A multi-instrumentalist Southern California singer-songwriter who’s played sideman for Katy Moffat, Wanda Jackson and Dave Alvin, with a penchant for Hank Williams influences and old school country, brings us Love & Desperation, his twelfth album. It kicks off with accordions affording a Doug Sahm Texicali taste to a cover of Al Ferrier’s rockabilly ‘Blues Stop Knocking At My Door’ followed by his own yodel-inflected laid back and lazing ‘Blues At Midnight’. There’s a further bluesy vibe to both the slinky ‘(Down At The Bar At) Gypsy Sally’s’ (Townes Van Zandt fans will recognise the reference) and the rumblingly moody storysong title track drawing on his own childhood family history, while steel guitar and fiddle underpin ‘She Sang Of The Earth’, a co-write with Kim Ringer, daughter of the late Jim Ringer, where Marty Robbins echoes resonate amid the melody and vocal delivery.
There’s more steel and accordion on the more uptempo impending doom two-step ‘Big Rain Is Comin’ Mama’ where thoughts turn more towards early Willie Nelson, likewise in taking the pace down for the soulful country waltz ‘A Tenderhearted Love’, a love song for his wife, strummed acoustic backed by Hammond organ.
It’s back then to the cantina for the lively accordion swirl and steady snare beat of ‘Juanita (Why Are You So Mean?)’, part sung in Mexican, the song imagining his in-laws when they were dating, before a quick stylistic switch back to the slow walk rhythm gospel and blues for the timely ‘The World’s Gone Crazy’. Things move on to upend the romantic notion of Music City fame for the slow country blues ‘Nashville Blues’, which, featuring just acoustic, dobro, drums and bass and again hinting at Willie, wryly reflects on being glad he never made it there, wistfully remarking how he might have some better luck but that “things probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway”, how friends who did regret it, and that the price you pay for having a hit is going insane. Essentially, it’s a song about accepting how the cards are dealt and not moping over what might have been.
Following the instrumental ‘Mystic Canyon’, deep fingerpicked guitar notes complemented by Hammond, steel and a low key drum beat, Love & Desperation closes back at the border as Nelson and Robbins raise a glass to the dustily sung Elmore Leonard-inspired Western noir revenge tale of a ‘Texas Lawyer’, originally featured on his debut, with its accordion, nimbly brushed snares, trumpet and mandolin and the cautionary message that “ a cunning heart will always get what it deserves” and “trouble always find a man who tries to hide an unsettled score”. Coincidence, of course, but there actually is a Texas lawyer named Richard Shea. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. Shea says he’s at a time when starting to think of things he’d like to be remembered for, this album especially. No problem there.
Artist’s website: www.rickshea.com
‘The World’s Gone Crazy’ – official video:
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