march 2011

Shawn Pittman: The sheer force of his soulful performances bowls you over with their go-for-broke, nothing to lose spirit.

From Shawn Pittman, The Truth And Nothing But The Truth

By David McGee

Shawn Pittman
Delta Groove

You got your rhythm and you got your blues, and when you put them together as powerfully as Shawn Pittman does on his virtual one-man-band album, Edge Of the World, you have something else: a raw, honest, kickass album of guitar-driven get-down music that improves with each new listen as the sheer force of Pittman’s soulful performances bowls you over with their go-for-broke, nothing to lose spirit. Recorded with one mic and an eight-track recorder, Edge of the World has a riveting, airy live sound with a heavyweight gutbucket punch that sounds like real music being played quite loud in your living room or, for the sake of the neighbors’ peace of mind, in a small, sweaty club.

You could be forgiven for thinking Edge of the World sounds a lot like an early Rolling Stones album--it does. Mr. Pittman knows him some Muddy Waters--and Chicago blues in general--from when the Stones spring, plus he’s got a singing voice that at times swaggers and struts like young Mick’s (when it isn’t in a gravelly, shouting Wilson Pickett mode) and everything is set to a big, stomping beat that is first and foremost about the solid bottom he lays down on bass and drums; upon that foundation he builds a taut, driving attack centered on his stinging, howling guitar and the occasional horn support provided by the only other musician on the project, Jonathan Doyle. He summons the spirit of one of the Chi-town wizards early on, with a spirited, shuffling story of financial malfeasance on the part of an acquisitive paramour titled “Scent of Your Benjamins,” which seems inspired by Little Walter’s immortal “Dead Presidents.” A swinging, horn-heavy R&B workout titled “Almost Good” (which also happens to be the title of the B side of David Seville’s “The Chipmunk Song,” in case anyone wants to know) celebrates a thang with a woman that’s not yet fully formed but promises to be--enough so that our man Shawn can celebrate “just where it’s at” with a sunny vocal attack and a rocking-rolling piano solo, as well as some slashing, Stevie Ray-style guitar interjections. When things go wrong, Pittman is even more persuasive--the title track, “Edge of the World,” is a scabrous, mean woman blues screed that stomps and thuds with impunity behind Pittman’s plaintive, brittle gospel howl and piercing guitar. He gets in similar high dudgeon on the burning “I’ve Had Enough,” a telling title if ever there was one. Having played with Double Trouble’s Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton in the past, he lets the SRV strain in his music run free here, with an explosive, punitive guitar solo that curls in and swirls around the melody line with breathtaking power, as his pounding piano embroidery does justice to what Reese Wynans brought to latter-day SRV workouts. Elsewhere, Pittman gets it going on a terrific, driving southern R&B celebration of better days ahead, pulsating with positivity as expressed in Pittman’s triumphant declaiming, in the unceasing rhythmic thrust and especially in the big, bright notes and melodic, slashing chords the artist deploys in his guitar solos.

Shawn Pittman Band, ‘Edge of the World,’ the title track from Pittman’s new album. Jason Crisp on bass, Wes Starr on drums.

Closing out the festivities on an atmospheric note in “If I Could (Make the World Stop Turning),” Pittman picks Delta-style blues on acoustic guitar over a solid, jackhammer rhythm--a suitably urgent backdrop for Pittman’s bedeviled narrator, who knows he has to keep pushing on, knowing there are women “in the west, in the north” who’ll provide him shelter from his personal storms while he tries to figure out “which way to go” as the days speed by, time out of his control but not his fate. In his album notes, Pittman cites recordings from the ‘50s and ‘60s as being his favorites, observing: “There was more of a live sound and certain soul that reverberated through those records.” He got the live sound he loves, and by going all out in every aspect of his artistry on Edge of The World, he gives his listeners the gift of abundant soul, generous soul, soul undaunted, soul as the stuff of life. This is a completely truthful record. We could use more like it.

Shawn Pittman’s Edge of the World is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024