Shaun Kirk’s New Album
Steer The Wheel
Sometime last year I reviewed Shaun Kirk’s The Wick Sessions – you can find the review as well as the backdrop story about this enterprising young man here. I wrote the piece not long before I saw him perform at Byron Bay’s 2013 Bluesfest (in fact, it was the first set for me of the festival and I was just about front and centre for the whole performance (see above photo by Jim Jacob).
The Wick Sessions was pretty impressive, given that Kirk did literally everything in this live recording (at The Wick Studios in Melbourne Australia) in December 2012 – vocals, guitar, harmonica and every form of percussion you could physically do at the same time.
His set at Bluesfest was similar and I was taken by his exuberance and indomitable energy. I particularly considered at the time that, were he able to break the budgetary shackles of an up-and-comer, one-man-band setting, where would be his next direction?
Now I have the answer. Shaun’s new release is Steer The Wheel. He’s back at the same studio, with the same engineer (Dan Corless) and mixer (Glenn Scott), but this time around he has enlisted some regular, strong support – Danny McKenna (percussion) and Grant Cummerford (bass) and casual, carefully selected adornments on lead guitar, piano, organ, banjo and backing vocals.
The sum of the parts is a significant move away from the street-hawking, busker sound of The Wick Sessions. The third track of Steer The Wheel is a refresh of “Every Dog Will Have Its Day” from the earlier release, but that’s really one of the few links between these two works. “Stitches” is gorgeous, high-pitched soul and groovy keyboards – the songwriting and arrangements are a sign that Kirk is on to something new – his smooth voice suiting this material well. “Two Hands On The Wheels” is a finger-picking, traveling blues number with great accompaniment by Dan and Kyle Lizotte, adding just the right weight to proceedings – there’s a delicate restraint here.
“Find Me A Lady” starts with an infectious, Stax-studio groove and it doesn’t let up – a plaintive plea for ‘love…til the cows come home‘ with Jeb Cardwell’s embellished guitar a feature. “Blues For My Birthday” (an autobiographical tale?) maintains your interest. Up goes the vibe for “No One Gonna Love You When You Love Like That” which has a compelling riff and demanding percussion, while “Tranquility” is in a boogie vibe with a great, catchy hook. “Twenty Two” starts with a restrained, almost hushed vocal style which is very engaging and a soulful mood that is indebted to the lead guitar of Brett Langsford. This is another album highlight. Tony Joe White’s “As The Crow Flies” is the finale – and Kirk makes the most of the core of the song, but also separating his cover from the original (and many other covers I’ve heard of this seminal tune) with a slow, persistent instrumental groove, with great interplay between the musicians – it sounds like it was recorded live and in not that many takes, giving its freshness.
Since my first review and his Bluesfest set last year, I have been following his career from a distance. His seemingly incessant touring and energy have greatly impressed.
Make no mistake, Shaun Kirk is injecting youth and fire into the Australian blues scene.
Thanks To Scarlet Fever Publicity