Based out of Louisville, Kentucky, singer/songwriter Joan Shelley's warm and mellifluous voice evokes both the deep south and west coast, drawing from both old-time country and '60s folk. A talented songwriter and prolific performer, Shelley splits her time between solo outings and collaborations with other area musicians. For her eponymous fifth studio LP, Shelley headed up to Chicago to record with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy behind the board. The first single from the record, "Wild Indifference," dropped in March 2017, with the full-length album arriving later that May.
Even there, amid the throes of a life convulsion, there is a wisp of hope and possibility, framed by the way “the dim light change[s] into dawn, rosy blue, pink fawn.” The very heart of Dawnbreaker is not the impending breakup that inspired many of its songs but the sense of liberation and breaking out that the breakup inspired. Buoyed by the insistent patter of a drum machine and rich acoustic guitars, Sauser-Monnig finds herself in search of new thrills during “Gem,” whether pondering the fleeting nature of existence at a waterfall’s edge or watching the shapes of mountains seemingly dance beneath her headlights. The muted, harmonica-lined boogie of “Sun” begins with a vulnerable confession, a revelation of loneliness; it is, however, a low-key anthem for the open road, about giving oneself over to the infinity of solitude and an endless strip of asphalt. Sauser-Monnig captures these scenes with a painter’s eye and delivers them with a novelist’s heart.