10 Songs, 35 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

3.7 out of 5
16 Ratings
16 Ratings
GrammySmith

Great!

Such a gifted story-teller! This album is a much awaited addition to my Michelle collection!

Lavek

My favorite MS since Arkansas Traveler

Arkansas Traveler is one of the top 5 albums ever recorded in my opinion. My wife and I have listened to it hundreds of times since first hearing it when we were in college. On first listen, this album is almost as good as that one. I'm very excited to get a new album of this caliber. Highly recommended.

hyperbolium

Focused and accessible album of love and anger

After the artistic bonanza of 2005’s CD triple-shot (the eclectic Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Disney covers Got No Strings and the Latin-influenced Mexican Standoff), Michelle Shocked returns with a passionate album of rock, folk and a touch of soul. Aside from her theme albums, the mood here is among the most focused of her catalog, nicely summed by the quote in her album’s press: “I think the meditation these past several years, ever since I stopped drinking, really, has been to jettison rage without losing the ability to feel strong feelings.” Her lyrics are deeply emotional, bitter and angry at the lasting effects of the Bush administration, and tender and loving towards the “official love of her life,” artist David Willardson.

Luckily, it’s not all sappy love songs and angry denunciations, as Shocked mixes folk, soul and punkishly loud rock amidst her twin topical inspirations. Her sunny relationship gets the larger share, including the meta-love lead-off that offers the well-worn just-in-love realization that love songs aren’t necessarily for everyone else. The more intimate “Heart to Heart” and “True Story” may be overly sincere for some listeners; the well-worn “two hearts beating as one,” for example, doesn’t live up to Shocked’s typical craft. More original is the salacious “Paperboy,” sung from the perspective of a newspaper’s lusty recipient, and a trio of songs that eye American society.

First among the jeremiads is “Ballad of the Battle of the Ballot and the Bullet,” which excoriates Americans for hiding in denials and asking “are we reaping a harvest of grief?” Shocked’s obviously not ready to move past the misdeeds of the Bush administration and finds the national character in need of repair. She pictures herself as David taking shots at political and corporate Goliaths on the punk-rock “Giant Killer,” and likens the eruption of Vesuvius to the destruction spewed by corporate America on “Pompeii.” The social critiques are sharp, but the love songs keep the album from turning into one long diatribe. Shocked’s fans will enjoy the passion and musical focus; those drawn in by Kaiser Permanente’s commercials will find this a good entry point to her catalog. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

About Michelle Shocked

Michelle Shocked was born Michelle Johnston in Dallas, TX, in 1962, where she spent her early childhood traveling around army bases. In 1977, she ran away from her Mormon fundamentalist mother to live with her father, who introduced her to country bluesmen Big Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly, as well as contemporary songwriters Guy Clark and Randy Newman. She spent the next several years exploring the folk underground, spending the early '80s in Austin, where she began honing her own songwriting skills. After dropping out of the University of Texas, she moved to San Francisco, where she quickly embraced the city's punk scene. When she returned home, her mother had her committed to a psychiatric hospital. She was released when her insurance ran out. Shocked left Texas in 1983, traveled throughout the U.S., and became an activist in the squatters movement in New York. In 1984, she moved to Amsterdam.

In 1986, Shocked returned to the U.S. and, while volunteering at the Kerrville Folk Festival, English producer Pete Lawrence was impressed by her campfire-side playing and recorded her on his Sony Walkman. The recordings surfaced in the fall of that year as The Texas Campfire Tapes on Cooking Vinyl Records and became a surprise hit in England, eventually topping the independent charts. The success led to her signing with Mercury Records in 1988. Short Sharp Shocked, produced by Pete Anderson in 1988, displayed even more talent, combining the informal, tradition-rooted folkiness of The Texas Campfire Tapes with a strong postmodern feminist perspective and punk attitude. The album quickly earned her respect among the alternative community and critics. In an unexpected move, Shocked returned in 1989 with Captain Swing, a '40s-style big band swing outing that surprised her fans initially but had no shortage of strong material. In 1992, she took something of a step back with Arkansas Traveler, a rootsy collection of songs based on the blackface minstrelsy that covered all forms of early American, homegrown music. In 1993, Mercury finally became fed up with her confusing style jumping and refused to release her proposed gospel album. She then left on a solo tour, selling her newly recorded, independently produced (with Tony Berg) Kind Hearted Woman. Late in 1995, Shocked began legal action against Mercury Records to break her contract.

By 1996, Shocked was released from Mercury and embarked on the First Annual Underground Test Site Tour, with Fianchna O'Braonain. Another independent release, Artists Make Lousy Slaves, was sold at the shows. Kind Hearted Woman was picked up for commercial re-release by Private Music in 1996, and as a condition of her release from Mercury, her old label released a "best-of" compilation, Mercury Poise: 1988-1995, the same year. After laying low for several years, in 2002 Shocked re-emerged with a new album, the gospel-influenced Deep Natural, and her own record label, Mighty Sound. In addition to releasing new work from Shocked, Mighty Sound began a program of expanded reissues of her back catalog, which she gained control of following her release from Mercury. In mid-2005, Shocked audaciously released a new trilogy of very different albums all on the same day, June 7: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Mexican Standoff, and Got No Strings. Mighty Sound also made the three albums available as a set called Threesome. To Heaven U Ride, a collection of covers and originals recorded live from Shocked's 2003 performance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, appeared in 2007, followed by Soul of My Soul, an all-new set of originals in 2009. ~ Chris Woodstra

HOMETOWN
Dallas, TX
GENRE
Rock
BORN
February 24, 1962

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