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December 2010

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Ryan Shaw
This Is Ryan Shaw
Razor & Tie

Ryan Shaw

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 incredible voice!

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 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

 

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