Monday, January 16, 2017

Shawn Mullins-Soul's Core (1998)


A chilly, gloomy, rain-pouring afternoon is a perfect time to stay indoors and get cozy with some easy-listening folk rock. So was the setting for me in my neck of the woods here on my latest stop along my continued easy-listening soul journeys. A two-year-old music recommendation for me now becomes a New Year's recommendation to you: "Soul's Core", the fourth solo album by a very distinguished singer-songwriter I'm glad I got to know for the first time ever today. Shawn Mullins: it was such a pleasure in hearing this guy's distinctively Southern voice and the intimate, colorful stories he tells with the acoustic guitar as his primary musical companion—quite refreshing on my ears, considering how long it had been since I last indulged in something from the folk music genre. I'd randomly selected "Soul's Core" from Shawn'd discography, not even realizing that the song he's most recognized for—"Lullaby"—was one of the thirteen tracks on it. I instinctively, then, started with that one, a nice alternative-style soft rock piece that I initially believed would be a spoken word sort of tune— I gathered that from his short intro where he mentions Bob Seger and SONNY & CHER—before his delivery of 'rock-a-by' and ' everything's gonna be alright ' in the chorus, where I would get a good feel for his versatile vocal range. The alternative rock spirit emerges again later on the perky, upbeat gem that is "September In Seattle" (love listening to the piano playing along with the music here), plus "And On A Rainy Night" (my favorite part being when the song comes alive for a spell once the music breaks into its uptempo arrangement), where the alternative rock and his stunning vocals put a glimmering touch on both "Soul Child" (one of Shawn's strongest vocal performances of the album overall) and the concluding piece, "Shimmer", where he proudly sings about a lady who radiates and glows up his life. That stunning voice becomes center stage, however, whenever that aforementioned acoustic guitar serves as the main background music; that's when warming tunes like the country-inspired "Ballad Of Billy Jo McKay", the beautiful romantic number "You Mean Everything To Me" (a reminder that love is the ultimate healer; the way he delivers the stilled, drawn-out 'you' when singing title lyrics towards the end, and the ' we're ' when singing about himself and the lady being no exception to the rule, is simply breathtaking), and the hazy, gentle number "The Gulf Of Mexico" really stand out. Then there's a trio that I found especially touching. "Twin Rocks, Oregon": this campy, Indian-summer-on-the-mountaintop kinda song is a bittersweet tale about a good buddy of his that had me locked in and feeling I was right there in that exact moment with him. "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down": I always get drawn into these mellow pieces, and I like his interesting words of 'something about a Sunday that makes the body feel alone'—they got me thinking—and the closeout extended instrumental with the catchy 'doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo' that makes me want to hum along to the music. "Patrick's Song": A story about a close friend who died too soon; a beautiful song that ends too soon. My senses were surely weighed down by the poetic and vocal brilliance displayed on "Anchored In You" (his ability to switch from deep and soulful one moment to high and lofty the next with his delivery of ' I'm stoned in San Francisco ' is wonderful to hear). And for a little more country-inspired fun, there's the "Tannin Bed Song". Turned out not to be about just the actual tanning bed, but a humorous tale about the lady named Maria who lays on the tanning bed who ends up taking the microwave oven, the TV, the kids and the whole shebang to leave a tired old life behind. "Soul's Core": an album with a lot of heart, and one more highlight in my continued easy-listening journeys:

1. Anchored In You
2. Lullaby
3. The Gulf Of Mexico
4. September In Seattle
5. Twin Rocks, Oregon
6. And On A Rainy Night
7. Tannin Bed Song
8. Soul Child
9. Ballad Of Billy Jo McKay
10. Patrick's Song
11. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
12. You Mean Everything To Me
13. Shimmer

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