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RICK SHEA —SWEET BERNARDINE (Tres Pescadores Records)


Best know to many for his part in Dave Alvin’s band, The Guilty Men alongside others he has played with, but aside from this Californian Rick Shea is a superb storyteller/recording artists in his own right and the voice to go with it.


Comparisons to Tom Russell come to mind on occasions. Such his astute and imagine evoking lyrics, coerced by measured playing of guitar, fiddle, mandolin  and percussion. Plus, there is the small matter of some beautiful accompanying female harmony vocals. All but two songs are his-own, work. The exceptions are well chosen.

First in line you have his workmanlike bluesy leaning version of Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues” followed by album closer, Roy Acuff’s “Streamline Cannonball”. On which he has a surprise guest, the amazing Mary McCaslin. Singer-songwriter McCaslin’s albums of the 1970s and 1980s made a huge impression on me. Her way with a western song better than most anyone who has ever lived! Plus there is the small matter of her innovative workings of music of Lennon and McCarney and The Who (be sure to check out her work on Rounder records). Back to “Streamline Cannonball”, it works perfectly, and McCaslin sounds exactly like she did then! Great. Apologies to Shea for my diversion as I praise Mary, her worth just needed recognising.


Shea’s relaxed vocal style coupled with strains of others works superbly. On “Gregory Ray DeFord” there can be heard traces of David Allan Coe as the wistful sound of Dobro, guitar and more female vocals ease through the proceedings. While the late John Stewart comes to mind on the stout, stately presented “Sweet Bernardine”. It is of no coincidence that all I compare and feel his music reminds me are stylists and strong individuals, musically and people who have made their mark.  


Equally impressive tales covering some Irish roots as he gives mention to Kerry, Ireland on “John Shea From Kenmare” and the two songs that set the record in motion “Mexicali Train” and “Mariachi Hotel” (a bright ‘n breezy piece which takes the listener on a trip along the Mexican border; as his journey takes him along streets decorated with vendors, sweet accordion and walking through streets where chickens, dogs and ghosts are welcomed on board amidst some tasty acoustic guitar (flat-picking?). If you are in need of a spiritual journey through America's west and beyond go check out Mr Shea's excellent work.  

                                                Maurice Hope


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March 2018

Mary Gauthier
95 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
Ed Romanoff
89 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
Dean Owens
43 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
Marlon Williams
41 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans
Rod Picott
39 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
Vivian Leva
39 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
H.C McEntire
38 pts.
Merge Records
34 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
Alela Diane
32 pts.
Allpoints Believe
Ben Miller Band
32 pts.
Choke Cherry Tree
New West Records
The Lynnes
32 pts.
Heartbreak Song For The Radio
Adam James Sorensen
30 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
John Oates
27 pts.
Thirthy Tigers
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26 pts.
Fear Not
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26 pts.
True In Time
Red House
I'm With Her
25 pts.
See You Around
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22 pts.
Breaks it Down
Put Together Music
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21 pts.
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Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
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Here, Vol 2
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20 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
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Kacy & Clayton
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The Siren’s Song
New West Records
Caleb Caudle
19 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
Ad Vanderveen
18 pts.
Denver Nevada
Ben Reel
18 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
Bruno Deneckere

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