Shannon Stephens Pull It Together

Shannon StephensPull It Together
Coming three years after Stephens' previous full-length album, The Breadwinner, Pull It Together finds the Seattle songstress taking a more rough-hewn approach, with a distinctly bluesy edge. That's helped greatly by the solid band she's assembled, whose individual resumes include contributions to albums by Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, Sufjan Stevens and Laura Viers. Stephens fronts the group with aplomb, with her Joni Mitchell-esque vocals floating through the album's 11 tracks like smoke from a campfire. The natural vibe of Pull It Together is utterly refreshing, with the icing on the cake being "Faces Like Ours," a duet with Will Oldham, who had previously covered Stephens' "I'll Be Glad." "Faces Like Ours" encapsulates the album's theme of economic hardship, and by addressing America's class structure in such a way, it goes far to lift Stephens above the ever-growing crowd of self-obsessed singer-songwriters. (Asthmatic Kitty)