Shannon Lee's Album "Stars" Follows an Emotional Journey Through Love and Loss


Shannon Lee performs at the 2022 Holler Fest in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Shannon Lee (second from left) performs at the 2022 Holler Fest in Brooklyn, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Shannon Lee.

Shannon Lee wanted her new album to progress like an emotional journey, from the pain of a broken relationship and the loss of a loved one to the rediscovery of love. The seven songs on Stars trace that quest, though it’s a subtle sojourn.

“I’m not sure if other listeners can tell but I wanted to start the album off with my heartache and loss and have the album move toward lighter themes, which I think I accomplished,” said the Ypsilanti-based Lee.

Anymore” and “I’ve Gone Away” cover the break-up phase, while “Brother” recounts the tragic loss of her brother on New Year’s Day four years ago and “Stars” imagines his light shining down on her. Lee then pays tribute to a fellow songwriter on “Sunni Leilani” and closes Stars with two songs, “Here to Stay” and “Sing to Me,” that revel in love.

Lee’s songs share elements reminiscent of folk and Americana artists such as Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Patty Griffin, and Lucinda Williams, and cites artists who were played in her house while growing up as influences.

“I always had an ear for music; ever since I was a kid,” Lee said. “I had a knack for picking out harmonies in three or more part harmony singing, too, and always found myself singing along to my dad’s records. His collection of course had Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and many more in that classic rock vein.”

Lee is also the creator of the Ypsi Live Music Scene group on Facebook. Its original impetus in 2017 was to promote live shows in her town, but during the pandemic, it became a resource for local songwriters to share their music and ideas.

Lee’s openness to collaboration led her to sing her original song “Wake Up” with the Ann Arbor ska band Hullabaloo in 2019, and she sang backup on the recently released self-titled debut album by local roots rockers J. Michael & The Heavy Burden.

But Lee also wanted to record her own collection of songs with a specific vision. After recording at Rooftop Recording in Grand Blanc with J. Michael’s band, Lee said she “wanted and needed to do the same thing for my own music. I asked [studio owner] David Roof if he would help me with that and he did. Not only did he record, but he also played bass, keys, electric guitar, and sang harmonies on a few tracks, too. Working with him has been a dream, a blessing, and just amazing.”

Lee also enlisted other Michigan musicians for Stars including Lynn Frederickson on harmony vocals, Rod Foster on mandolin, Lucas Daunt on tuba, Emily Slomovits on violin, and the late Donn Denniston on drums.

Together they make Stars shine, but it’s Lee’s warm contralto voice and classic-country-leaning melodies that guide the album through its journey from darkness to light.

Sean Miller is a Michigan singer-songwriter and freelance arts and entertainment writer.