Having proven himself to be a top-notch interpreter, Britain’s Ian Shaw travels a new path on his latest effort by releasing an album of originals.
It’s a good move. Lifejacket is a smart and sophisticated collection of stories about coping with everyday challenges, including growing older. A highlight is "Forty-Two," a duet with award-winning vocalist Liane Carroll. "Older not wiser, let’s stay forty-two," sing the pair with complete grace. It’s a crime that these two aren’t better known in the U.S. (In another noteworthy collaboration, Shaw appeared on Carroll’s 2005 release, Standard Issue, joining her on "You’ve Got a Friend.")
Shaw was named best jazz vocalist at the BBC Jazz Awards in 2007 and 2004. He combines a supple voice with an edgy, soulful style that has allowed him to cover songs by everyone from Elton John to Horace Silver to Joni Mitchell.
On Lifejacket, Shaw gets to wrap his voice around his own songbook that is rich in language and thick in atmosphere. "Here’s a kiss to last till later, here’s a number on your palm, here’s a ‘later, alligator’ in blue ink across my arm," he sings on the opening track "Love at First Tequila." Julian Siegel, the 2007 BBC best instrumentalist, joins in on sax.
The album also features "A Good and Simple Man," a tribute to Shaw’s father. Another poignant number is "Letter From a Dead Soldier," which Shaw calls "an apology to children orphaned by war."
Lifejacket is an outstanding release and hopefully just the beginning of more original tunes coming from Shaw.