Reinvention? Second chances? Preconceived notions? Musicians often seem to get pigeon holed by us as we want them to continue doing what we loved in the first place. When the approach or genre changes, we can feel abandoned, wronged, believe the artist is selling out, start complaining on social media, etc., it takes self-confidence, belief, and an ability to not give a rat’s ass what others think for artists to really do something new. I entered this album very familiar with a couple of Shane’s earlier projects and am not going to recount his history here as this is a fresh start. I am interested to see how others feel who also know this history. This isn’t the typical project that gets reviewed here at RPMOnline, but that has never stopped us. I do want to add that this album goes through metamorphosis with repeated listens where the rock elements become more and more pronounced.
Right out of the box, first song ‘Boom’ will defy your expectations with it feeling at times like one of INXS’ more dance oriented numbers with Shane’s vocals sounding as great as ever. I love the use of the horns later in the track. Something that immediately becomes apparent to me is these songs in a live setting could feel much more rock oriented if you stripped them down to the core. The hook here is extremely simple and insidious. ‘Crosstown Train’ comes next with a dance beat leading into some layered vocals that lead into a verse that really puts the emphasis on the vocal. The combination of vocals and how they are blended in the mix of the chorus is excellent and takes the song to another level. The drum work by Frank Sass is outstanding here. Without my previous experience with Shane’s previous music, I am not sure if I would have given this much of a listen due to my own listening preferences. The cognitive dissonance actually starts to feel pretty good as I can feel myself pushing and pulling to figure out what is happening in these songs as there are many layers.
‘Don’t Wanna Cry’ similarly starts with the easy going beat before the other instruments join for a mellow feeling with some tasteful guitar notes added for good measure. At five minutes, this one takes its time and the effects on the vocals are noticeable, and I would say not needed as it just distracts from his natural voice for my tastes. The chorus is another lush filled hook that utilizes several voices. With the previous projects that I am not mentioning, Shane often sang with lyrics of sarcasm, irony, and a twist on expectations. These songs play it more straight forward but in a clever way. ‘Love Thing’ brings forward a groove and a different feel to the music with Shane’s vocals being front and center. There are elements here where I can feel the rocker side creeping out with this being another song that could really be a rock song live. Wrapping up the first half of the album is the somewhat jazzy ‘Shine Your Star’ where the extended musical intro includes some fine guitar work before the first verse slides into place. I find myself pulled in much more by the guitar throughout the song than the chorus with each listen. Coming at the genre from a different angle, I would have not put so many effects in the chorus; there is a certain rush that comes from the transition of the end of the chorus to the next musical interlude each time thanks to the guitar notes.
The second half of the album kicks off with ‘Winter’s Gone’ feeling like it has more musical weight than some of the other songs with the vocals pushed to the forefront. It really wouldn’t feel out of place on a coming of age soundtrack. The chorus gets a little catchier with each play of the album. ‘Gravitys Callin’’ opens with a lighter dreamier touch that highlights one of the areas where I have found this album excels. Throw on some headphones, turn out the lights, and allow your mind to drift away with each song. I find it odd that I do the same thing with the likes of Kyuss but then also allow myself to do the same with a lot of Tyla Pallas’ solo material as well. Some music just takes on a life of its own when everything else is pushed aside.
‘Saint Anthony’ has proven to be a tricky one for me and tends to get lost at time when I play the album. Part of the reason is I don’t have anything grabbing me consistently in the mix here yet. I will spend some time with this song as part of my late night approach to see what pops out at me then. ‘Sugar’ immediately connected with me with the electric guitar getting a chance to make more of an impact and several vocal hooks embedded into the song as well. This is another one that could have clearly been made into a rock song with a slightly different approach. It still hits harder than everything else on the album and probably stands as my favorite currently. Closing down the album in fine style is ‘Sunday Night.’ Shane incorporates some awesome dynamics in his vocals that showcase what an amazing vocalist he is. The middle section adds even more diversity to the song where the beat increases before falling off to close the song in a way that reminds me of slowly waking up from a dream.
While not every player will get a shout out here, it is important to mention that Chris Feinstein plays bass and contributes on the guitar across these songs. Additional guitar work was done by Doug Lancio who has worked with a variety of artists such as John Hiatt, Patty Griffin, and Nanci Griffith. ‘Boom’ and ‘Love Thing’ were recorded and produced in New York by Michael Tudor and Feinstein. I also want to think Jonathan Daniel who helped get this released so we could enjoy these 10 songs and tell Shane that we need to hear more from him.
Musically, this album brings forward a Shane that most have not seen. He spoke to me about being a chameleon where he can transition from one project to another and is currently working on finalizing details for his next project which will be another curveball that most will not see coming which I look forward to hearing. The vocals here sound amazing, even when the effects are added, and I think this is a key point that makes this release stand out versus what we often see in the mainstream. Shane is a killer singer who doesn’t need effects; he could stand on a corner and sing these songs as amazingly well. If you are familiar with his older work, I encourage you to give this a few listens and approach it with a fresh slate. The Unbelievable Truth? This album needs to be in your collection, just like the other albums with Shane’s singing.
‘Shane and the Unbelievable Truth’ is available now on the usual digital outlets for purchase or stream.
Author: Gerald Stansbury