Like the name of her stage band indicates, Shannon Stephens has a knack for making Fabulous Friends. She spent the '90s in Michigan working and writing alongside multi-instumentalist/weirdo-mystic Sufjan Stevens, moved to Seattle and released a solo debut album on Stevens' label Asmathic Kitty in 1999, then took some time off to start a family.
Ten years later she released another solo album, The Breadwinner, to critical acclaim that drew attention to her previous works, and found Bonnie Prince Billy covering her song "I'll Be Glad" on his own album.
Fast forward one more decade and Shannon has rounded up some of Seattle's finest Americana musicians for work on her latest project, Pull It Together. With some production assistance from Grammy Award-winning engineer Kory Kruckenberg, who has worked on albums for The Maldives, J. Tillman, and Pickwick, they called in all their favors and favorite musicians from the Midwest to the Northwest (guys like Mark Lanegan's guitarist Jeff Fielder and Pickwicks' own Galen Disston) for this effort. She recorded and released her third, and best album Pull It Together in May of this year. Never one to show without a cast of Fabulous Friends, at her CD release shindig earlier this week at The Sunset, Bonnie "Prince" Billy even joined her onstage for a couple of duets.
Pull It Together is different from her previous works, and sees Shannon at the top of her game, with sharp vocal talent to back her happy bluegrass/country jams about sad things. Her stage band the Fabulous Friends don't slouch, either. Check out guitar god/KEXP studio engineer Julian Martlew's electric soul and drummer Andrew Rudd's (Aqueduct, Pablo Trucker) commanding march over the tune "Care Of You" from the new album.
Most impressive of all though, is Stephens' confident voice, her focused delivery, belting her wry observations from the level vantage point of a patient, seasoned pro.