It’s exciting when a new artist comes along and delivers a transcendent statement with their debut record. The manner with which K Phillips stormed the scene a couple years back comes to mind. K’s effort, American Girls, was dingy, dirty, groovy, rootsy, soulful and flat out different. All of those things made it a spectacular listen. Red Shahan’s Men and Coyotes has a similar vibe. Red, who is perhaps most well-known to fans for his time as a quasi-member of 6 Market Blvd, has stepped out on his own with a monster album. It’s a record full of lyrical punches and tumbling styles. Strains of Chris Knight ride alongside bits of Stoney LaRue’s vocal timbre, and there are even guitar tones that echo Doyle Bramhall’s singular phrasing and style. It’s a unique record. It’s country at its heart, and eclectic country at its soul. The title track is a compelling philosophical trope and is mirrored by the murderous “Low Down Feeling”. “Boom Town” is a song that reminds of LaRue’s “Downtown” stylistically. The oil boom isn’t all cash blown on 4×4 trucks and DR Horton McMansions. There are casualties too. Shahan captures that dichotomy here. The grooviest portion of the record comes with the lyrically goofy, but musically groovy “303”…it’s a hip shaker. It’s paired with the Joe Cocker-esque “White Knuckle Heart” complete with 1980’s sax riffs. In a year that has seen so many good records that we’re going to have a very difficult time shaping a year-end best-of list, Shahan’s is one that stands out for its creativity, diversity and heart. This is an artist, and an album to reckon with. If this is the direction “Texas/RedDirt/Americana” is heading, it’s a promising venture. Thanks Red.
- Chris King – Showing His Work on “Animal”