Twenty years after taking her first steps recording vocals for Sella, a high school band from Jacksonville, FL, and twelve years succeeding the launch of a solo career with Teen-Beat Records, Tracy Shedd has delivered the most honest, forthright, and insightful album of her career. Arizona, Shedd’s debut with New Granada Records and fifth full-length recording, presents the slowcore songstress with guitarist, James Tritten, as an acoustic duet. As Shedd reports in the opening lines, Arizona is a walk “down memory lane” and “may take you by surprise,” but leaves you with a yearning to be “near the ones (you) love.” Tracy’s competence displays a wisdom far beyond her years, and is evidence to her growing popularity as an American songwriter.
Stripped of all things percussive, distorted, and nearly anything digital, Arizona is a first for the multi-instrumentalist on many accounts. Most notably, Shedd herself is the cover star; photographed by Emily Wilder, who was also responsible for Blue (Teen-Beat 312) and Cigarettes & Smoke Machines (Teen-Beat 442). Arizona is Shedd’s acoustic premiere, something fans have desired for years. The husband/wife duet not only delivered unplugged, they left the guitar picks at home and plucked away with bare hands for added simplicity. The album offers Shedd’s interpretations of work by two of her favorite artists for the first time on a full-length album (“Candy” by The Magnetic Fields and “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth) displaying her keen sense of respect and ability to maturely employ such masterpieces.
Until now, Shedd has always managed her own vocal harmonies. Arizona features guest vocalists Ivan Howard (The Rosebuds), Denison Witmer, Naïm Amor, and Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) who had a recording session with Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) the same day he went to record with Shedd.
Arizona is introduced with melancholy and deliberation, reminiscent of her 2001 Teen-Beat release, Blue; declaring Tracy Shedd as the female Mark Kozelek and indie rock’s Sade. We learn from Shedd that her favorite songs are heartfelt, and her favorite words are truthful, as she transcends juvenescence to savoir-vivre.
A new leaf is turned with the song “Ninety-Five to Ten.” The tempo gets turned up a bit with a little pep in her step, and glisten in her voice. “Broken Arrows” and “All the Little Things” make up the doubleheader, both comprised of male vocal accompaniment grand-slams. With a full backing band, Big Muffs, and Shedd’s classic red Fender Tele, “Million Pictures” would have fit right in on Louder Than You Can Hear (Devil In The Woods) or Cigarettes & Smoke Machines; it’s quite possibly the fastest song on the album. However, Shedd conveys this acoustic lil’ rocker with such poise, you are simply left with a smirk, happy to know she hasn’t lost her punk. Speaking of racketeers, the crème de la crème of Arizona is her rendition of Sonic Youth’s “Teenage Riot.” Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) blends his whiskey with Shedd’s sweet vermouth for her homage to the Manhatten idols. Additionally, Gelb adds his ivory signature, while Chris Schultz gives a Grandaddy-esq style of Omnichord sprinkled throughout. It is the most sui generis for Arizona, but quite possibly has the greatest importance. Sonic Youth has had the largest influence on Shedd, and “Teenage Riot” represents the epitome of her own recollections. Besides, how can you go wrong with a song about J Mascis being president?
Arizona is a true album, documenting Tracy Shedd’s own experiences of life in Tucson, AZ. Like your family’s own photo album that gives proof you were once carefree in your Underoos, and brings back that first love through prom photos. It recalls a time of growth for Shedd in The Old Pueblo, with many life-lessons. Arizona is Shedd’s gift to us: her consciousness, her principles, her judgment, and her understanding of life.