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Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: Rick Shea - Shelter Valley Blues

Rick Shea - Shelter Valley Blues
2009, Tres Pescadores

Rick Shea might just be the current King of the California Country sound. With five highly acclaimed albums under his belt and a resume that includes work with folks such as Dave Alvin, Katy Moffatt and R.E.M., Shea certainly has the respect of his peers. Highly independent, Shea follows his own path in writing highly personal and honest songs in the tradition of Merle Haggard. Shea's latest release, Shelter Valley Blues, touches on the tough situations we find ourselves in over the course of our lives and how we end up there.

Shelter Valley Blues opens with Back Home To The Blues, a classic bit of Country melancholy perfect for crying in your beer. No Good Time For Leavin' recalls another era of Country music when the story was the thing. Steady Drivin' Man is a fun song that incorporates a bit of New Orleans sound and tops it off with some pretty cool yodeling. Shelter Valley Blues stays on the low-key side with another great story-song. The arrangement here is perfectly done: not too light and not too heavy. Ty Robby is built on an interesting mix of Celtic and Tex-Mex musical traditions and is one of the more enjoyable songs on the disc (Moira Smiley's harmony vocals are a special treat - what a voice!)

Nelly Bly has a real Rhythm N Blues feel to it, shaking up the album's sound just a tad in a highly entertaining tune. Shea keeps up the momentum on the Zydeco-flavored Sweet Little Pocha; you'll be two steppin' from the opening bars of this number. Shinbone Alley is a musical still life of a town that's seen better days, delivered in a gentle bit of highly melodic blues. Fisherman's Blues takes the Waterboys classic and updates it with a Southwest sound in the best cover of the tune I've heard to date. Shea closes out with The Haleiwa Shuffle, a Hawaiian-flavored instrumental that's highly enjoyable.

Rich Shea delivers on Shelter Valley Blues, performing eleven entertaining and energetic songs for your listening pleasure. She is a bit too subdued at times, but the performances here are great. Rick Shea is a throwback to another era in country music, with compositions Chet Atkins would approve of. The songwriting is strong and the instrumental work is obscenely good. Make sure you check out Rick Shea.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Rick Shea at or You can order a signed copy of Shelter Valley Blues from Paniolo Productions.

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