april 2008

Pretty Good, And Then Some

By David McGee


Photo by Alicia Zappier

Amanda Shaw

It takes supreme confidence in your abilities to cut a debut album that embraces a barnburning instrumental workout by Cajun fiddle pioneer Denis McGee ("McGee's Medley"), a Cajun-flavored reimagining of a moody, Diane Warren-penned pop heartbreaker originally cut by Cyndi Lauper ("I Don't Want To Be Your Friend"), a grinding, Zep-influenced heavy rock assault ("Easy On Your Way Out"), and then inject into this tune stack original songs from your own pen; five to be exact, including a shimmering, stomping swamp-pop confection redolent of Tony Joe White ("Chimolito") and a sputtering, honking, horn-fired funky ditty, "Brick Wall." This is after announcing your arrival with your own jaunty but penetrating-beyond-your-years advisory to those enamored of your physical beauty instead of the woman inside ("Pretty Runs Out," in which you suggest, "read beyond the magazine pages/they don't tell you that a supermodel ages/don't you know/that pretty runs out"). Welcome to the fold 16-year-old Louisiana-born-and-bred wunderkind Amanda Shaw, on whom too much praise cannot be heaped. She writes with a wisdom befitting a more worldly lass, attacks the fiddle with a fluid, historically resonant style (betraying influences ranging from the aforementioned Denis McGee to Doug Kershaw to Richard Greene to Stuart Duncan) and sings in a husky, pixie-ish voice that is at once innocent and earthy, sort of a cross between Kasey Chambers and Deana Carter. The last young whippersnapper to emerge with the whole musical package so fully formed, so fluent in the pan-cultural lingo, and so unabashed in revealing the heart was Chris Thile. That's heady company to be in, but Shaw gives every indication of following the same adventurous direction that's invigorated Thile's work in and out of Nickel Creek. She's arrived, and she belongs.

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024