|Cover designed by the artist, Shannon Kerner|
All the instruments in Shanimal's 2011 CD, rough & tumble, can be carried onto the stage by the performers. Shanimal is Shannon Kerner, songwriter, vocalist, and kazoo player, and her talented band.
Shanimal's rendition of "St. James Infirmary" features an unlikely combination of portable instruments - including banjo, accordion, and clarinet - and the mourning patron in Old Joe's Barroom is an equally unlikely (up until now) Big Joan McKennedy. In fact, most of the characters are female, from the body stretched out on the table to the girls goin' to the graveyard. The singer wears, in her coffin, not a Stetson but a flapper hat. However, Old Joe remains Old Joe, while at the grave-site the singer asks for "a chorus boy to sing me a song." Shannon sings with deep passionate restraint, clearly communicating the cinematic arc of the song. I detect no percussive instruments - rather, the downward stroke on the guitar gives much of the rhythmic shape, the accordion maintains the pulse, banjo describes filigrees in the background, and the clarinet, often echoing the accordion through the song, takes the first instrumental solo, and a couple of verses later lends support to a tastefully complex acoustic guitar solo. I like this song more with each listening.
This CD rewards the listener. Shannon sparkles, and on "Wedding Song" inhabits two characters, imbuing each with a distinct voice. But this is not a record review. This is about "St. James Infirmary" and here we have another worthwhile contemporary take on a once old song.
To listen (5:50 at 256 kbps) click here: Shanimal's "St. James Infirmary" MP3
(Thank you, Shanimal, for permission to post this.)
ps If you like this song, I really recommend that you purchase the CD. It's a treat.