From the opening trumpet-and-saxophone volley of Sarah Shannon’s self-titled début (Casa Recording Co.), it is clear that the singer is finished with the basic guitar-drum-and-bass setup of her indie-rock past, when she was the front woman for the introspective pop outfit Velocity Girl.
Here, Shannon (who plays the Knitting Factory this week) has assembled a small orchestra of horns, strings, and woodwinds, and the result is a warm paean to the power of the imagination. The songs cover familiar subjects, mostly love sought and love lost, but the album isn’t a delicate collection of wilting chamber pop. “I’ll Run Away,” which is propelled by the piano work of collaborator Blake Wescott (he produced the album and co-wrote a number of its songs), is a strongly defiant piece reminiscent of Carole King. “What’s Mine” bumps and grinds along on Wescott’s guitar chords, and it includes the staunch chorus “I don’t want to waste your time, but I got a feeling you’ve got what’s mine.”
The best part of the record, though, is Shannon’s wonderful voice, which makes each song a gem.