What shapes a human? Is it the wash of space and time that carves out the soul hidden in the marble, as Michelangelo claimed, or the endless blue of overhead sky, or the crash of an ocean swell caught in the timeless tug and pull of the tides? What once was, no longer is; moments pass before the heart can hear, or the eye reflect. Faces fade, voices echo like the shimmer of an early morning breeze through the trees. Yet something mysteriously remains, impenetrable, yet certain, unseen, yet as visible as the air we breathe. Shane Pendergast’s second album, “Second Wind,” draws mightily on his musical heritage and tradition, to ponder time’s inevitable passage, the loss of loved ones – near and dear, to pay homage to what remains after the rust and rain.
“Nothing that is treasured will remain,” Pendergast intones through his tender poetry on “It Slips Away.” Released previously as the first single from the album, and the only track here recorded at Crabbe Road Productions, it underscores the feelings that ripple throughout the tracks that follow. Dedicated to his friend, Alex Weir Weiss, whose sudden death during these recordings most certainly touched heavily on Pendergast, this stand-out track is only the beginning. What the Prince Edward Island singer-songwriter intends, is to show us how love prevails and hope endures, and in this collection of eleven original compositions, beautifully recorded live at St. Bonaventure’s Church in Tracadie Cross, PEI, Pendergast acts as guide.
Even though Pendergast’s approach to writing and performing is modern and current, there is no mistaking his reverence for the sounds and styles that molded him. Throughout, his voice is pure and clear Canadiana, but it is the interplay between Isaac King’s pedal steel guitar, and the electric guitar work of Josh Langille, that dominates the opening tunes, “Second Wind” and “Cassady’s Hill.” Where the former is filled with the swoop and swirls only the pedal steel can produce, countered by the picking on muted electric guitar strings, the latter gives prominence to the reverb and tonality of electric guitar made famous by many a country artist. At this point in the record, Pendergast seems to shift gears, as both lyrics and melodies centre on the themes he intends to explore.
The aforementioned “It Slips Away” fades into the latest single, “Autumn Rain,” a contemplative number which showcases Pendergast’s gifts to their finest: “Lost souls are swirling round / Wind on the blow / Shaking leaves to the ground / Eyes dead ahead and his collar flipped up / Turned inside when the going gets tough / It’s an autumn rain.” Simple, sure handed finger style guitar accompaniment renders these lyrics introspective and moody, portrait painting at its best. This could be anyone who senses the season’s shift inside as well as out.
A trio of tunes, springing most certainly from the community fun of a kitchen party ceilidh, let salty fresh air into the mix, and reflect on Shane’s 2020 debut outing, “A Place to Name.” It’s not a stretch to say that the ghosts of Stompin’ Tom and Stan Rogers echo on “The Waltz of the Figurehead Maiden,” a cheerful romp, made for more than sitting in a chair. “Fiddle Playin’ Girl” and “Yours to Borrow” are also aimed clearly to keep an audience or friends and family swaying in time.
Two songs really seem destined for folklore repertoires and display all the best characteristics of the genre. “Man With Stories” is the story every son wished he could share. The influences that gave birth to this song are clearly inherent from a tradition that stretches as far into the future as they do the past. “Tired out porches, slumping sadly, father built it, loved it well, used to sit on summer evenings, telling stories to himself / I recall the way he sounded, deep and croaking, slow in pace, wished I had listened better, I cannot recall his tales / For I am not a man with stories, I just read them from a book, my father was a man with stories, of his time spent in the woods.”
In its way, the most steeped in Maritime traditional song writing, “The Song of 52,” solidifies the thoughts that Shane Pendergast wishes to express throughout the album. Based on The Loneliest Whale in the World, an unusual whale that produces a 52hz call (the only one of its kind), Pendergast follows his muse and tells his tale. “He sings for every lonely soul / The voices never heard / The outcasts and the wanderers / For every drowned out word / He cries with those who’ve lost their way / A foothold for the few / The lonesome legend of the sea / They call him 52.” Every story that really touches us has these same amazing qualities, revealing the man standing lonely in the crowd, and the crowd behind, standing inside the man.
Produced by Andrew Murray (Wildcat) and Shane Pendergast, “Second Wind” is available from today across all streaming and digital platforms.
Photo Credit: Brendon Henry