REVIEW: Rick Shea’s “Love & Desperation” is a Stylish Showcase

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Rick Shea – Love & Desperation

Out of the starting gate aficionados of The Texas Tornadoes, Doug Sahm, the Blasters or Tito & Tarantula will enjoy this set (“The World Gone Crazy”). Southern California’s veteran singer-songwriter Rick Shea (acoustic/steel/electric guitar/dobro & mandolin) has a homegrown sound. Shea’s Americana voice – a little twangy but not like Randy Travis has just enough sweetener to keep his stylistic showcase satisfying.

It’s easy to say Shea’s a roots-Americana artist but while he possesses a special blend of the aforementioned artists, he’s not Outlaw or totally classic country. He does sing some Waylon Jennings style songs, but his addition of accordion brightens, the guitar is sharp & the melodies are no confection.

“Blues Stop Knockin’ at My Door,” “Blues at Midnight,” & “Juanita (Why Are You So Mean?),” are stellar cuts. If familiar with Shea this is to be expected. Love & Desperation is Shea’s 12th LP (drops Oct 23 – Tres Pescadores Records). It showcases expressive 12 cut & paste songs – recorded during COVID-19 (the musicians added their parts in separate studios).

The dangers with some folk, country-oriented music through the ages are their sources. Whether the songs are influenced by a modicum of truth or fabrication. Shea for the most part writes with a sharp pen & the majority of his creativity maintains an entertaining quality a listener can decipher for themselves if necessary.

I seldom agreed with some songs by Pete Seeger, Joan Baez & Phil Ochs but I liked their music – I didn’t always give credence to their message though, at times, I’d sympathize. I still appreciated their art. Shea is not a controversial artist nor does he seem to dig for dirt & draw attention by polishing his showcase with controversy. He maintains class through his music.

I’ve grown a little weary of the bar scene songs with pick-up trucks & big hats but (“Down at the Bar at) Gypsy Sally’s,” (a little wordy for a title) — Shea’s choice of lyrics & evocative melody paint of swampy picture. It’s good work.

Setting aside the previous comparisons Shea also writes with the skill of a Steve Earle-Bobby Bare. The title track “Love & Desperation” is one such melody. There are many vintage, classic & traditional styles tied to Rick’s presentation. He never compromises his authenticity. He seems to remain in his comfort zone. For now.

Musicians: Phil Parlapiano (accordion/Hammond B3), Jeff Turmes (bass/sax), Shawn Nourse (drums), Jim Shirey (fiddle), Dave Hall (bass), Steve Nelson (acoustic bass), David Jackson (accordion), Skip Edwards (accordion/Vox organ), Probyn Gregory (trumpet) & Dan Navarro (harmony vocal).

The majority of the groove (if you want to call it that) is short-story lyrical fluency woven in a high-country texture. It’s not sugary like pop-country radio but “Big Rain Is Comin’ Mama,” is high octane.

The 49-minute CD was produced by Rick Shea & available at https://rickshea.com/home

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