Thursday, September 29, 2011
Short Sharp Shocked - Michelle Shocked
Short Sharp Shocked
Mercury 834 924-1
I was a fan of Michelle Shocked in the early 90s but she dropped off my radar after the release of "Kind Hearted Woman." It wasn't that I no longer liked her music, I just didn't notice it anymore, which is one of the consequences of going the independent route I suppose. Over the summer I saw she had a local gig so I decided to check it out and see what she has been up to. It was a fun show, she did a lot of the older tunes that I knew and I liked the newer stuff as well. Much of her repertoire was drawn from this, her second album, and I liked the show so much that I pulled out this album for the first time in many years and gave it a spin. It was the first record of hers that I bought and I mostly bought it because I was so taken by the cover photograph which shows her getting arrested at the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco. I remember the Convention quite well, I had a summer job in the city at the time, but I didn't participate in the protests which practically paralyzed downtown, in fact I went to Russian River with my girlfriend to escape all the hubbub. Given the cover photo and her punky haircut, I was expecting something militant and something rockish, so I was surprised when I first played it to find that the music was folksy and country-flavored as befits a woman from East Texas I suppose. The only real rock song is her collaboration with the punk band M.D.C., the unlisted track "Fogtown" which is a description of the seedy underbelly of San Francisco. This song first appeared as a folk song on "The Texas Campfire Tapes." The only militant song is "Graffiti Limbo" which is about police brutality. There is also a cover of Jean Ritchie's "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore" which has elements of social commentary to it but I think it is more of a lament than a protest song. "If Love Was a Train" is a swinging, bluesy love song and "When I Grow Up" is a silly love song with a driving beat. The lovely "Memories of East Texas," "V. F. D" and the rollicking "(Making the Run to) Gladewater" are unsentimental reminiscences of her life in Texas. My favorite song is "Anchorage" which is about an old friend from Texas and the different paths their lives have taken since they left Texas. It was the highlight of her live show for me. Musically this is mostly tasteful country rock well-played and arranged by a solid bunch of musicians. Shocked has a warm and inviting voice and the music is personal enough to keep me interested. Recommended to fans of Lucinda Williams and Shelby Lynne.