3 out of 5 stars
David Shaw’s no newcomer, but his self-titled solo debut finds him expanding his parameters and finding some new ground that’s decidedly removed from the seeds he’s sown with the Revivalists. Self-produced and boasting songs he wrote on his own, it’s a bold break-out, one that finds him venturing well beyond his comfort zone. There are times when certain songs don’t sound like they come from the same artist, and the lack of consistency might cause some listeners to scratch their heads and wonder about his actual intent.
On another level, Shaw’s restlessness can be easily understood. Having overcome addiction a decade ago, he successfully steered himself through various therapeutic remedies, one of which was making music. That said, it’s little surprise that he would choose to exercise his ambitions while holding fast to his road to recovery. Likewise, the fact that the Revivalists are on hiatus after four successful albums and opening for Willie Nelson and the Rolling Stones, might have also provided Shaw with some added impetus to break out on his own.
Nevertheless, given the tangents Shaw takes, it’s difficult to discern any definitive direction. It appears as if he is opting for a shotgun approach, one that nods to hip-hop (“Got Me Feeling Good”), modern pop (“Heavy Soul,” “Shaken,” “Something To This Feeling”), sinewy rock and roll (“Bad Side of You,” “Disrepair”) and an occasional moment of reflection (“The Place”). The opening track “Promised Land” combines a slinky groove with a meaningful theme, one that rails against systemic injustice and the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. It’s a cry for equality that takes on added meaning given the turmoil that transpired last year.
Taking these tracks in tandem, we can see that Shaw has effectively set his solo career in motion with his new album, but it remains to be seen where he goes from here. A more definitive direction would likely help in his quest to carve out an identity of his own.