Bill Sheffield, remember the name.
There are a bazillion folks out there, trying to pass themselves off as blues musicians, trying to pretend that they really understand what the blues are and trying to sell you the notion that they carry the very essence of the blues deeply buried inside their souls.
Once in a great while you are fortunate enough to discover someone who is not a pretender; you hear someone who understands the full range of the blues; someone who appreciates that, as Willie Dixon said, blues is just a slice of life. It is a rare treat to hear someone who knows that the blues encompass the full range emotions and experience that comes with life.
Bill Sheffield, remember the name, is one of those people.
I popped Journal On A Shelf in the CD player expecting to give a casual first listening while I puttered around with other chores. What I heard was such a surprise, was so true and honest, that I sat down and listened. I didn't get up until I had listened to the entire CD. Starting with Cherry Blossom Time, a crisp and clean Piedmont style piece with lyrics that celebrate the joy of being alive and ending up with the title cut, there isn't a throw-away cut in the whole set of tunes.
With 14 solid tracks it is difficult to identify two or three as the strongest for fear of giving the others short shrift but I have to mention New Tattoo" and I Don't Hate Nobody. New Tattoo is another tune that shows the blues can be up-tempo, humorous and light-hearted. I Don't Hate Nobody is as nearly a perfectly written song as you will ever find. The music is solid and skillful. The lyrics are tight and poignant. This song stands on it's own and justifies that entire CD.
One more tune that has to be mentioned is The Ballad of Brer Rabbit. This cut is something of a departure from the rest of the CD, with it's heavier electric sound using effects on the guitar and harp, but this updated retelling of Brer Rabbit is a great treat.
This is a mostly acoustic collection of blues and blues-based songs featuring mostly original tunes backed up by a group of musicians that know when to step out and when to lay back. Too often acoustic blues musicians try to fill out the sound with backing musicians that get in the way of the song. The resulting sound covers up some otherwise good songs but that is definitely not the case here. The arrangements and musicianship all work to let the jewels shine.
Mostly acoustic, some electric, mostly originals, some covers, Piedmont, slide, great vocals and excellent sidemen. If you want to hear what the blues can be today, then you need to hear Journal On A Shelf.
Bill Sheffield, remember the name!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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