Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shawn Starski reviewed by Mark Thompson

Shawn Starski
Cook-top Music
10 tracks/39:06

Many of you are familiar with guitarist Shawn Starski from the series of memorable shows at Big Cities Lounge that he was involved with as a member of Jason Ricci's band, New Blood. Now Shawn gets the opportunity to step into the spotlight and he quickly shows that he is ready for the attention.

Starski wrote all of the songs and handles most of the lead vocals, with his wife Elle taking over on two cuts. The rhythm section is comprised of Todd Edmunds on bass and Steve Johnson on drums, also former members of New Blood. On three tracks Starski is joined by Geoff Newhall on bass and Jimi Foglesong on drums. Phil Wolfe handles the keyboards and organ parts throughout the disc.

The disc opens with “Sea of Faces”, a dark tune about a man with little hope left and desperately seeking love. Starski's measured vocal over his snarling guitar lines convey the appropriate amount of despair. The mood immediately improves on “Was It You”, complete with a funky backbeat and more of the leader's tasty guitar work. “Dirty Deal” finds Starski firing off lightning quick licks on a fast shuffle. The somber “For Us” is a late-night, slow blue instrumental that gives Starski plenty of room to stretch out with Wolfe on organ filling the space behind him.

“Cry Baby” is a rocker with Elle's sultry voice backed by Wolfe's keyboard wizardry and biting guitar from her husband. Her work on the ballad, “The Truth”, is equally impressive. Starski breaks out his slide on “How It Come to Be” and tears it up over his distorted vocal. Another highlight is the instrumental “Hallows Eve”, as Starski shows he has some serious jazz chops. Cole Bergus elevates the cut with his intense sax solo. “Means Nothing Now” is another up-tempo number with Starski expressing his feelings about the plight of people who have lost their jobs.

This is a very impressive first effort for Starski. He has delivered a strong batch of tunes and, no surprise, his guitar work is a consistent delight. A very well-done project that merits your attention!

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