The 10 Best Bay Area Albums of 2018: Shannon Shaw, 'Shannon in Nashville'

Album art for Shannon Shaw's 'Shannon in Nashville.'

We're posting our favorite Bay Area albums of 2018 every weekday through Dec. 14. Check back here to see who else made the list.

With their campy, countercultural take on retro Americana, Shannon and the Clams look like they walked right off a John Waters movie set. And even Waters, the "Filthy Uncle of Punk" himself, is a fan of the Oakland garage-rock revivalists, who've been a mainstay of the East Bay's underground scene for nearly a decade.

2018 marked an evolution for bandleader Shannon Shaw, whose Dan Auerbach-produced solo debut, Shannon in Nashville (Easy Eye Sound), showcases a more personal and courageous side to her songwriting.

Shannon in Nashville shimmies into cathartic rock'n'roll about tragic love, self-reflection and heartbreak, with all of the raw emotion of the final wail in Roy Orbison’s "Crying." Old-school session musicians who played with legends like Elvis and Orbison, Shaw's hero, assisted on the project, which masterfully blends gut-wrenching blues, doo-wop harmonies, country croons and punk percussion into an album that cuts straight to the heart. But what stands out is the singularity of Shaw’s well-loved rasp and tenacity that lingers with every syllable.

With a vocal intensity comparable to Motown stalwart Mary Wells, Shaw nails a danceable bop spattered with pangs of sorrow on "Cryin’ My Eyes Out": "Here I am, cryin' my eyes out / Wonderin' when things will change / When will they change?" "Broke My Own," with its crescendo of crashing cymbals, bursts open like a raw wound, landing on the agonizing realization: "My worst enemy is my own flesh and bone."

"Leather, Metal, Steel" conjures the liberating feeling of smashing on the gas with the windows down on a solo road trip, belting at the top of one's lungs. Accompanied by the wail of a loan trumpet, Shaw evokes a rugged independence, her raspy timbre pacing over the lines: "(She's leavin') before she forgets how to feel / (She's leavin') with leather, metal and steel."

“Freddies 'n' Teddies” evokes the soulful rhythm and mystique of Dusty Springfield’s "Spooky," another one of Shaw's inspirations (Shannon In Nashville gets its name from Dusty in Memphis). The track courses with self-empowerment as Shaw casts off insincere men wasting her time.

Nostalgic yet imaginative, Shannon in Nashville gets its strength from Shaw's rich arc of storytelling. Resist temptation to tap "shuffle" when you listen to this album: it's meant to be played like vinyl. A side, flip, B side. Repeat as necessary.


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