Katikati represent. Shirley Ryder and Graeme Hardaker are the foundation stones, guitars and vocal chords of The Shirleybyrds, a BoP band that first began doing their thing back in 2012.
Joined by bassist David Thompson and Jeff Nilson on drums the four-piece present a charmingly upbeat 12-track album that’s evidently based on far less rosy circumstances – specifically Ryder becoming very ill in 2017. Subsequent remission of the cancer allowed her to indulge in the bucket list written during recovery – in this case recording a bunch of the songs written over her lifetime. Hence the light and bright opening tracks, supported by her naturally charming vocals and strummed acoustic guitar which propels even the blues tracks at a happy clip.
Hardaker presides over Goodbye, a slow rock ballad at the album’s mid-point that reveals the power and emotion of his voice and further extends the likeable diversity. The piano is uncredited but Tim Julian assisted with arrangements and recorded the album at his Colour Field Recording Studio in Tauranga.
It’s kept nicely tight and well-balanced while traversing the range of styles that comes with a legacy recording. You could forgive a sense of intensity but song titles like Prince Alarming (one of the newer songs) show a leavening humour. Suzi is a time-stamping ode to Suzi Quatro (“No one will ever sing again like you Suzi”) which for some reason Hardaker takes lead vocals for, and the album closer Still The One disappointingly veers towards muzak – reflecting that this is a personal album, not designed to establish a band career. Plenty to recommend just the same.