Award-winning UK artist Ian Shaw's new album Shine Sister Shine describes itself as “a celebration of the actions and art of extraordinary women”. Its political content, a response to recent world events and their effects on women, particularly refugees, alongside whom Shaw has worked for the last two years, is summarised in an informative intro on the CD box by novelist Stella Duffy: “This is an album crammed with sharp pain, deeply felt, then countered with resonant soaring hope…”
The album demonstrates Shaw's range as vocalist and as songwriter. He is a fabulous singer whatever the musical genre, equally at home with jazz, pop or soul. He is a good pianist too – he plays on three of the tracks here, including the touching Keep Walking (Song for Sara) written about an Eritrean woman refugee.
He is supported by a fine trio: Barry Green, piano; Mick Hutton, bass; and Dave Ohm, drums. The CD includes new workings of songs by American greats Peggy Lee, Phoebe Snow, Carly Simon and, of course, Joni Mitchell, whose work Shaw has covered extensively. There are arrangements of songs by friends and collaborators: Gwyneth Herbert, Judith Owen and Julie Matthews, several original compositions, and a song co-written with UK pop star Tanita Tikaram.
The tracks range extensively in style from smooth rock/pop tunes like his own extremely catchy Carry on World (Starring Everyone) to gospel in the Tikaram/Shaw penned anthem Shine Sister Shine, through full-blown pop and soul. Jazz fans will particularly appreciate his arrangements, and the precise beauty of his singing, on the Barbour/Lee swinger I Don't Know Enough About You.
My favourite of the jazz tunes is Herbert's Not The Kind Of Girl, which he sings with great poignancy. This very accomplished collection captures Shaw's superlative voice, and showcases his versatility. (There are three extra tracks on the digital copy, too, including the intriguingly titled A Horse Named Janis Joplin.)
Shaw is a brilliant live performer too. You can go to see him with his trio at the Pizza Express Soho on 27 January 2018.