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ALBUM REVIEW

Shake Russell
WHAT THIS HEART HOLDS
©2009 Shake Russell
MTM102327
Review by Lucky Boyd

$14.99

The opening cut sets the tone and right away you know this is going to be something different from Shake Russell. The opener is the title cut and it’s obvious that Russell has found a new sound complete with whistles. Yep. Not the Anita Ward kind, but the pretty kind, those that add an ethereal feel to the music. Russell’s new orchestration includes the core of Doug Floyd and Michael Roberts, rounding out the trio’s sophomore release and their first full-blown studio project together as the Shake Russell Band. Russell proves with the lead cut that he can break new ground with his writing. It’s not classic Shake Russell in style, but it has Russell’s trademark passion. On the second cut, “She’s Pretty Blue Today,” Russell teams up with our old friend Willie Atkinson for a song that will make you say, “that’s a Shake Russell song.” We’ve come to know and love his classic style and this song is wrapped in that comfortable package. Russell teams up with long-time writing partner Charles John Quarto on “Places In Texas” for a great Texas song, and you know how this reviewer loves a good Texas song. This two-stepper is destined to become one of the band’s most requested tunes. Sammy Cahn said he never titled a song until he had researched whether or not the title had ever been used before. He might not have approved of that aspect of “Ruby” but once heard, he would have forgotten every song every written about the girl with the classic name. This Michael Hearne co-write offers, “… tonight she’s far away and my heart calls out her name” and will chill the listener as Russell croons about being separated from true love. The band shows off their vocal prowess on “Luna Tara Tango,” the album’s co-write with Chuck Hamrick. Russell offers “Save It For Me” as another example of his new direction in writing. I hear Tish Hinojosa singing this song and it has ‘hit’ written all over it. Next comes “Vanished” which is arguably the album’s best cut, and it’s saddest. Russell pours himself into this song like no other on the record. It’s as if he’s lived it, and if so, your heart breaks for him. Musically, the song is perfect and the performance is stellar. “Dream Big” is co-written with fellow MTM member Danny Everitt and is an upbeat rock-influenced track. You can always count on Shake for a well-placed “yeah” to add exactly what a song needs exactly when it’s needed. The song is another showcase of the band’s vocal work. “Anam Cara” takes us to Isla Verde with Russell’s celtic-influenced offering, a co-write with the album’s producer John Inmon that is, as the song offers, “an old connection that comes to life.” “Edge of a Dream,” the co-write with Toni Becker is full of imagery and life, “whispering songs from the edge of a dream.” The disc includes two more co-writes with fellow MTM member Michael Hearne and a co-write with fellow MTM member Susie Warley. This baker’s dozen is laden with flawless performers from Russell’s Texas circle and from his new friends in PA. Together, they have taken Russell’s warm, familiar essence and wrapped it in a disc that is long overdue from this Texas legend. This is the new Shake Russell, not the same as before, but equally as comfortable. Imagine your favorite pair of shoes, the ones who have been so good to you for years; and now imagine you just remembered that you bought two pair at the beginning. You can begin your years of comfort all over again. This is the new quintessential Shake Russell. While there has never been a bad disc or even so much as a mediocre release from this musical and lyrical genius, I’m going to have to step out on a limb here. This is easily Russell’s best release since “Love’s Brightest Campaign” more than a decade ago and quite possibly his best release in thirty years. You’ll slip into this disc emotionally and it will become your favorite. It is filled with new classics and new sounds that make this the album you will talk about for years. If you buy only one copy of this album, you’re crazy. Buy a dozen and give them away. But if you buy only one album this year, here’s your purchase. Well done, my friend. Well done.

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