Shannon LaBrie’s album, “Building,” scheduled for release late September, denotes its name. Each song is based around building as well as discovering inner strength. More than ever Americans are desperately clamoring to find strength as they navigate the repercussions of our ever-worsening pandemic. In these uncertain and extraordinarily difficult times, LaBrie provides hope through every distinct and focused note. She blends various musical styles (country, folk, rock, blues and roots) creating uplifting music that for 25 minutes and 26, glorious seconds, we can escape, finding both solace and drive.
The record’s first track, “Firewalker” grabbed me with its explosive start. LaBrie is almost speaking the lyrics and then her expressive, soulful voice is joined by echoing background singers, their choir-like clapping enhancing the tune’s momentum. Taking in the meaning of the words, I was even more entranced. “I never meant to be tough. To grit my teeth through the rough. To fall and keep getting up. Look what I have become. I am a firewalker. I am a firewalker. I am a firewalker.” That’s me! Sure, I conceal my dark history well, often mistaken as naïve or worse cookie-cutter. I remain unfazed by the judgement and misunderstandings, always determined to muddle through. “Bring on the struggle and sweat. It hasn't broken me yet.” (As I write, I realize how egoistical it sounds to apply LaBrie’s words to myself, even if they are the truth. Yet, isn’t prose the biggest form of ego? I’m presuming you want to read what I have to share.) Regardless of my personal impact, everyone, especially now, needs a song that reminds them how tough they are as well as what they managed to fight through. Mine used to be Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” It’s a good one, but LaBrie’s opener matches where I am now. I’m adopting it as my new go-to as I battle these present trials.
Moving through the album, I immediately hear similarities, both in tone and style, where LaBrie mirrors talented, poetic lyricists like Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Shania Twain and even The Chicks, who recently changed their name to distance themselves from the Confederate South. The title track, “Building” is proper poetry with its multiple meanings. It could be highlighting the fortitude of the right partnership or that with each life experience, we become stronger building on our resiliency. The latter is how LaBrie describes her tune. Obviously, it’s very fitting for our current situations. I, however, took the partnership route, as her voice is sultry, sensual and a bit breathy. I really like “One In A Billion.” It is an empowering lullaby. I can picture mums cradling newborns, softly singing LaBrie’s powerful words. When I was at my very worst, my mum climbed into bed with me as I sobbed uncontrollably. Stroking my hair, she repeated soothing affirmations, which could have been borrowed from LaBrie. “You’re one in a billion. One of a kind. There’s nobody like you. In this grand design. When it gets dark. Please realize. You’re one in a billion. Look at you shine. You’re one in a billion. Look at you shine.” I am overcome by immense gratitude for LaBrie’s celebration of individuality while simultaneously providing necessary accolades. Sadly, people don’t usually recognize or appreciate their worth and right now it is graver the ever with the majority needing to be built up. “You're a diamond in a coal mine. One answered prayer. You’re a nightingale calling. The spring in the air.” The album closes with Tom Petty’s, “It’s Good To Be King.” Obviously, the song also focuses on a form of strength. It’s about continuing to dream, always seeing future possibilities. LaBrie’s bluesy, slowed down but still in the right moments, inflected rendition, bookends the record well.
Even though the hardships are dire with far too many Americans facing stark realities around emotional and financial survival, LaBrie ignites our tenacity. Her crisp, clear sound commands attention forcing listeners to so importantly implement her messaging. She boosts our motivation, instilling unrelenting strength and hope. Don’t give up America.
“Above every storm
A cloudless sky is
Waiting for me and you
And it’s raining hallelujah
It’s raining hallelujah”