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Still Falling

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Album Review

Quad Cities was loaded with amazingly rich, evocative songwriting, and so too is Still Falling; however, Virgil Shaw's second solo outing is quite a different narrative from his first, even if it tells much the same tale. "Stunning" seems to be the word that has most attached itself to Still Falling, and with excellent reason. Eschewing the stark hollerin' blues and sometimes devastating bleakness of the debut (but not its soulful, almost gospel-like fervor), the album has a swooning, stardust lushness missing from its predecessor. Employing many of the same players, it nevertheless is much more exquisitely produced. Beds of vibes, horns, and keyboards wrap themselves around bridges and refrains before fading back into the darkness, only to reappear again when the mood runs high. Country music has always been but a few liquor benders and a few bad breakups away (and perhaps a nudge and a wink) from R&B, and Still Falling, with its almost inarticulate depths of emotion and the fervor with which both its despair and jubilation are conveyed, could often pass for either genre depending on which bar you happen to be hearing the music in. This is true on such songs as the raucously cynical "Clock on the Wall," the crestfallen title track, and the woefully poignant and noble character study "Owner Operator." And nowhere is it more evident than on "Sing Me Back Home," which even displays some of Willie Nelson's jazzy sense of rhythm. Shaw's half-there, half out-to-lunch slur of a drawl, though, is as country as it gets, often missing the high notes by a couple miles and barely scraping the underside of some of the mid-range ones, but he wrestles and wrangles with every tune with such undeniable passion and fire that it always comes out sounding just right. Full of ballads as mortally anguished as a howl at the moon, and spot-on evocations of the sort of blindly fumbling and sloppily groping sentimentality to which we all, at times, fall prey (even if we have trouble admitting it), Still Falling couldn't be any more beautifully broken if filled up from the bottom of George Jones' bourbon flask.

Still Falling, Virgil Shaw
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