Press for Songs From the Last Chance Saloon
Rock and Reel Magazine
Ten songs from his back catalogue re-recorded in Nashville, Songs From the Last Chance Saloon demonstrates some serious talent from a man who, despite some career highlights that include writing a song for R.E.M. and having another selected as Amnesty International as their International Anthem of Peace, is not particularly well known.
Opener Faith in Myself has distinct Floydian touches on the vocals and guitar work, as well as some Great Gig in the Sky- style wailing. But from then on, despite the songs having been written over an extended period, it’s very much a man of certain age looking back – sometimes with regret, sometimes not – over the arc of his life; an arc with which many will identify.
Paradise South Ealing is wonderfully evocative and the self-explanatory Champagne Taste on a Lemonade Pay is a rueful rollicker that will surely strike a chord with many. On the more serious side, the likes of Crying for 15 Years and Heart and the High Moral Ground are deep and insightful, while Shevlin’s acoustic-cum-country-blues stripped back-style suits his material perfectly.
Shevlin released this 10 track album on Oh Mercy! Records on 31st May 2014. The album contains 10 new recordings of songs from his back catalogue which he took to Nashville as, ‘I wanted to test the strength of my songs in an acoustic setting and thought, what better place to try them out than in the home of great songwriting – Nashville, Tennessee.’
From the opening chords, Shevlin evokes a sense of loss which continues until the penultimate track and from the title onwards, you could be fooled into thinking that the whole album is mired in cynicism and heartbreak, fuelled by alcohol. Shevlin neatly sidesteps such an easy approach. The tracks were chosen by his fans and through taking an intelligent, slightly detached view of the experiences which have shaped this album, he presents a fresh take on old concepts. The saddest loss of all is losing faith in himself- yet he soars above what could have been a self-pitying mess in Faith in Myself, and Nobody and Heart and the High Moral Ground have the support of good tunes. Champagne Taste on a Lemonade Pay, has a bluesy harmonica contributing an upbeat, jaunty sound ,giving a little lightness to the album whilst Crazy, all retro sound and mellow harmonies ,belies the title by focussing on perseverance and the importance of freedom. Pitting his own humanity against corporate control in Cut Me (I’ll bleed like any man), reinforces his refusal to be a victim. Other aspects of loss are tackled in Paradise South Ealing and I Wish You Well ,where one bittersweet, estranged relationship could also serve as a metaphor for us all .Crying for 15 Years reveals buried ghosts from the past and eventually, the final track, Run Until We Drop, gives much needed optimism through a new relationship, a chance to get away, an escape on the open road.
In such a verbal and emotional mix, the music could be overshadowed but changing instruments from piano to guitar to harmonica and back again, as well as carefully matching them to the strength of his voice also highlights the clarity of his clever, thought-provoking lyrics. The major influence for me is that of Bob Dylan, a master in making every word and phrase count although there are traces of artists such as Thea Gilmore here as well. Despite everything, this is an uplifting album because it is based on an honest reflection of the twists and turns of life and therefore becomes relevant to us all, as his fans’ choice of tracks has proved.
Award-winning singer/songwriter Tony James Shevlin releases his new album on the 31st of May on Oh Mercy! Records. The ten tracks on ‘Songs From the Last Chance Saloon’ were picked by his fans from all over the world; his followers picked well, from a career-spanning thirty years and show of a wealth of talent.
The album mixes superb blues and country tracks, ranging from slow mellow to fast up-beat songs. The experience of Shevlin comes through in every track, and the sparse production on songs like ‘Nobody’ with its simple guitar riffs and simple drums just brings the best out in the songs. Influences such as Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Neil Young and Steve Earl, really come through on the various tracks, especially Dylan on ‘I Wish You Well’ with its one vocal and one guitar makes it the perfect acoustic track.
The blues stylings of the fast-paced ‘Champagne Taste on a Lemonade Pay’ are added to with a subtle use of harmonica, while ‘Crazy’ has a subtle jazz rhythm which shows the variety of Shevlin’s writing style, as does the piano-led blues of ‘Cut Me (I’ll Bleed Like Any Man)’
The country style of ‘Crying For 15 Years’ is tailor-made for the showcase gigs Shevlin has lined up in Nashville Tennessee.
With its stripped-down and back-to-basics production – this is a brilliant album from start to finish.
Middle Tennessee Music
Tony James Shevlin will be releasing a new album on Oh Mercy! Records May 31, 2014 titled “Songs From the Last Chance Saloon”. Tony is an award winning singer/songwriter with a career spanning 30 years. His music brings to mind some of the great storytellers like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Randy Newman. He can tout one of his songs selected as the ‘International Anthem of Peace’ chosen by Amnesty International. He has worked with some amazing musicians over the years, and written for some big names too, like REM.
For this album, Tony wanted to see how some of his songs would stand up in an acoustic realm. He reached out to his fans and asked what songs they would like him to revisit, the response he got was surprising. “Heart and the High Moral Ground was suggested by a guy from Ireland, and Paradise South Ealing from a lady in Spain. I don’t think I’ve performed either of those since the 1990s.”
He has also included ‘Cut Me (I’ll Bleed Like Any Man)’ which has beautiful, bluesy piano and some great lyrics. ‘Run Until We Drop’ has a nice beat, and I can picture people on a dance floor kicking a little two-step action with this song. ‘I Wish You Well’ is a favorite, the slower tempo and acoustic sound works well on this song.
This album is chock full of great work and worthy of being in your music catalog.
Words for Music
While we still have our fake folk/acoustic acts masquerading around with Jake Bugg and the likes, there are still proper folk/acoustic acts to be discovered and admired, and Tony James Shevlin is one of these. Having written songs for R.E.M and The Troggs along, with having Elvis Costello’s Attractions as his backing band, Tony has come forward and created a stripped down album full of honest songs.
Songs from the last Chance Saloon takes the very basics of what makes good album and compiles them together. It may not be fancy and have flashing lights surrounding it, but it cannot be denied that at its core, this is a very good album.
The storytelling in each song is a key factor that makes this album appreciable, with ‘Faith in Myself’ and ‘Heart and the High Moral Ground’ being perfect demonstrations of what this veteran performer is capable of with his song-writing talent. Strong vocals aligned with simplistic yet effective melodies provide a perfect bed for thought-provoking lyrics, delivered with just a slight hint of pain behind them.
Songs like ‘Nobody’ and ‘Champagne Taste’ could easily be linked to Dylan and possibly Lennon, as the songs rock from side to side and don’t drop the pace. These songs mix well with Shevlin’s slower adventures, as they show versatility and genuinely make a nice change.
The bluesy ‘Cut Me ( I’ll bleed like any man)’ is the album’s showcase song on, with impressive piano work which once again provides an ideal setting for his painful vocals to linger on. The song seems to stem from an honest place with a lot of truth, which comes from the reliability of the song.
The album rolls through ‘Paradise South Ealing’, ‘I Wish You Well’ and ‘Crying for 15 years’ as if they were sewn together, as they have this natural blend – the first of these being memorable for its finger-picking style showing that the musician is not just a one-trick pony.
‘Run Until we drop’ is a fun ending that leaves you smiling,
This is an honest album which opens up and lays these songs out in front of you, and with them being delivered so well, they’re hard not to like.
While this collection doesn’t break any rules or catch the ears of the entire nation, it has provided us with an album to admire and listen to on a long Sunday drive.