Alex Shelter is a traveling minstrel, and that’s a good thing, because it brings him to Tamarindo from time to time. Originally from Paris, Alex has been spending the past few years playing throughout California and Central America. On the way, he has collaborated with the likes of Camille, Beth Hirsch, Subsonic and Muzak, to name a few. The comfort and familiarity in the recording studio that he garnered with these musical encounters comes through on his new CD, “Free from the Past”, an eleven song introspective, biographical journey that definitely reflects the musical avenues that have influenced him as well. I am pretty sure that I can hear the influences of the music of both Neil Young as well as Fred Neil in Alex’ collection of songs. And he looks a little like a young Eric Clapton on the cover photo.
The album itself was recorded at the New Old Sound Studio in Lyon, France and was produced by Chris Hierro, of Back to Mono Records fame. Alex sings and plays guitar, harmonica and piano on the album, backed by a five piece band comprised of violin, flute, bass, and two percussionists. Additionally, on three of the songs, a string section is used, arranged and conducted by Marie-Jeane Serero, who has also worked with Vangelis.
The CD opens with “Bad Man”, a nice retrospective, confessional intro for the album. The title, “Free from the Past” (which is also a short song on the album) may be a message from Alex that by recording this album he has purged himself of his former life, but the depth of the songs seems to infer that his past will always touch him. “Remind Me to Forget You” is a touching song about a love lost, a parting of ways that also seems to indicate that the past is still very much alive in Shelter’s songs. “I Hate Getting Old” is a harmonic Neil Young inspired song where Alex laments about his memories fading, another reference to the past from which he has freed himself.
One of the most moving songs is “I’ll See You in Heaven”, a tune about reconciliation between Sr. Shelter and his father. In fact, the entire album has a kind of cathartic feel to it, a way for Alex Shelter to confront major hurdles from his past, itemize and deal with them, and then move on with his life. Toward to end of the set, a corner appears to be turned, and songs like “It’s Worth a Try”, “Happiness” and the final “And I Hope” all reflecting a revitalized, optimistic nod to the future.
When he is in town, Alex plays solo weekly at Voodoo Lounge and the Langosta Beach Club. He’s currently on another one of his gypsy tours of South America, Europe and California, but when he returns next month, he will be playing everywhere here again, as usual, probably with a few new songs to play for us. Until then, his CD is available at the Jaime Peligro book store in Tamarindo.