PressI'm Into Now - Review by Dan MacIntosh
Shoebox Letters may still be a new name to some, but this quartet’s members have notable resumes. Vocalist and songwriter, Dennis Winslow, is a former Nashville songsmith who has placed some of his songs in Hollywood movies. Bassist David Stricker co-founded Kung-Fu Bakery Recording Studio, where acts like The Decemberists and Pink Martini have recorded. Guitarist Greg Paul has lent his skills to the bands of both Amy Farris and Deborah Iyall. Lastly, vocalist, Stephanie adds a feminine element to the act. Based in Vancouver, Shoebox Letters nicely muddles the line between folk and country music with I’m Into Now.
During its best moments, Shoebox Letters draws comparisons to Lady Antebellum, another act that smartly mixes male and female vocals. During the brooding “Last Night’s Lie,” Cox plays Hillary Scott role, to Winslow’s Charles Kelley. The album’s best song is “I Drink For Two,” which finds its character having a lonely drink of rum while mourning the death of a romance. No amount of alcohol, though, will ever help this woebegone lover understand why a seemingly good relationship died too soon. The album’s title track, however, is far more positive. “I’m Into Now” is a song that bravely forges ahead, while leaving all painful baggage behind, in order to make a new romance work.
I’m Into Now is a simple album, in the best possible use of that term. It’s filled with good singing and sparse instrumentation. The musical focus is squarely on servicing the song, instead of any instrumentation being the means to an end. It’s an album filled with smart, soulful and honest songs. Lyrically, Shoebox Letters isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know about the trials and tribulations of love. It is, though, putting these familiar truths into gentle, melodic settings. Let’s hope quality music like I’m Into Now never goes out of style, or worse yet, goes away for good. It’s the kind of ‘now’ we want to remain now for a long, long time.
I'm Into Now - Review by Lee Zimmerman
Portland’s Shoebox Letters has achieved a modest modicum of recognition over the course of a career that encompasses more than a dozen albums and various accompanying EPs. They come about their craft quite naturally; the band’s leader, chief singer and songwriter Dennis Winslow was once a well-regarded staff writer on Nashville’s Music Row in the early ‘90s before finding his calling scoring film and television. It’s a trade he continues to pursue. However once he founded Shoebox Letters in 2009 alongside the band’s bassist Dave Strickler, he found a new calling and happily, the band’s prolific prowess has found them on a steady roll ever since.
More than ten years on, the band continues to make music with a trademark authenticity and assurance that’s deeply rooted in essential Americana. It’s no surprise then that their new effort, I’m Into Now, an eight-song EP, or mini-album — however one chooses to perceive it — conveys their core creativity by way of an easily identifiable sound and an affable down-home demeanor. Their roots remain obvious — the Byrds, the Burrito Brothers, and Pure Prairie League are easily identifiable influences — but the songs are still the prime ingredient, as they have been in each of their efforts up until now. There’s no shortage of hummable hooks — “Turn to Stone, “Forever In Love” and the title track being the prime examples — but even when they lower the lights and slow the tempo, the amiable ambiance never falters. “I Drink for Two” and “Running” offers all the evidence needed, their easy sway and calming caress providing further soothing sentiment to the album overall.
Ultimately then, the band’s ability to craft such a seductive series of mainstream melodies remains the essence of its appeal. Though flash and frenzy seem to be prime qualities when it comes to making music these days, Shoebox Letters prove they’re capable of holding their own regardless. Its title aside, I’m Into Now shows a distinct reverence for an old-fashioned formula, one that pivots on songcraft overall. In that regard, there’s no doubt that Shoebox Letter continues to communicate quite convincingly.
I'm Into Now - Review by Bobby Moore
It’s become increasingly obvious in recent years that Americana isn’t just a term for country music beyond what gets played on commercial radio stations. Such guitar-slingers as Aubrie Sellers, Aaron Lee Tasjan and Lilly Hiatt get stamped with the same label because the mainstream overlooks rock music that’s neither over-the-top aggressive nor overly pop.
Lesser-known acts proving that Americana’s the new home for rock storytellers include Shoebox Letters. The Portland and Vancouver-based band’s new album I’m Into Now fits in with the before-mentioned artists’ struggle to bring substance to rock ‘n’ roll through stories that should appeal to fans of twangy singer-songwriters.
Songs like “Please You,” “Running,” “Turn to Stone” and the title track favor rich stories over rock subgenres, comparable to the timeless approaches of Neil Young and Tom Petty. As the band name implies, these songs feel like they began as deeply personal memories before becoming something relatable to more than the letters’ writers or intended recipients.
So, if you’re delving into the current Americana scene to discover acts that should also be labeled as rock ‘n’ roll, you’re in for a treat once you discover Shoebox Letters.