Rick Shea – Viva Cantina (Burbank, CA – Oct. 29, 2013)
So is this finally Rick Shea’s year? After an illustrious career as the consummate Sideman and Producer – that’s him sitting next to Dave Alvin on Justified, playing steel with I See Hawks and Osborne Jones and twiddling the knobs (as they say) on The Good Intentions last two albums (he’s a busy guy). He’s now come out with a new album (Sweet Bernardine) and it seems like it’s his time for the spotlight at last! And based on last night’s show – with his trio at Viva Cantina – its way past due.
I’ve seen Rick a bunch of times but this new material – especially the electric songs – bring a new vitality to his shows. He’s really sounding like his song “Steady Driving Man” now and pushing his merger of California Country and Folk into new places and opening up the songs with stinging solo’s and showing just how good a Telecaster picker he is.
Rick’s voice lies somewhere between Merle Haggard and Jimmie Rodgers (yes he can yodel) and last night he started off with the Merle-like “No Good Time For Leaving” and it kept on just getting better from there. As this was the CD release party – and what a great turnout there was (including some of the best musicians in LA – Rick is sensibly revered by many) – it was heavily focused on the new songs.
There was still room for some old favorites though – Nelly Bly (as Rick mentioned from the stage, this might be the closest thing he has to a hit – given that it’s featured on Sirius), Sweet Little Pocha – about his wife Susie and ending with “Fisherman’s Blues” – featuring the great Paul Lacques from I See Hawks In LA on dueling Telecaster. Shame we didn’t have time for his version of Cinnamon Girl – which really does kick. The new songs included Mexicali Train, Shake It Little Sugaree, and his terrific rethink of Honky Tonk Blues – which is a real standout – along with the title track all demonstrate the craft that Rick puts into the songs. He’s just a great story teller (must be the Irish in him). If you like Townes, Dave Alvin, or the like you’ll be into this heavily.
One thing to mention is that Viva Cantina is an interesting place – definitely well worth a visit but situated on the edge of Griffith Park in Burbank. You approach it through some nice suburbs but what you really notice as you get closer is the smell of horses! It’s like being on a farm….very strange when you’re 15 minutes from downtown LA!
So if you haven’t heard the album “Sweet Bernardine” you should. It reminds me of “Ace” the Bob Weir solo album. Not so much sonically but in its feel and subject matter. References to Castenada and Casady, Spanish themes, and real characters. This really is Americana. So while his music might be timeless in lots of ways let’s not let Rick wait any longer. His time has finally come…..