If you visit some of your local record stores, you will find Mem Shannon's latest record, Spend Some Time With Me, in both the blues and jazz sections of the store. As I listened to the CD for the first time, it was easy to see the confusion because Shannon's music offers some of both blues and jazz for the listener in the New Orlean's tradition. In a conversation I had with Mem Shannon recently, he told me that he thought this was his best album ever. After listening to it, I am inclined to agree, and that's not to say that I didn't like his previous releases, A Cab Driver's Blues and Mem Shannon's 2nd Blues Album. All three albums are well done with clear overtones of his musical upbringing and influence in the New Orleans style. However, Spend Some Time With Me demonstrates a maturing of Mem Shannon's work and brings it to a new level; all for the better.
On Spend Some Time With Me, Shannon hit his listeners with one of the best songs on the CD, "Who Are They." With its up tempo beat and a nice hook in the lyrics, Shannon seeks answers to who the people are who come up with such curious comments as "Age ain't nothin' but a number" and "They say if I eat right, ride my bike; I'll be just the right size for my height." This song is followed by the equally entertaining, "Paying My Dues" where Shannon tells us that he is paying his dues and probably more than his share. The lyrics to this song offer another nice hook and tell a story that is interesting and entertaining. Both songs offer some nice guitar by Shannon and some hot sax by Jason Mingledorff on "Who Are They."
Shannon's guitar sings and stings on "Don't Talk About My Mama," as song where Shannon warns others that they can treat him most any old way, but leave his mama out of it, OR ELSE! The song also includes a recurring mocking sax riff and solo by Mingeldorff. The mother and child theme is revisited later on the recording with "Mother's Love," a song that celebrates everything that Shannon's mother offered him as he was growing up and "Pray For The Children," emphasizing the difficulties of growing up and the importance of a family.
"The Last Time I Was Here" is an excellent song where Shannon sings about a future of equal treatment and respect for everyone, regardless of race, color or creed. As with many of the songs on the CD, there is an excellent guitar solo in the song, along with some significant tempo changes to break up the song. Similar tempo changes are found on "Dirty Dishes," a song that talks about cleaning up after your own messes, regardless of the type.
The CD ends with a song called "No Such Thing (My Humble Opinion, 2nd Movement)." In this finale, Shannon informs the listener that there "ain't no such thing as too much funk," even though there are lots of restrictions on good advice, credit from Sears, public access, and the fact that "You couldn't stop Kenneth Starr from going too damn far." He finishes by saying that if you didn't get enough funk the first time; just push the repeat button and start the CD over. Words of good advice from a fine guitarist, singer and songwriter on his best album to date in his humble opinion and mine too.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.