Andy Shauf The Company House, Halifax NS, January 24

Andy Shauf The Company House, Halifax NS, January 24
Photo: Lindsay Duncan
"Here's a normal song that's not about crazy things," whispered Andy Shauf, following a song he had told the crowd was about the devil. "But it's still depressing. You're gonna love it."
Delivered with a wry deadpan, the line earned a big laugh from the Company House crowd attending the Dead of Winter fest's final night, but it wasn't really a joke. Even when his songwriting shows wit and cleverness, Shauf's material and delivery is drenched with sadness; this is a performer, after all, whose soon-to-be-released album is called The Bearer of Bad News. When at times it risked being too overbearing, Shauf's sense of playfulness came to the rescue. "Here's another dark one," he said, introducing a different song. "Hope you guys had a good day."
Shauf wasn't only an astute judge of his own material: he was also spot-on about how the material would be received. There was a buzz in the room when his solo set was finished, the sort of chatter one hears when a lesser-known, early-evening act delivers one of those impossible-to-ignore performances. His delivery — hunched over the microphone, eyes closed, swaying and wobbling back and forth — made it hard to look away from him. His guitar playing, clean and unadulterated, could flip a switch and go from serene beauty to dark and menacing with a moment's notice. And Shauf's voice, soft and full of ache, at times had me wondering if Elliot Smith's ghost had journeyed from the afterworld to Halifax, with more hurt to share. The cumulative effect made for easily one of the weekend's strongest performances.

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