J Shogren. Bird Bones and Muscle.

From the opening bars of this album it’s clear that Shogren has a unique take on traditional American styles. “Burnt Fields” squirms and squiggles with scratchy guitar riffs and banjo on a song that sounds like a cross between David Lindley and Loudon Wainwright. The Wainwright comparison continues on the next song. “Charlie Poole, Charlie Poole” which has lashings of banjo and a great driving rhythm. “Salvation” which follows maintains this glorious banjo driven take on country blues, imagine vintage Taj Mahal souped up with a glucose jag and you’re halfway there. Mention must be given to Jalan Crossland who carries banjo duties and who flails away like a man possessed on many of the songs here.
Shogren calms things down on “ Big Blue Bird of Happiness” which is a ballad in the manner of Guy Clark while “Paper Barn” and “Wandering Foot” are couched in the singer songwriter idiom and sound as if they were forged in the Texas of the seventies.
While there is a touch of the magpie here with Shogren visiting other genres (including polka and swamp blues) he has a sure hand on the tiller throughout. The title song is a pumped up voodoo blues with some great gutbucket guitar while “Younger” is a tremendous country rock song where the banjo takes on the lead guitar part. A highlight is “Southern Isle a Pearl” which has Shogren crooning over a dreamlike backing with swooning guitar, a miniature gem.
Overall this is a fine example of someone grabbing tradition by the collar and bringing it bang up to date.
You can buy the album here

Meanwhile Salvation awaits here


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