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Thank You Shirl-ee May (A Love Story)

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Album Review

Singer and songwriter Shawn Amos got some of his gift for music from his mother, but he didn't get a chance to discover that until shortly after her death. Amos' mother, Shirlee Ellis Amos, committed suicide in 2003 after battling mental illness for many years, but it wasn't until he went through his late mother's effects that he learned she had enjoyed a remarkable life before he was born. Shirlee had a brief but successful career as nightclub singer Shirl-ee May, performing club dates with the likes of Sam Cooke and Sammy Davis, Jr., and recording an album for Mercury Records before her life in music came to an end in 1967, not long after she married future cookie mogul Wally "Famous" Amos. Thank You Shirl-ee May (A Love Story) is a song cycle Amos created as a homage to his late mother, as well as an effort to understand this side of the woman that he never got to know. Amos is upfront with the back-story of this album, and it's hard not to be moved by songs such as "New York City 1964 (A Letter Home)," "You're Groovy (For Boy Blue)," and "Getting Over," knowing their personal resonance for Amos. But the album succeeds on the strength of its craft as well as sentiment; Amos' songs in the voice of Shirl-ee May are effective thumbnail sketches of the highs and lows of a life being lived in fifth gear, and the old-school jazz and R&B accents of the early part of the album give the story an powerful and evocative backdrop, while the most country-accented tunes of the album's third act match the sorrow of this tale's sad end. And Amos put together a superb crew for this album, with Anthony Marinelli's keyboards lending a world of detail to the tunes and Ray Parker, Jr. adding superb guitar lines on "Bubble Hill" and "Make It." Thank You Shirl-ee May (A Love Story) is a powerful and deeply affecting story of personal grief and public affection; it's a touching example of art drawn from adversity, and a creative triumph for Shawn Amos that deserves to be heard.

Biography

Born: New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s

New York native Shawn Amos spent most of his younger years moving around the country before coming back to New York to attend film school. He eventually gave up on film in 1991 and began to write music after a short stint as a screenplay writer. Two small indie albums and a song on the Prophecy soundtrack didn't get him very far outside of the local scene, but Harlem became his first nationally released CD in 2000. A roots rock approach to telling stories of the Harlem Renaissance, the album featured...
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Thank You Shirl-ee May (A Love Story), Shawn Amos
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