Despite her Georgia accent and an acknowledged Dolly Parton fixation, Sue Garnerís work ó with the Shams, Fish & Roses, and Run On, as well as solo ó has always escaped "alterna-country" pigeonholing, and Shadyside is no exception. "These Old Walls" and "Itís Gonna Be," with their themes of comfort and memory, hew to traditional song structures, and other cuts are built from folksy melodic fragments. But Garner and co-producer JD Foster always make room for some genre-busting element: bass clarinet, accordion, husband/frequent bandmate Rick Brownís unconventional drum patterns, or a hovering haze of digital effects.
Marc Ribot, Jim OíRourke, and Yo La Tengoís James McNew are also on hand, but the discís unsettling air isnít a matter of arty sidemen deconstructing an essentially conventional vision, as Garnerís skeletal acoustic reading of Michael Hurleyís "Painting Designs" makes clear. Biggest surprise: "Beach," an excursion into the percussive undergrowth à la Naked-era Talking Heads. If thereís a flaw here, itís that some evocative lyrics by both Garner and several non-performing contributors are lost between the singerís sultry delivery and the frequently dense arrangements. This aside, Shadyside joins earthy songcraft to high-tech artifice more colorfully than anything the overhyped likes of Beth Orton have yet stitched together.