Among the twisting byways, twee villages and artistic enclaves of Western Massachusetts there is a late 19th Century Queen Anne home whose owner jokes that the basement is the warmest part of the house because of its unique insulation system. The walls are lined with boxes of two-inch master tapes, cassettes, CDs and 45s—over thirty years of his recorded projects. It’s music you should have heard, loved, and…(gasp)… even purchased but were somehow denied the opportunity?
Rees Shad, the creative responsible for all this material has nearly 30 records in his discography. His latest project, a powerful upcoming release titled One Glass at a Time is going to finally bring the man and his music to your attention.
After a self-imposed hiatus from the music business which kept him off the music industry grid (but never far from a recording studio) for the last twenty years, Shad is again playing live and writing some of the best songs of his career. Those who know his catalog have come to refer to him as a wordsmith and a songwriter’s songwriter. Graham Parker has remarked that “a rare class inhabits the man’s songwriting that’s rarely found today.” The Dallas Observer declared his writing style unique - “it's that personal, that complete, and that well done.” The Boston Herald described his songs as “literate and moving.”
Meanwhile back in that Massachusetts basement, there’s an awful lot more to take in. Along with benches of woodworking tools and an array of musical instruments in various stages of construction or repair are several boxes of academic degrees and awards all holding up shipping crates filled with interactive multimedia and installation pieces that Shad has created and displayed at various art galleries.
The whole house is a reflection of the mind that inhabits it. A wide range of books, Mark (Twain) to Stephen (King), objets d’art, recorded music from Edison cylinders and wire recordings to shelves groaning from the weight of CDs and Vinyl LPs, antique furniture and musical instruments, and collections of artifacts from the man’s many interests provide opportunities for a constant flow of narrative.
Every artifact holds a story… and many of them might even be true.
No jumbled piles exist here, there is a neat and orderly flow to the bustle - Shad has an idea of where everything fits and how each object’s story might overlap and intertwine with another’s…. which reflects his approach to creating his songs and albums.
Shad is a master of short story songs whose characters interact and reoccur in eloquent musical vignettes where each song adds to a wide-ranging and meaningful narrative with each successive album. His songs are “evocative” (BC Magazine) and “enthralling” (Stereo Review) but when combined they often come to tell a more wide-ranging narrative that is “unexpectedly literate and moving” (Boston Herald). He has proven to be a proficient documentarian of the human experience…and the story keeps getting better.
Off the road since the early aughts, Shad’s recent return to the stage finds him exploring a more improvisational approach to performing his meticulously crafted narratives. This has resulted in performances akin to the freedoms found in live jazz. With his latest album, One Glass at a Time, he’s brought this energy to the studio and struck a fresh vein of meaning and melody, of a flourishing, reflective future built upon the lessons and loves of the recent past. His new songs possess irresistible melodies imbued with a style & wisdom not found anywhere else in contemporary music.
“It's all about the storytelling for me,” says Shad. “Taken incrementally, the stories from One Glass at a Time are crafted to resonate and intensify as the lyrics and melodies sink in. The listening process should be interactive. I’m hoping to help lay the crumbs that they will want to follow… striving to light up listeners’ imaginations.”
A native of Manhattan who used his father’s Dictaphone to record his first song at the age of four, Shad grew up absorbing New York’s downtown music scene from Gerde’s Folk City to CBGB’s, ingesting the urban world, its inherent rhythms and human electricity. Years working as a sideman, with a variety of bands, helped Shad to sharpen his instincts as both a creator and a performer before moving to Northern New York State to immerse himself in rural culture, build a recording studio and start making music in earnest. From his debut album Walls (1993) to The Watcher (2019), and continuing through songs like “The Mrs & Me” (from The Riggley Road Stories, 1997) and “Esmé” (from Half a World Away, 2014) Shad has proven to be a serial iterator. He has happily and determinedly reinvented himself every decade or so as his vision and craft have evolved from solo acoustic singer-songwriter to electronic musician (5 albums as Fester Spunk) through comedic rocker (another 7 albums with the troupe Scheissfinger) all now distilled into this insightful craftsman.
In addition to his musical iterations over the years, he has two master’s degrees under his belt, (Technical Communication, and Design & Technology) and he recently began pursuing his PhD in Educational Policy & Leadership. He spent close to twenty years working in higher education where he established The City University of New York’s first program in Game Design (he also authored the game design textbook Einstein & the Honeybee and has designed a number of board games). He’s an avid woodworker and while writing his dissertation has also been studying the art of luthiery (making and repairing stringed instruments). “I’m always creating something…curricula, games, recording studios, renovating old houses…
There’s an open house going on - From the insulated basement to the attic recording studio, and we urge you to pay the man a visit and share a glass of stories. We guarantee that you won’t regret a single sip.