American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shawn Pittman has released a new album on the Continental Blue Heaven label titled Make It Right. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.
According to his official website, Pittman is an Oklahoma-born blues-rock performer. He was first introduced to music at age eight when he started to take piano lessons. He soon became interested in other instruments such as his older brother’s drums and by age 14 he had moved on to guitar.
His rockin’ resume includes a dozen previous platters. His debut disc, Blues From Dallas, was originally recorded in 1996. It was later picked up and reworked for his national debut disc, 1997’s Burnin’ Up.
Following his 1998 CD, Gotta Give, he toured as rhythm guitarist for Susan Tedeschi in 1999 and appeared with her on the Conan O’Brian Show. On his third album, Full Circle, he was backed by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section Double Trouble. Other highlights include his more experimental 2004 album Stay, and a 2018 European tour with the well-known German/Turkish father-and-son blues team Erkan and Levent Ozdemir on bass and drums respectively.
He also recorded his prior platter, Everybody Wants to Know with percussionist and pal Jay Moeller that same year. He has also worked with Lou Ann Barton, Gary Clark Jr., James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, Kim Wilson, and Blues Brothers band member Matt “Guitar” Murphy.
Shawn Pittman’s signature sound is a blend of classic Chicago blues, funk, rock, modern blues, and (on this disc) even traces of rockabilly and jazz.
Make It Right
This new release is his 13th and features 12 tracks. It has a running time of over 47 minutes. On it, Pittman leads the way on guitar, and lead vocals.
He is assisted by other artists including Erkan Ozdemir (bass), and co-producer Levent Ozdemir (drums). In a recent communique, Pittman briefly reflects on the album’s origins and its distinctive sound. He said:
“I set up a 50’s reissue Bassman and a 1967 Super Reverb and expressed that I would like a dirty vocal sound. There were a few unfinished ideas I had floating around in my head but we didn’t have a plan as to what we were going to record. What happened next was nothing short of magical, I have a pieced-together Butterscotch Telecaster with an Esquire neck with a neck pickup taken from a 50’s Kay. It was getting a sublime roar and we tore through some songs.”
Track by Track
The album opener is “Done Tole You So!” The song certainly sets the stage with a musical mix of both the old and the new, and a strong, sincere performance but in some ways, it barely foreshadows what all is to come.
Next, Pittman performs his version of the Albert King Song “Finger on the Trigger.” It’s a standout track as he works that fine line between derivation and inspiration and cookie-cutter cover and crazy out of bounds adaptation.
“Make It Right” follows. It earns its position of “title track” with a quietly unique sound. Pittman confirms it’ “a small time change in the beat pattern.”
“I Feel Good” is Pittman’s tuneful take on a Junior Kimbrough song. He makes it move with a jazz-tinge, thumping percussion, and a two-note bass bit.
“There Will be a Day” is an Eddie Taylor song. Pittman plays it like it’s his own. He plays as if he is exploring the inner essence of the song. It’s adventurous but not one bit off-kilter.
“How Long?” is a slow blues song. It’s also an early fave of critics and fans alike.
“For Right Now” has an upbeat, happy groove to it. It’s catchy without being overly insistent or complicated. Pittman calls this experimental cut “neo-soul.”
It’s followed by an instrumental version of the James Brown song “Cold Sweat.” It’s kinda funky and Pittman makes it breathe.
The next number is “Woke Up Screaming.” This one is a slower, funk blues cover of a Bobby “Blue” Bland song that has a great beat.
“Let It Go” is a telling track in that it reveals more of Pittman’s influences. This one was specifically inspired by Jimmy Reed.
Speaking of inspirations, “Fair Weather Friend” is obviously but effectively inspired by the legendary Muddy Waters. This one is soundtrack ready and listener-friendly because of its familiarity. ,
The album endnote is the apropos “I’m Done.” This one includes a simple rhythm, a noteworthy slide guitar solo, and an overall raucous feel. It also comes complete with some call-and-response action between Pittman and the guys which make it sound like they’re having fun just jamming.
Of course, despite the sentiments expressed in the closing cut, Pittman is far from done. He says: “As an artist, I feel like I am just beginning. The one constant I have had is the desire to be great at what I do.”
He concludes: “ The late Clifford Antone told me ‘It’s all about making friends.’ I combine that piece of advice with something B.B. King told me when I asked him his secret for longevity: ‘Treat people how you want to be treated, and remember everybody has a boss’.”
Overall . . .
Overall, this album amply demonstrates that Shawn Pittman is one of those artists in love with just plain ol’ playin’ the blues. Pittman notes that what he likes “about the record is its honestly genuine three-piece live performances.” Indeed, it has only a couple of overdubs and the realism of the disc’s unpolished, dirty sound is quite honestly refreshing in a day of hyper-tech polished production.
In short, this is real music, guys and dolls. Undoubtedly it has been said elsewhere–and if not it should be–Make It Right was made right. So check out Shawn Pittman’s Make It Right and listen to what happens when Pittman has his ‘Finger on the Trigger.”