This Is Ryan Shaw
Razor & Tie
A friend recently
turned me on to the music of Ryan Shaw. His
was a new name to me then, but since getting a copy
of the 2007 debut release, This Is Ryan Shaw
(Razor & Tie), I've listened to the CD so many times
that I'm now as familiar with Shaw's voice as I am
with the sound of my own family members.
Shaw, who just turned 30, learned to
sing in the church but then turned his prodigious vocal talents to the
classic soul and R&B styles of the '60s and '70s. The result is an
unqualified success, as the dozen songs here evoke memories of Jackie
Wilson, Wilson Pickett, Junior Wells, Bobby Womack, and other soul
greats, all delivered in his own style. Simply put, Ryan Shaw has an
The album opens with the Junior
Walker-sounding up-tempo stomper, "Do The 45," which was first recorded
in the mid '60s by the obscure St. Louis soul group The Sharpees (check
out the great original version on
YouTube!). Following are two band originals, "We Got Love" and
"Nobody," both of which sound like they could have been written and
recorded two decades before Shaw was born. While the opening cut is more
of a warm-up party song, albeit a very good one, "We Got Love" starts to
hint at Shaw's amazing range.
The absolute stunner on the disc comes
with the fourth cut when Shaw delivers an incredible vocal performance
on Ashford & Simpson's "I Am Your Man." It's absolutely inspirational
--- "testifying" soul at its very best. When he sings the recurring
line, "When I take your hand," shivers will run up and down your spine.
Shaw then takes a turn towards Motown
with another keeper, "Working On A Building Of Love," done originally by
Chairmen Of The Board. He doesn't stray far from the original version
but packs even more power into the raw emotion of the song.
"I Found A Love," a Wilson Pickett
classic from his days with The Falcons, is another excellent number,
containing Shaw's shouting, pleading vocals throughout the number, along
with the requisite Magnatone-infused guitar licks à la Robert Ward, done
here by Johnny Gale.
I was familiar with a previous version
of "Lookin' For A Love" released by the J. Geils Band in 1971, but
research indicates that the original was done by the Valentinos, with
Bobby Womack on vocals, in 1962. Womack later re-recorded the same
number on The Soul of Bobby Womack. Shaw's rendition slows the
tempo considerably and has a stronger gospel feel than the original.
"I'll Be Satisfied," one of Berry
Gordy's early compositions, was covered by Jackie Wilson, and Shaw's
fine version pays tribute to the late, great soul singer.
Wrapping up the album is a Shaw
original, "Over & Done," an R&B send-up of a sad but also redemptive
break-up with a woman.
Shaw's only other recording since this
wonderful CD is a six-song EP done in 2009. He's long overdue for a
second full album. Someone PLEASE get this man back in the studio soon!
In the meantime, if you're a fan of vintage soul/R&B and don't yet have
this disc --- well, what are you waiting for?
--- Bill Mitchell