The follow-up to 1994′s Blue Divide, Richard Shindell’s Reunion Hill is understandably overdue, as he took time off after the birth of his daughter to take stock and play a little Mr. Mom. Larry Campbell, multi-instrumentalist on Blue Divide, has been promoted to full-fledged producer while still playing various instruments, and selected harmonies are once again handled by Lucy Kaplansky, while Dave Richards’ thundering bass underpins everything.
Shindell tells great stories with an eye for critical detail while never losing sight of the big picture. This is most evident in his choice of covers: Jesse Colin Young’s “Darkness, Darkness” and Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here in the Morning”. But Shindell shines best when singing his own songs. The obligatory road ode is given a muscular workout on “The Next Best Western”, and he revisits a favorite theme (the Civil War) on the title cut. Elsewhere, Shindell even manages to wring social commentary and an emotional metaphor out of the rain (on “Money for Floods” and “The Weather”). Shindell works a well-worn stretch of singer-songwriter pavement, but his wonderfully spiritual lyrical sense and intimate compositions ultimately distinguish him.