Richard Shindell

Concert Reviews

New York Times (June 3, 1996)

Richard Shindell mentioned that he was a seminary dropout during his set on Thursday night at the Fast Folk Cafe, and it showed in songs from his most recent album, "Blue Divide" (Shanachie).

It wasn't just the one in which Mary Magdalene laments, "Jesus loved me, this I know," and worries that "the tenderness I shared with Him became a heresy." Mr. Shindell writes about characters facing moral decisions: a teen-age Civil War soldier who flees, an illegal alien under interrogation, a married man yearning for a woman he once kissed.

Often, he tells their stories obliquely, expecting listeners to add up details that reveal the hints of trouble. Mr. Shindell is a lapidary craftsman, matching pared-down imagery to forthright melodies. With quiet assurance, he finds new ways to portray familiar situations, from breakups to the loneliness of the long-distance trucker.

Mr. Shindell has been building a following on the solo-folkie circuit through the 1990's; one of his songs, "Nora," has been championed by Dar Williams. But he performs his own songs with grace and suspense. As he picks and strums intricate guitar parts, he sings with a concentration that reveals the tension behind his lyrics.

At times, his voice recalls James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot or Michael Stipe; he stretches words as if he's thinking hard about what they represent. The tone is reflective, but the dilemmas and disappointments couldn't be more vivid.

by Jon Pareles

updated: 12 years ago