Jeff Shadows is an acoustic finger style guitarist hailing out of Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Jeff plays in a finger-picking style which allows him to play the bass line, the melody and some harmony all at once, so there is no shortage of action during any of the 9 tracks on “Calm Sunrise”. Also because there are a number tracks that include more instrumentation and vocals. These almost always have reggae-based rhythm tones, like “It’s All Up To You” and “Super Star”, not to mention the Bob Marley and the Wailers cover, “Kaya”.
The album notes describe “Calm Sunrise” with the following words – “As the sun rises, its warmth shines and lifts all of our souls. This is the sound of that moment.” However, there are also moments of sunset and other intriguing instants that make up the day, to my mind. The general tone of the album is warm and uplifting, with a variety to the rhythm and tempo that will keep your attention from drifting.
There are a couple of more introspective passages, such as “Seashore of Dreams”, “Destination Unknown” and the truly beautiful “Eagle On The Mountain Top”. Among the brighter moments is “Stars All Over You”. It’s a happy, knocking around kind of song that will cheer you up no matter your mood. All of these tunes however, sound lyrical enough to conjure up images of tales being told.
Jeff Shadows is still an up-and-coming young guitarist, so he is not yet labeled a speed merchant or technical virtuoso as some of his peers may be in this field. However it should be said, that speed is not necessarily the be all and end all of this genre – indeed a monkey can be trained to play guitar fast. It is much more difficult to play slowly with expression and passion, and Jeff has tried to fill this album with those qualities.
The music is heartfelt and very, very lyrical. The songs manage to sound joyous with a hint of an underlying sense of sadness in them. This is especially true of the vocal tracks, which is probably due to Jeff’s gentle vocal timbre and the reverb effect on his voice. The album, on a whole, is an enjoyable example of how to play the guitar simply, with ability, and the capacity to express feeling and purpose.
Jeff Shadows is obviously focusing much more on songwriting as opposed to strictly, ‘technically performing’ on this album, and there are some real gems here. Not only will “Calm Sunrise” hold up to repeat listening, but it will become richer with familiarity.