Triple Played: Shawn Mullins perseveres to cast off the one-hit wonder label
I really like Shawn Mullins’ new CD “Light You Up” and it’s only been out for a week.
Mullins is, in my opinion, one of the best and most interesting singer/songwriters recording today.
He has been around the world musically and is a rare phenomenon in the music business.
This is a guy, who was considered a one hit wonder in 2000, has since released the best music of his career. Mullins was in the U.S. Army when he released his first recording on cassette tape on his own label.
In 1998, he released “Souls Core” on Columbia Records which contained his biggest hit, “Lullaby.” Even though “Lullaby” was the single, I think that there were some better songs on that record, most notably “Anchored in You,” “Twin Rocks,” “Oregon,” “Shimmer” and a stunning cover of Kris Kristofferson’s classic “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”
After 2000’s “Beneath the Velvet Sun” didn’t produce a hit and failed to meet sales expectations, Columbia let Mullins go.
But I also liked that record with “Lonesome,” “I Know You Too Well,” “Everywhere I Go, Amy’s Eyes” and “Sante Fe” as standouts.
Mullins resurfaced in 2006 on Vanguard Records with “9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor,” a terrific roots rock recording made shortly before Hurricane Katrina destroyed the recording studio. This is the Mullins CD I listen to the most.
“Honeydew” was released in March 2008 and was recorded in Mullins’ home state of Georgia as an homage to where he grew up.
“Live at the Variety Playhouse,” a wonderful live album showcasing Mullins personality as well as his great music, was released in November 2008.
I haven’t seen Mullins live but, according to a friend, that is when he is at his best. One listen to this live record and you will be hooked.
On “Light You Up,” Mullins is not going to take you down any new roads. What he does do is present 11 songs in the style that has worked for him for years.
Andrew Leahey said this about “Light You Up” on allmusic.com: “It’s pleasantly produced but a bit over-polished at points, and it trades ‘9th Ward’s’ rustic risk-taking for a more comfortable, easygoing track list.”
What’s wrong with that?
His first clue might have been the picture on the back cover of the disc. An unshaven Mullins is dressed up in a black suit with a half-tied neck tie and shiny black shoes, looking rough around the edges with a little polish, like the music on this record.
Secondly, I think Mullins has earned the right to do what he wants as a musician. That must be the reason he signed with Vanguard Records, a label that encourages its artists to be comfortable in their craft.
Armed with a superb voice and backed by an excellent band, Mullins mixes classic rock, roots rock, country, pop and jazz with a lot of soul into a recording that you will love, especially if you are already a fan.
In fact, while I was writing this column and playing “Light You Up,” a young lady was in the store and asked if it was Mullins. She said the last she had heard from him was “Lullaby” and she just loved his voice.
After hearing only three songs, she purchased the CD and said she couldn’t wait to go home and listen to it.
That is a perfect example of the power of music.