If you're like me, your listening patterns vary according to a number of factors; mood, what's new, or simply what's captured your musical imagination lately . . .
Or perhaps there's something so powerful, so good, you just can't stop spinning it.
Such, for me, is the case with Shawn Kellerman's debut, "Take Note."
Shawn, who's spent time on the chitlin' circuit behind Bobby Rush, now divides his time between Michael Pickett's band and fronting his own unit, the Soul Providers.
From the git-go, Shawn launches into a blistering live version of SRV's "Rude Mood." Halfway through I began to wonder how anyone could sustain such intensity. I also felt a measure of sympathy for drummer Jim Boudreau, faced with the daunting and unenviable task of keeping up with Shawn. Jim, however, acquits himself admirably.
Next it's a take on Little Milton's "That's What Love Will Make You Do," a funk-filled rave highlighted by local legend John Lee's organ work. "Heatin' It Up" gets even funkier thanks to Al Richardson's bass work; "You're Gonna Need Me," punctuated by soulful horns, shows Shawn's got ample chops for slow blues, the true player's proving ground.
"Born Under A Bad Sign" hits with the sheer sonic power of a freight train; I checked the liner notes twice, looking for more credits, but no, it's just Dave Wiffen (sax) and Jason Logue (trumpet) sounding like a full brass section. "Threadin' The Needle" shows Shawn to be a generous leader, largely restricting himself to furious chicken-pickin' behind some fine sax work from Mr. Wiffen. When he does cut loose, there's more than a hint of jazzy complexity in his solo. The almost-seven-minute "You Shook Me," starts with Shawn on acoustic guitar, adds piano, then moves into a slide-frenzied grinder that clearly remembers what Willie Dixon was talking about - it's sex, dammit, down and dirty as it gets. I'd challenge anyone to hear this cut and not start feelin' frisky! (And by the way - Shawn's as good on slide as he is everywhere else!).
"Bending Like A Willow Tree," will forever be associated with one of Shawn's acknowledged influences, the late Albert Collins. Best I can say here is that if Albert could hear Shawn's version he'd be happy to know his legacy is in good hands. Shawn's tone here is either just plain uncanny or just like Albert's - take your pick.
Shawn gets co-writer credit with the late Chicago Pete (the disc's dedicatee) on "Ain't Nothing Like Being With You," a medium-tempo funk outing with an irresistible hook. Things wrap up nicely with an acoustic take on Johnny Winter's "Dallas," with Shawn displaying his superior fingerpicking skills.
Okay, the truth - mine anyway - is that Shawn's vocals don't really go beyond adequate. They're not bad, mind - and with playing of this caliber I hardly noticed anyway - but from a purely critical standpoint it's gotta be said.
The stylistic diversity, and the mix of live and studio tracks, makes me wonder if Shawn was thinking "demo" when he started putting "Take Note" together. If so, the man better clear his calendar - he's about to get a lot of work. The end result, however, is way beyond demo; sure, a bigger budget might result in a slightly slicker package, but a few dollars aren't going to alter the fact that Shawn's a major talent, whose jaw-dropping technical abilities are tempered by a genuine feel for both down-home soul and booty-shakin' funk.
208 Stanley Drive
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 1H4
Web : www.shawnkellerman.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.