Michael Shaw – He Rode On
I always find it amazing how some artists can take standard country ideas & through their own personality & hocus pocus recreate basics into something impressive. You can make apple pie hundreds of ways but there’s that one time someone gives you a slice that is heaven-made. There’s an ingredient, a secret pinch that makes it uniquely special. Long story longer – Northern Rockies’ Michael Shaw (vocals/guitar) does this with his brand of wilderness country music.
He isn’t doing anything different from other country singers, but he mixes, stirs, whips & adds to his musical concoction until it’s just right. Fiddles are fiery, the pedal steel whirs like a finely tuned engine, lyrics are typical but then the way he sings them they take on a savviness. Most country music today comes in tight tuna cans so to speak – Shaw’s music comes in a big Dinty Moore stew can. Don’t look at what’s in the can — just enjoy the music on that spoon.
Shaw does straight country; spices it up with a little honky-tonk & rock with expressive yodeling that isn’t corny but driven — especially when the Jerry Lee Lewis type piano pounds in & the lead guitars push to the front of the line. Yes, that’s the creative “Cowboy Boots and a Little Country Dress,” which is absolutely necessary.
Smartly, Shaw drops back to a sweet ballad in “Huckleberry Wine,” — refined & gentle. His rendering is heartfelt. But Shaw’s country voice for some reason has a tone that here & again suggests an ounce of punk vocals. Yes, you heard me. I don’t know where it comes from but it’s like an occasional (B-52s) Fred Schneider vocal swagger (“Shot Down”) has it. With a touch of George Clooney’s country crazy vocals from “O Brother, Where Art Thou.” It works, it’s entertaining & not dominant. It just cruises in on some lyrics & helps.
Produced by Grant Siemens (guitar/percussion) & Michael the 10-cut, 40-minute He Rode On (Drops June 3–Wolfhard Productions). This set finds Michael Shaw in fine voice throughout. I find Shaw’s balance & pacing to be exceptional. A tidy package.
This is an honest country & western set that never sounds retro but highly polished & at the conclusion “Light of the Moon,” – that’s purity. The title track is wonderful except it goes on for just a little too long & gets repetitious. Other than that, a beautiful tune with sensitive lyrics.
Featured – Bernie Thiessen (bass), former Rodney Crowell drummer John McTigue III, former Waylon Jennings pedal steel player Robby Turner, Jeremy Penner (fiddle), Marc Arnold (piano/organ), Jaxon Haldane & Andrina Turrene (backing vocals).
Photo courtesy of Greg Kuchik. CD available @ Apple Music + https://michaelshawmusic.com/