Jimmy Shannon – Better Now than Ever
Better Now than Ever is the newest album from singer, guitarist, and songwriter Jimmy Shannon. There’s a little bit of everything over the course of the eleven songs on this release. Shannon keeps his performances hovering around the length common to many popular songs while still keeping the musicianship at a high level. There’s no pandering here, no overt stabs at commerciality. Rarely will you hear a musical artist, regardless of genre, with such a complete and well rounded approach to music making. Melody abounds as well and Shannon’s collaborators are exceptionally well chosen for helping him make this album the satisfying experience that it is. Better Now than Ever finds Jimmy Shannon playing and creating better than ever before and any serious music fan will be enriched by the experience of hearing his work. This is a release with bottomless depths that will tug at the heart and entertaining a vast potential audience.
“He Said… She Said” makes a great first impression for Better Now than Ever. Many of Shannon’s songs are deceptively simple and there’s a pleasing layering effect that comes with the violin playing, but also shows his talent for making comparatively complex musical exchanges and lyrical passages as clear cut for listeners as possible. “I Don’t Want to Lose You” takes a wide stylistic turn in comparison and drops some powerful horn playing into the musical stew accompanied by some equally hot guitar playing. If Shannon left any doubt on the album’s opener than he can handle rougher-hewn material, this track will dispel that fear in short order. Pedal steel guitar and outright country song leanings come into play for the first time on the song “I Lost My Way”, but it’s a style of songwriting playing to Shannon’s strongest qualities. This is a song sure to have an effect on me and never slips into self pity.
He risks cliché a little with the chancy title “Girl Next Door”, but he’s an inventive enough songwriter to get some mileage out of the phrase and the instrumental grace surrounding his vocal elevates the results another few notches. There’s a sort of burning the midnight oil feel permeating the musical mood of “I Can Help It” and it contrasts with the lyrics in an interesting way, but he really does a good job of bringing disparate musical and lyrical elements together on the album’s final song. It’s an alternate version of the earlier “I Don’t Want to Lose You” without any horns in the mix and their subtraction transforms the song. It brings more of a spotlight on the guitar work and Shannon’s inspired vocal to finish Better Now than Ever on a rousing note. Jimmy Shannon’s last album Better Late than Never attracted a lot of much due critical notice, but this latest effort is just that much better in every respect. It’s clear, or at least believable, that he entered the studio with a cachet of finished material and knew exactly how he wanted this album to shake out. There’s a steady confidence crowning it and helping to make it one of the young year’s most memorable releases.
9 out of 10 stars