CD review: Shipp Crow LoudlyAugust 23, 2012
Billy Bob Thornton once said there are guys working in the Peavey factory who can play guitar every bit as well as Jimi Hendrix, and while he mighn’t have meant that literally his point is well-taken. Talent, pure and insufferable, isn’t exactly scarce — it’s what one is able to do with that talent that ultimately matters. (And if the talented guitar players working in the Peavey factory are happy with their lot, well, God bless ’em. Not everybody craves the white hot spotlight.)
Which brings me to Arkansas-based Michael R. “Roosterboy” Shipp, Billy Bob’s buddy and frequent musical collaborator, and the driving force behind the ad hoc recording project Shipp. MRS strikes me as the kind of guy who would dismiss out of hand the suggestion that he can play guitar as well as Jimi Hendrix, which is beside the point anyway, though Shipp is a player of extraordinary tone and taste, as well as a fair enough songwriter and the sort of a non-singer/rock singer who’s voice is perfectly suited to the material he undertakes. Which is to say, he makes virtues of his limitations, a la Ry Cooder and Lucinda Williams.
He’s also the sort of artist who is more than a little bit out of time, pursuing a kind of anachronistic organic, blues-based kind of American music that most of us might recognize as straight ahead boogie rock ’n’ roll. While there’s still an audience for this sort of thing, it doesn’t exactly move millions of downloads. Which is to say that Shipp obviously isn’t doing it to get rich, though there was a time when his work would have passed for pop music.
Anyway, there are plenty of virtues apparent on his latest CD, Crow Loudly, which was recorded at BBT’s Beverly Hills studio and features a host of guest stars. Thornton (drums, backing vocals) shows up on six songs and co-wrote two of them, including “Bring It On,” which could be read as a kind of tabloid roman a clef. Les Dudek, Canadian virtuoso Pat Travers, Slash, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Rickey Medlocke, ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill and the late, great guitarist Stephen Bruton. Despite all that, Crow Loudly doesn’t sound like a crowded, sloppy all-star jamfest or a desperate swipe at the main chance, but a real album, a curated collection that balances some well-crafted originals with canny covers.(Shipp does something original with Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street” and pays homage to one of his prime influences, Z.Z. Top, with a cover of “Sure Got Cold After the Rain Fell”).
Working with a core group that includes bassist Jai Lambert and drummer Kenny Hall, the overall effect is that of a crack house band willing and able to accommodate the contributions of their better-known peers. It sure sounds like everybody had fun and nobody was overmatched. Hot tracks: the remade version of “Voodoo In Tallulah,” featuring Travers on lead guitar, “Positively Fouth Street,” “Meet Me in Austin.”
Buy it here.