There's an added poignancy to Shaw's first album with a piano trio in that he covers Bowie's Where Are We Now, a fitting tribute to another artist who celebrated difference and desire while never giving up the fight against mediocrity. Shaw's ability to sear away the extraneous, cut to the emotional heart of a song and build inexorably without melodrama or self-aggrandisement toward the moment a lyric gives itself up to us remains astonishing.
Freed from piano duties, chilled in a context where he knows the band's devils and their deep blue seas, (and they know his) The Theory of Joy is Shaw's most intimate recording, and as a vocalist perhaps his most adroit, moving between pacey bop, All This and Betty Too, Gallic blues How Do You Keep the Music Playing and a rock yowl on The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
The Theory of Joy includes three of Shaw's own songs, while referencing his heroes, as on the life-loving cover of Joni's In France They Kiss On Main Street. With Murphy, Bowie, Landesmann all gone before, Shaw and the band keep the spirits of the lost with us while adding their own unique voices. Buy this.