Rick Shea – Love & Desperation | Album Review

Rick Shea – Love & Desperation

Tres Pescadores Records – 2020


12 tracks; 49 minutes

Rick Shea’s latest release “Love & Desperation” displays his consummate musical and songwriting skills. The Southern California musician plays electric & acoustic guitars, steel guitar, mandolin and dobro with precision, and conducted the band remotely, as they had to build the album part-by-part, in isolation from each other. Drummer Shawn Nourse, who has played with Dwight Yoakam, recorded his parts at his home studio, and Yoakam’s longtime keyboard player Skip Edwards tracked parts from his studio. Phil Parlapiano delivered accordion and Hammond B3 tracks from his Electricdog Studio. The bass player Dave Hall turned in his playing and vocal tracks at Shea’s studio Casa de Calora and from Hallway Studio. Steve Nelson supplies acoustic bass on the title track and electric bass on “The World’s Gone Crazy” and “Big Rain is Comin’ Mama.” Jeff Turmes is a double threat playing bass & saxophone. Trumpeter Probyn Gregory lends a hand on the final story-like song “Texas Lawyer.” Skip Edwards and David Jackson each supplied accordions to flesh out the album. For all the physical separation endured in the production process, the end result is a coherent performance that you could be forgiven for assuming that the musicians had tracked within sight of each other during the sessions.

Shea’s singing is unpretentious and charming, he often leans very closely to a preemptive yodel, indeed the first two songs, the Al Ferrier rockabilly cover “Blues Stop Knocking at My Door” and the Shea original “Blues at Midnight” bring Hank William’s voice to mind. The guitar work is exemplary, and on full display in the instrumental tune “Mystic Canyon” supported by beautifully sympathetic performances by Nourse, Parlapiano and Hall. The songs range from 50’s rockabilly to Norteño stopping at traditional Western Country on the way – and while there are frequent references to the blues, these have emotional rather than musical meaning.

The fourth song and title track “Love & Desperation” by Shea is clearly the strongest composition on the album with elegant interplay between the acoustic bass, accordion and Shea’s sparkling Telecaster. And if “Big Rain is Comin’ Mama” doesn’t make you want to dance – you’ve got another think comin.’

Clearly Rick Shea is an accomplished songwriter and musician, he grew his musical skills playing bars around San Bernardino in Southern California, before moving to Los Angeles venues where worked solo, and as a sideman for Chris Gaffney, Katy Moffat, Wanda Jackson and Dave Alvin among others.  His guitar playing is perfect throughout and  this a great album well worth cracking open a cold one while you listen to it. We should all look forward to the day Shea’s band can tune up, kick off the cobwebs and sawdust “Down at the bar at Gypsy Sally’s” and shake down the house together.

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