Shannon Halbrook – Benedict Arnold

Shannon Halbrook
Benedict Arnold

Anyone with a true do-it-yourself mentality automatically gets major respect in my book. Anything from music to arts and crafts gets my stamp of approval regardless of whether the end result is good or bad simply because these are the people out there who are the ones giving it their all in the name of what they are driven to do because they can’t imagine doing anything else.
Shannon Halbrook seems to be one of those people. A handwritten note accompanies the burned copy of his album. It’s a simple set-up that’s absolutely stark compared to some of the obtrusive discs that I’ve seen, but I know just from looking at this that Shannon isn’t hoping flashy cover art will get his album noticed because he already knows this isn’t about anything other than the music contained within the package.
Shannon Halbrook is a solo artist whose music seems to completely fit his moods, and as such the styles change from track to track. He plays guitar and banjo, and a number of the songs are backed by his synthesizer. Each of the 11 tracks – as you would expect from an album like this – are about as lo-fi as they could get, but the recording quality is surprisingly good. There are still plenty of raw moments, but it’s not as though you are faced with the pops and hisses that tend to accompany a bad recording.
The songs are across the board musically, moving from threadbare ditties to western ballads and more upbeat lounge style tunes. Shannon spans genres enough that the album lacks some of the cohesion it could have with just a touch more focus. However, there are some really great songs here – from the jangly opener “The Badger” to great banjo on “Sober on a City Saturday Night.” My favorite track is easily “Two Hundred Miles Underground” for its pretty guitar work and because it’s a great road-trip type song.
Benedict Arnold isn’t the best album I’ve heard lately, but it is one of the most honest. I think Shannon Halbrook is at his finest when he keeps it simple – uncomplicated rhythms, normal singing voice (as opposed to the falsetto he employs in bits and pieces throughout), and true storytelling approach to his lyrics. This album provides an interesting listen, and fans of more obscure indie pop and country should find a lot to like here.