Shannon Shaw's Nashville venture a genuine tear-jerker
Shannon Shaw, "Shannon in Nashville" (Easy Eye Sound)
She may have smashed a few herself, but judging by her first solo album, Shannon Shaw has had her heart broken in 17 places. At least.
The singer and bass player has teamed up again with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, who also produced "Onion," the recently released fifth album by Shannon & the Clams - Shaw's band that combines and updates sounds mostly from the '50s and '60s.
"Shannon in Nashville" stays anchored in that foundational era but, maybe as part of its tip of the hat to Dusty Springfield's "Dusty in Memphis," there are additional instrumental layers (Wurlitzer, cornet, vibraphone, glockenspiel, Mellotron) resulting in smoother, deeper foundations for Shaw's coarsely expressive and utterly believable vocals.
The ballads and leisurely-paced strolls through heartbreak and its many ramifications and articulations - from slightly comical ("Lord of Alaska") to outright tear-jerking ("Love I Can't Explain) - are wonderful vehicles for Shaw's simple but effective narratives. There are also hints at family history but she's not out to embarrass anyone.
The echoing acoustic guitar arpeggio leading into opener "Golden Frames" is 18 seconds of bliss but there's really nothing else like it on the rest of the album. It feels like a teaser, like Shaw jumping a decade into 1970s-style singer-songwriter fare. Something to consider for the next one, maybe.
Still, there are soulful songs a-plenty here. Strings elevate the drama on "Freddies 'n' Teddies," while "Broke My Own" is Shaw at her most Amy Winehouse-ish. Auerbach regulars and Nashville veterans Gene Chrisman (drums) and Bobby Wood (keyboards) are splendid throughout, like the whole band, but especially on "Cryin' My Eyes Out" and the Latin-tinged "Leather, Metal, Steel."
Heartbreak, you've done your part on "Shannon in Nashville." Now please stay away from her.