Nashville singer-songwriter Shannon LaBrie bares her broken bones with her sophomore album, War & Peace. The album’s 12 moody tracks bleed from the pages of LaBrie’s tear-soaked diary to paint the vivid spectrum of emotions that have colored the singer’s reflective canvas. LaBrie has forged War & Peace through her personal experiences and has now given the world a simple yet gripping soundtrack to her story.
The Americana chanteuse unloads poetic lyrics through a lush, smoky voice to articulate feelings we have all felt but may have lacked the courage to express. The weight of her words bury into the listener’s conscience and stir lingering emotions bubbling below the surface. LaBrie strives to make her audience feel something…anything at all and she achieves that and so much more with War & Peace.
LaBrie sets the tone early and opens War & Peace with howling electric strings on “It’s Political.” The album’s single was released in February and serves as LaBrie’s melodic disdain of current American politics. She slows the tempo and allows her voice to take center stage on “For You” and flexes her vocal range on “Crumble.” However, it’s the belting chorus of “Took My Whole Life” that really gets the listener grooving.
LaBrie unleashes a thunderstorm of emotions on “Heaven Crashed Down,” the album’s most poignant and moving track. The spine-tingling lyrics spike through the listener sending an aftershock of goosebumps as she poetically recalls losing her father. “I’ve never been able to write about him. So that song was groundbreaking for me,” admits LaBrie.
Her fan favorite, “Alcohol,” is another chilling recollection of an unfortunate scenario many of us are all too familiar with. “So many fans have approached me and personally thanked me for writing that song,” claims the singer. LaBrie’s ‘intoxicating’ voice smoothly dances across the dark surface of this beautifully sad chamber ode to provide a surreal narrative.
The mood of War & Peace lightens and at the end we find a lightly-jazzed, rainy day melody of finding tranquility and happiness with “Then There’s You.” With her conclusion, LaBrie reminds us that the universe grants just as much pleasure as pain.
War & Piece is a refreshing dose of openness and sincerity in songwriting. The lyrics are heavy and direct, however, relatable and familiar. LaBrie is a bold songwriter that sings her story with a courageous voice. The melodies remain pleasantly simple mixing electric and acoustic between tracks and layering piano keys over the backdrop of the album. The project never threatens to become too oversaturated with instruments and remains authentic to its singer-songwriter roots. LaBrie capably blends Country and Americana with slight elements of pop and jazz to give the album an authentic sound outside of a standard classification.
The intimate album strikes the listener on an emotional rather than cerebral level. That is not to say the album is not thought-provoking, as certain tracks will undoubtedly pry relatable memories from the listener’s subconscious. However, LaBrie prefers to express how she feels rather than what she thinks and the album should appeal to a much larger audience for this. War & Peace is an enjoyably sincere album that digs into the listener’s gut and delivers one of the most honest listening experiences of 2016.
Written by: Douglas Leach (Douglas@trackrambler.com)