Short Hand – Good Enough

Short Hand
Good Enough

Shorthand P. Davis is a painter and poet from Muncie, Indiana, who also makes music under the simplified moniker “Short Hand.” His album Good Enough is a wholly do-it-yourself recording on a 4-track cassette recorder with just a couple instruments. I generally love DIY albums because they tend to put the musician in such a raw element – with minimal production values that can often cloud the heart of the music. Short Hand’s Good Enough is a great example of just how perfectly imperfect a home-grown recording can be.

Short Hand’s sound lays somewhere in folk and blues territory, but there’s something a bit different going on as well. This guy isn’t just some coffeehouse crooner with a guitar – he’s nostalgic and modern as well as minimalist and complex, and he has a unique voice that is sometimes gravelly and sometimes slight. While many of Short Hand’s songs feature just vocals and guitar, he also employs what sounds like a toy piano or keyboard with some programmed, tinny percussion that give the music some extra texture. Despite the spare, modest approach of Good Enough, Short Hand’s songs are sharp and have quite a bit of bite.

The disc opens with the title track, a jangly number with simple guitar laid over keyboards. Here we are introduced to Short Hand’s distinctive way with words like the first two lines of the song: “I’m a wake that leaves a boat, dear. I’m a thing that floats.” “Best of the Swing Years,” with the exception of the lyrics, sounds as though it were directly imported through the cosmos from another time and place. Short Hand’s acoustic guitar is paired with harmonica and keyboards for a soft frolic of a song with an infectious chorus.

Short Hand sings sweetly of marriage on “Number One” regardless of “yards and yards of minor scars” and bemoans the heartbreak of infidelity on “A Two-Part Word” just as effortlessly. This range of emotions is continued on the poignant “Smuggled Love” (“The things I couldn’t say are a thin box of nails”) and the hopeful “Everybody Know” (“Is your body made of miracles, is your body made of light?”).

Although do-it-yourself recordings don’t appeal to everyone, Short Hand is so endearing that it’s hard to put this disc down. Off-kilter folk fans with a taste for unusual approaches to making music will find a lot to like scattered among this musician’s minimalist approach, especially in relation to the lyrics. At just under 40 minutes long, Good Enough is a solid introduction that will leave you wondering what’s next for Short Hand.