Kalispell is the folk project of experienced songwriter Shane Leonard. He has collaborated in the past with artists such as Field Report, The Stray Birds, etc. Fans of Appalachian indie music will feel right at home with his new album Printer’s Son. The stringed instruments native of the Blue Ridge Mountain region are in heavy usage, and there is definitely some interesting sound design on the opening number “In Chicago.” “In Chicago” is entirely instrumental, and starts as a drone that gradually adds minimal elements. This piece feels like it could have been something out of a Terry Riley or Steve Reich recording. “In Chicago” is definitely a unique way to begin a folk record, and Shane Leonard gets a hat tip for that. The single “Windfall” relies on natural, organic-sounding production and instrumentation to get its point across. The whole album emphasizes soundscapes and production, abjuring from the traditional model of how folk music should be done. This is one of several elements for which Leonard should be commended.
As many know by now, crowd-funding campaigns have become a major part of independent music and media in general. Printer’s Son is the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $15,000 for the album. The decision to crowd fund an album is a risky one, and it also takes a lot of time and effort. Kudos are in order to Shane Leonard for garnering such heavy support.
It is also necessary to note that before he became a clawhammer banjoist, Shane Leonard aspired to become an English teacher. This is omnipresent in his shrewdly formed stanzas that show mastery over the common language. Although he since has moved on from studying English, Leonard currently teaches music at institutions such as the Exploration School at Yale University, Augusta Heritage Center, among others. His skill on this album proves that he is definitely an authority on the subject.
Yet, this album does have one major downside. Although a very well-constructed record, the album definitely feels very diminutive in terms of running time. Clocking in at 31 minutes, this LP is definitely on the shorter side. By the end of the record, the listener definitely feels the need for more, already ready and hoping for a follow-up.