Album Review: Shawna Caspi – Forest Fire

Shawna Caspi

photo by Roni Hoffman; photo courtesy of Shawna Caspi

The Backstory

I first discovered Shawna Caspi‘s music quite by accident, just in time to catch a live performance in the fall of 2017. This fortuitous discovery and review of an exceptional live performance in a unique setting was, of course, chronicled in a review. Fast-forward to today, when I’m just now getting a chance to review an CD that has graced my car stereo for more than two years. So, let’s jump in, shall we?

Album Review of Shawna Caspi: Forest Fire

Shawna Caspi - Forest Fire

image courtesy of Shawna Caspi

Shawna can be described, most succinctly, as a folk singer. Of course, that’s an incomplete description. There’s a lot of picky, plucky, upbeat guitar, a sweet, surprisingly powerful voice, a matter-of-fact, old-school folky delivery, and well-written songs that paint a picture and tell a story. But yeah, she’s exactly the sort of artist you’d expect to find headlining a folk festival. And yikes, she bursts with talent; you’d be excited to spot Shawna’s name on the marquee as any event’s headliner.

Forest Fire opens with “Love in a Moving Van,” exactly with one of those plucky guitar rhythms you’d expect. Cheerful, vagabondish… this CD has you smiling right out of the gate. She follows it with the engaging story-song “Devil’s Rolling Pin,” a tune that delivers a rich music bed and emotive vocals, driven by rolling rhythmic musical motor. One of my faves from day one, from the first time I heard it delivered live during her WICN studio performance. (Yes, the one I wrote about.)

Shawna Caspi

photo by Ian Sinclair; photo courtesy of Shawna Caspi

A mood change is next, to the dark, somewhat haunting version of Lynn Miles’ “Brave Parade.” Slow, brooding, quietly defiant, and full of inner strength. All this, of course, established by the quiet guitar plucking and serious, sweetly strong vocal line, hinting at that intersection between traditional country-folk and modern singer-songwriter vocals. “Never Enough” follows with lyrics that reside in the same neighborhood as “Brave Parade” but with a more uptempo, determined focus and a hint of a haunting Chris Isaak-esque edge striking a peppy, uncomfortable balance.

“Oleaster,” next, is a catchy, memorable, smoothly flowing song that strikes a hopeful tone, leading up to “Numbers Game,” with its ominous overtone. Then the cheery “Take This Mountain,” a very folky tribute to finding homespun happiness as a metaphor for navigating life.

Next up, Shawna adds her signature to the swaying country music dancehall standard “Tennessee Waltz.” Her sweet, precise vocal phrasing brands Shawna’s rendition of this oft-recorded classic her own.

Shawna Caspi

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Following is “The Love I Know,” a soft, flowing number without a happy ending, a song whose tones and tune are a fitting album-ender.

Of course, if Shawna’s dulcet tones on “The Love I Know” do send you off to dreamland, you’ll be awakened by “My Baby Can Fix a Bike,” if you’re lucky enough to have a disc that contains this bonus track. With all the angst and inner turmoil elsewhere on this album, it provides a nice, cheerful, lighthearted “alternate ending.”

Beginning to end, this CD has been a joy to have in my car, as one of the handful of discs rotating through my CD player, accompanying me on my commutes and adventures for far too long, though not, of course, during the last three months. An elite talent on the folk scene, Shawna Caspi is someone you absolutely should check out, if you aren’t already familiar with her voice and music.

Looking Ahead

Shawna is working on her next disc, and I’m looking forward to it.

Also, you can keep an eye on Shawna’s performance schedule at the “Gigs” page of her website. Tonight, Monday, June 8th, at 8:00 PM EDT, she performs online on a Club Passim Live stream, her COVID-cancelled concert here at Boston’s iconic Club Passim restructured as a more socially distanced live stream. She has two other online shows currently on the calendar. On Monday, June 22nd, at 7:00 PM EDT, she’ll perform at the Philadelphia Folksong Society’s Digital Concert Venue. And on Sunday, July 12th, at 7:00 PM EDT, Shauna will be performing her scheduled Flying Cat House Concerts showed, originally scheduled for that Indianapolis venue, online via Facebook live stream. Details and links for all of these online shows are on the gigs page at her website.