Andy Shauf released his first full length album in 2008 with Darker Days on Hopeless Records, the album was just a hint of what kind of a songwriter he would transform into over the next five years. Darker Days, a strong debut, falls into what you would expect a twenty-something songwriter searching for his bearing to sound like. Based out of Regina, Saskatchewan, he recorded “The Bearer of Bad News” in his parent’s basement beginning in 2008. The vision of Shauf in his parents’ place plugging away at the album is quite fitting. One can vision him in a dim basement with a fireplace, sifting through papers of lyrics piecing together the puzzle which is now, “The Bearer of Bad News.” The eleven track album is comprised of numerous stories that have been floating around the walls of Shauf’s mind, no wonder it took four years for him to nail it all down.
The importance of being able to piece words together and paint color segments of moment through your lyrics and vocals is a difficult task that Shauf takes on like a veteran. He paints these heartbreaking moments in a colorful and poetic light. At points, whether it is sitting in a chair unwinding to his record at home, or take a drive playing it on your car stereo, there are moments of pure awes and inspiration spawning from his ability to write fnatastic songs. He is decidedly dark, while being colorful at the same time, a combination you continually find yourself feeling throughout the album.
“Hometown Hero” is a story about a high school football jockey with a mad addiction to nicotine, and saving the day in unassertive way. Walks on block to the all night station, and steps into a situation, there’s a man with gun pointed at the nervous clerk/ And before he could think/ he was tackling the con-man/ who hit his head and was knocked unconscious/ The clerk relived says ‘oh my god’/ You’re really here, you should stick around till the cops get here/ maybe you’ll make the morning news/ But the hometown hero rosed to his feet/ tossed him the gun and said thanks but I got to run, I’ll take a pack of camel lights and be on my way.
“I’m Not Falling Asleep” is about that night where you lay awake lost in your thoughts, and how often that can be the most dangerous place to be. When I close my eyes/ I am not falling asleep/ I am opening drawers/ I am not sifting through paper. It’s easy to relate to all that is being said in the 2:54 body of the song. Everyone has spent a night tossing and turning about what ifs and over analyzing the littlest events in one their life, and in the middle of the night they tend to feel like there is a thousand pounds weighting them down. At the same point you just wished that someone that loved and cared about you was there to take your worries and sing you to sleep.
“You’re Out Wasting” is a mix of greed, and lust. ‘The bearer of bad news’ explains the choices the main character has to make, how he has to choose money over love; Tell the early morning that I am on my way send to him my greeting for happier holidays/ spent my open eyes on the things I left behind like thirty feet in my hopeful eyes. With regret he decides to go after, but find her with the right guy, but you’re out wasting time, with the right guy.
“Wendell Walker” is another display of his stronger and unique way of telling a story. The story of Wendall and his wife, and her adultery, the song is told in the view point of the man that Wendall’s wife falls in love with. Wendall Walker was a friend of mine/ but he married too young in the summertime/ Their hearts weren’t ripe so they fell apart/ and I found myself with a joyful heart/ As our secret lives began. In the end Wendall, a man of God, takes his own life after taking the his wife’s life. My God, My God/What the hell hath done/ And he reloaded his gun/And he put it in his mouth/ And I stood in the room/ That I created.
Andy Shauf’s “You’re Out Wasting”
“Jerry Was a Clerk” tells the story about four friends that had dreams of wealth, and to get out of town to live with the privileged ones. Jerry is the mastermind and voice of the story Andy Shauf is singing. He explains Jerry’s work, love life, and friendships without a flaw. I know an old farmer that doesn’t trust the bank/ Keeps his money all buried up behind his water tank/ He told me once when he was out of his mind. The four men head to farm to steal the farmer’s money, and start a new life. In the process one of the men is shot and killed by the farmer. Jerry shows his friends the coward they suspected him of being by speeding away in the van to get to get away, he ends the story by saying Boys our time has come, we are going to save ourselves and live among the privileged ones.
“My Dear Helen” is the farmer’s side of the situation, where he shoots and kills one of the guys in Jerry’s crew. The song is full of sorrow about the love of his life, Helen, who has just passed away. The farmer’s thinking after he pulled the trigger, If I aimed a little higher/ if I thought before I fired/ I hope God can forgive me/ I hope you can forgive me too/ I am just a tired old man, just waiting to join you/ So here I am sloshed/ On this only porch swinging/ Thinking about heaven/ Thinking about everything/ So I’ll be waiting by those gates/ You might have to seek me in/ I don’t know how they feel about us accidentally killers. The imagery Shauf uses in the love story of the farmer and Helen is beautiful and moving. Her dancing in the kitchen with their dog, Charlie, as he watches her completely content – one can almost hear the smile in his voice at only the thought of this. Hopefully that farmer is allowed into heaven to spend eternity with Helen sharing raspberry wine.
You could make a film about these two songs, they are a moving photograph, in fact it could almost be a perfect screen play to a Cohen brothers movie. Shauf is modest, he isn’t even aware of the genius that his songwriting brings to the table. Some of his friends weren’t even aware of his song writing. “I’ve always thought it was rude to talk about yourself overly. It’s not that I only want to express myself through music, I just like to write songs.” He explains in email from the road. The interesting thing about Shauf he is shy, but in his songs he is as open as they come. The same goes when he is on stage, he loves to interact with the crowd and get asked questions. After a clarinet solo in the song “Drink My Rivers” at a show he felt light headed “Oh man, I am light headed, I might to sit down. Does anyone have any questions?” It took a minute until the crowd realized that Shauf actually need that moment to collect his head. An audience member yelled “How old are you?” He laughed while pacing on the stage, “25, keep the questions coming.”
There is no need for Shauf to convince you he is a voice worth listening too, bottom line is he is, and his music speaks for itself. You won’t catch him talking about himself over a pint at the bar, in fact you might meet him through a friend or friend and not once will he even drop that he write music. He could easily write novels and short stories along with continuing to compose music.
Written by Danni Bauer
OurVinyl | Contributor
Photo by Stephen Burchill