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Jonathan David Shaw – Waa

Jonathan David Shaw is an acoustic-based singer-songwriter from Melbourne. He is also the singer with Summon The Birds, again Melbourne-based and part of the Hidden Shoal family of artists. JDS differs somewhat from his parent band’s more progressive leanings. Waa, this first ‘solo’ venture, is far more in the vein of classic Brit folk à la Nick Drake. The album has been a labour of love for Shaw, a passion project that has spent a good while in the planning phase only to come together somewhat rapidly in recent months.

Waa is, in fact, a concept album about listening, being in touch with nature and passing on wisdom between generations (I have insider intel!). The music itself is remarkably solid. Although plenty of Nick Drake tropes can be found (open tuning, picky playing styles and discordant vocals), the album is fresh and varied enough to imprint plenty of Shaw’s own style and personality. I was pleasantly surprised. Too often, records like these are fine but just somewhat generic – despite the obvious talent involved. Waa more than passes muster as an entity in its own right and exceeds a good deal of records sent my way by specialist folk labels. As is often the case, the vocals play their part in bringing the album not only to life, but adding character in abundance. Shaw’s delivery borders on I Am Kloot territory at times…approximating John Bramwell‘s gnarly rasp. He is aided and abetted on the album by Marlene Catulong Samson‘s more fragile renderings. It’s a good contrast which keeps the record interesting.

Overall Waa is an album that feels passionate, honest and authentic. Its sentiment at times approaches Sun Kil Moon-levels of rawness. Though it may have taken JDS a while to get around to this solo venture I rather hope he has another in him.

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