Surprisingly, Rick Sheaâ€™s latest album doesnâ€™t sound particularly different from his earlier efforts, even though it was tracked remotely by musicians distributed amongst their own studios. Begun in the Spring of 2019 in Sheaâ€™s home studio, by early 2020 the collaboration had spread to multiple studios and was coordinated by e-mail and computer network. Incredibly, the album shows no seams or lack of group ethos, and though Shea tips his hat to the pandemic on a few titles, the songs donâ€™t evidence the Groundhog-like sameness that our collective shelter-in-place has brought to daily life.
The opening cover of Al Ferrierâ€™s rockabilly â€œBlues Stop Knockinâ€™ at My Doorâ€ takes in Lazy Lesterâ€˜s harmonica-driven Louisiana stomp, and adds accordion and guitar solos to the yearning, heartsick vocal. Sheaâ€™s low, slow â€œBlues at Midnightâ€ picks up the sorrowful mood as he suffers the late-night misery of being left behind, and â€œJaunita (Why Are You So Mean)â€ imagines the travails of Sheaâ€™s in-laws during their dating years. The albumâ€™s title track is dramatized from an autobiographical seed, and â€œDown at the Bar at Gypsy Sallyâ€™sâ€ takes a few liberties with the San Bernardino bar scene in which Shea cut his musical teeth.
The worldâ€™s current circumstance is essayed in the allegorical â€œBig Rain is Cominâ€™ Mama,â€ a surprisingly chipper two-step of accordion and steel with a deadly category five storm on the horizon. In contrast, the dark folk-blues â€œThe Worldâ€™s Gone Crazyâ€ finds the storm having blown through, leaving behind an apocalyptic aftermath. Luckily, Sheaâ€™s world isnâ€™t confined by his physical circumstances, as he still writes imaginative ballads (â€œA Tenderhearted Loveâ€), ambivalent musings (â€œNashville Bluesâ€), and cinematic stories (the closing â€œTexas Lawyerâ€) that belie the pandemic-induced isolation in which this music was created. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]