Hunting Songs, out now on Punctum Records, is a lot like the light, and the dark for that matter. These fundamental components of our world might be interrupted or temporarily dispelled, but neither can ever be dismantled or destroyed. Both are unified, imparsable, and neither can exist without the other. We need the darkness to give depth to the light, and we need the light to illuminate shape within the darkness.

At the onset of Hunting Games’ first track “Egyptian White Musk,” an organ swell gives way to muted, watery guitar notes. The excellent production, courtesy of Estuary Recording Studio’s Michael Landon, is dense and murky. Pedal steel floats gently in the background of the mix. We are swimming down toward some underwater cave. And when the chorus arrives, we surface inside a hidden cavern. Sunlight streams in through a crack high in the ceiling—a voice, “Shine some light on me,” sings Shane Renfro in his earthy croon.

“Summer Hooks,” the collection’s most upbeat track, follows with twinkling, country-surf guitar notes. On “All Black,” Renfro comes right out and tells us, “I need the dark,” he intones near the song’s beginning, hymn-like, almost a cappella, before the song builds to a frenzied, cacophonous, pedal-steel driven experimental state. The record’s second side yields “Twin Flame,” aptly titled, considering with tribal-esque tom work, flickering guitars, and ghostly vocals. The song, like fire, burns with clarity but still possesses ephemerality. Still, “Twin Flame” might be the most accessible and direct cut on Hunting Songs.

The album closes with the epic and plodding “Hood Vibrations.” This is that weary, after-midnight conversation that stretches on and on. A sprawling epilogue, it incorporates many of the features from the preceding songs—lazy, shimmery guitar notes, shadowy riffs, watery production, steady percussive grooves, and an ocean of atmospheric noise. To be sure, this album is a diverse amalgam of styles and sounds: folk, Americana, R&B, blues, experimental pop. It’s one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

Here, in around 500 words, I’ve likened RF Shannon’s Hunting Songs to water, fire, light, darkness, the earth. Truly, there’s something pure, something elemental about RF Shannon’s songs. They feel at once familiar. As soon as you’ve experienced them, you’re already old friends. This is the kind of music that is itself a companion; there’s a glow on the horizon, and we’ve been up all night.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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