Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., June 23, 2006
Shadow Figure (Minor Productions/I Eat Records)
Like the melancholy musings of an armchair philosopher who likes to sleep in, Shadow Figure is a homey, laid-back life lesson that reveals its wisened charms at a refreshingly unhurried pace. Paul Minor's decades of musical-man-about-Austindom provide plenty of songwriting grist along with an acoustic ensemble of backing players like Li'l Cap'n Travis bassist Jeff Johnston and Damnations drummer Conrad Choucroun. Opening salvo "Made to be Broken" begins with an acoustic guitar and gradually slides into congruence as Minor tries on a Dylan-esque intonation over stiff-upper-lip turns of phrase like "St. Peter's guest list has me minus one." "Every Star Has a Shadow" and "Three on a March" tap languid Seventies country-folk, respectively heightening the bittersweet resignation quotient with harrowing musical saw accents and delicate, Jerry Garcia-style vocals. By contrast, Minor's tongue-in-cheek "Tulips Two-Step" almost succeeds at turning one of the world's oldest ribald puns into something your grandparents could dance to. The catchiest Shadow Figure of them all has to be "Ordinary Gurls," which pitches quirky, pop-flavored woo in the direction of laptop-lugging ladies of the coffeehouse. As Minor's jaunty version of "Lost Highway" heads over the horizon, the album's warm hootenanny glow fades just as gradually as it appeared.