Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles – “Itching Around” (Stereogum Premiere)

Acoustic and folk-leaning records never fully fell out of style, but it’s impossible to talk about the genre’s renewed prominence without acknowledging the role women have played in that renewal. It seems unlikely that folk would be faring as well as it is in the mainstream without artists like Sharon Van Etten, Laura Marling, Angel Olsen, and Jessica Pratt. It’s time to add La Luz frontwoman Shana Cleveland to that list. Her debut solo album Oh Man, Cover The Ground mostly dwells in the kind of conversational, meandering mellowness that made Kurt Vile a beloved figure. Today we’re premiering “Itching Around,” a song that sounds more like it was recorded in a pasture full of lowing cattle than in a Seattle basement. Oh Man, Cover The Ground is Cleveland’s solo debut with her band the Sandcastles — she’s better known so far for fronting Seattle surf noir quartet La Luz — but her transition into this imprecise, shuffling folk feels seamless. The trick of a song like “Itching Around” is it manages to feel aimless, tossed off almost, a study in the open air feel of improvisation. Except, it revolves with far too much elegance to truly be improvised. Cleveland said that she first adopted this style of playing as a cure for loneliness in Los Angeles before she moved to the Northwest:

I’m really into meandering, fingerpicked open-tuned acoustic guitar, like John Fahey and Robbie Basho. I started playing guitar in that style during a year right before I moved to Seattle when I was lonely and bummed out in the San Fernando Valley and found solace in spending long afternoons fingerpicking slow moving improvisations.

If you’re looking for solace yourself, look no further. Listen below.

Oh Man, Cover The Ground is out 5/26 via Suicide Squeeze. Pre-order it here.