Ryan Shaw - Real Love (2012)

Ryan Shaw
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Despite his critically-acclaimed releases,  a pair of Grammy nominations and owning one of the most explosive and energetic voices this side of Otis Redding, Ryan Shaw has bubbled just under the level of mainstream recognition that his talents and tenacity so richly deserve.  A soft-spoken Son of the South who blossomed inside his Pentecostal church’s walls as a child soloist, the 31-year-old moved from years with his sibling-filled singing group and a successful run in Tyler Perry’s 1998 play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, to a fateful collaboration with the Soul Stirrers, which paired him with guitarist Johnny Gale and producer Jimmy Bralower.  

Despite his critically-acclaimed releases,  a pair of Grammy nominations and owning one of the most explosive and energetic voices this side of Otis Redding, Ryan Shaw has bubbled just under the level of mainstream recognition that his talents and tenacity so richly deserve.  A soft-spoken Son of the South who blossomed inside his Pentecostal church’s walls as a child soloist, the 31-year-old moved from years with his sibling-filled singing group and a successful run in Tyler Perry’s 1998 play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, to a fateful collaboration with the Soul Stirrers, which paired him with guitarist Johnny Gale and producer Jimmy Bralower.  

A demo was soon crafted and a debut containing classics and original material, 2007’s This is Ryan Shaw, catapulted him into the spotlight. It wouldn’t be wise to tinker with a winning formula, so his latest project, Real Love, offers the same Golden Era Soul stylings that he’s become so adept at channeling, veering from retro blue-light balladry to rip-roaring and raucous R&B that crackles with a fervor and ferocity that seizes the senses and will not be denied.

Produced by Gale and Bralower and featuring the talents of The Family Band’s Robert Randolph, Real Love is chock-full of authentic instrumentation (Mr. Randolph’s steel pedal guitar, saxophones, trumpets, clavinets, etc.), full-fledged stories in the form of song lyrics (Mr. Shaw co-wrote all but a couple) and vocals that are so power-packed that they ricochet off the eardrums and reverberate in the subconscious long after the music stops. Mr. Shaw does more than carry a tune with the lyrics, he practically scrapes the notes out from his emotional center and sprawls them from one end of the spectrum to the next.

The anguished up-tempo “Karina,” for example, opens with a tear-stained plea---“Help me undo what I’ve done to you, and I’ll do it baby”---and pairs the disgust he feels with a careless indiscretion with his will to win back her shattered trust: “When I went and got my loving from somebody else, that’s how I made you cry/I can’t forgive myself.” The frantically-paced, yet infectious “That Is Why” literally conjures up visions of swinging horn men in matching polyester suits, tail-feather-shaking go-go girls and a singer ready to dance holes in his wing-tip shoes as he pours out his amour for his lady; and “Gone Gone Gone” threads blues and mid-tempo misery into the tapestry of a man’s regret as he watches his woman become another man’s missus: “You told me Baby it was your time I wasted, now I’d do anything to change the situation/I should’ve put a ring on your finger, that’s what I should’ve done, and you were so gone, gone, gone…”

Real Love presents a variety of tones and textures, but Mr. Shaw’s tantalizing timbre gets a chance to shine on the less strenuous numbers, such as “Can’t Hear the Music,”  a ditty about a lackluster love affair that would make Al Green proud, and the Percy Sledge-recalling “You Don’t Know Nothing About Love,” where he recalls shameless acts and moments of desperation to win the heart of his intended and blows off anyone who can’t relate as mere amateurs: “Don’t try and tell me that I’m out of my mind/ cuz’ wherever that girl goes, I’ll be right behind----you don’t know nothing, you don’t know, you don’t know nothing about love….” “The Wrong Man” will rekindle memories of Gladys Knight’s “If I Were Your Woman,” painting the picture of a lovelorn friend watching the object of his desire give her all to someone else, and that often-covered Beatles classic, “Yesterday,” is given a slight pop varnish, yet remains original in its impact via its throaty delivery and vulnerable vibe, a heady accomplishment considering that Mr. Shaw’s only influence for decades was gospel and the performers who created it.

An awe-inspiring performer with an old soul awareness and elastic vocal range, Mr. Shaw should rightfully expect more kudos and converts with his latest CD; although it can overwhelm the listener with occasional moments of stridency and bombast, those who yearn for skillfully-rendered authenticity and emotion should celebrate this collection of Real LoveEnthusiastically recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
 

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