I'm From Phunkville - Mem Shannon


I'm From Phunkville


"Overall, you can’t help but realize that not only is this album one of the most brilliant releases in Black Music in recent years, but we also must pay close attention to Mem Shannon and acknowledge the man for who/what he is; he may be the Top Man in the Blues in 2005. No one else comes close (save Solomon Burke) and that says it all. 6 Big Champagne Bottles for a CD that is already a classic. No one should do without Mem Shannon. Fantastic stuff."

-A. Grigg
Real Blues Magazine, Issue #30
November, 2005 


"Former New Orleans cab driver Mem Shannon is often lumped under the "blues" heading. The title of his new CD sets the record straight: "I'm From Phunkville." A big horn section, arranged by saxophonist Jason Mingledorff, punches up "The Reason" and other tracks. A boogie-woogie piano fires "Swing Tiger Swing," likely the first-ever hybrid funk 'n' blues homage to golfer Tiger Woods. A seven-minute "Eleanor Rigby," the only track not written by Shannon, is stripped down and played out with Mingledorff's after-hours sax. Shannon is an unflappable singer and wryly observant lyricist. His musings range from gruff commentaries about life's little injustices -- "The Reason" deconstructs an inattentive fast food server -- to the idealistic "Perfect World" and the give-me-strength plea "Battle Ground." He takes his time on the "Phunkville" title track, scratching out a stuttering, clipped guitar figure before the band kicks in with a mid-tempo groove dressed up by organ and horns; he and drummer Josh Milligan lock in on multiple breaks before Shannon uncorks an epic electric guitar solo against a chorus of horns. He flashes a Spanish-style acoustic in the smooth-jazz instrumental "The Lights of Caracas," then scat-sings in the swinging "Sweet Potato." "Phunkville" accepts visitors of every persuasion."

-Keith Spera
New Orleans Times-Picayune
May 1, 2005 


"I was not surprised at all that as soon as this disc went in all I wanted to do was get up and shake my hips. Mem Shannon has done it again and has brought Trombone Shorty, Jason Mingledorff of Papa Grows Funk, and Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin, and Wood along for the ride. With his great songwriting skills, Shannon has produced 12 original songs and does one cover of Eleanor Rigby. He takes John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s legendary song and adds blues and jazz, creating a soulful and joyful version of his own. When a track takes a turn to a slow jam, his deep, moving voice takes over all emotion as you melt into the lyrics. Other original lyrics will have you laughing and quickly singing along. After hearing I’m From Phunkville, Shannon’s glow on stage becomes understandable - you’ll be glowing just after listening."

-Jessica Weiner
Where Y'at, New Orleans
May, 2005 


"For his fifth album, Mem Shannon continues the mix of funk -- well, soul, really -- and blues that's been his trademark. Along with his own work, he turns in a delightful, heartfelt and bluesy cover of "Eleanor Rigby" that does full justice to the song and adds a tasty midnight-tenor sax solo from Jason Mingledorff. On the way to that cut, there's plenty of meat, like the opener, "The Reason" and "Perfect World," both of which bring political overtones to soul, and the humorous "I'll Kiss a Pitbull" whose spoken opening harks bark to the quiet storm years of soul music in the 1980s. Shannon doesn't exercise his powerful guitar chops a huge amount on this disc, but at this stage he doesn't need to; a decade into his recording career he has nothing to prove. But when he does crank it up, as on "No Religion," it's obvious he means every note. Instead, it's his singing that's front and center, and he's never sounded better, with more depth and resonance in that warm voice. The closer, "We Going," has his guitar sounding more than a little like B.B. King, his most obvious blues influence, but the horns give the whole piece a Memphis swing and he leaves on a good workout. Once again, Shannon hits the bullseye."

-Chris Nickson
All Music Guide
April, 2005 


"The luckiest blues filled cab driver in the Big Easy is still playing a decade later like he never wants to get behind the wheel again. A guitar man with little pretense and deep soul, Shannon has brought his blues to the world and here, with a bunch of quality hitters on board, he gives it some more. A tasty, rollicking set that contemporary blues fans will have great affection for. Hot."

-Midwest Record Review
April, 2005 


"Before the release of his 1995 debut, A Cab Driver's Blues (Hannibal/Rykodisc), guitarist/singer/songwriter Mem Shannon had never been outside of New Orleans. For decades, Shannon had driven a taxi and played gigs on the side, but all that changed when folks outside of the Big Easy began to take notice. Since then, recognition from high-brow media outlets like NPR and shows among blues' elite at The Kennedy Center and Montreal Jazz Festival have taken Mem Shannon far beyond his hometown. Shannon's fifth release, I'm From Phunkville, showcases the deep, soulful voice, smokin' guitar work, and insightful lyrics that have lifted this former cabbie to buzzworthy status. The super tight backing outfit helps flesh out a bluesy, funky, jazzy sound that perfectly supports Shannon's wizened pipes on cuts like the self-explanatory title track, the New Orleans stomper "Swing Tiger Swing," and the poignant "Ignant Stick." But make no mistake: Shannon is a true guitar monster, whose expressive, soaring electric guitar playing makes the whole package complete. When his equally expressive voice takes a break from telling colorful stories about love, prison, politicians, the general struggles of life, and even baseball, Shannon's guitar picks up the thread seamlessly, his fingers effortlessly filling in the emotional blanks between the lyrical lines. Look for Mem Shannon on the road, because this music should translate exceptionally well to the stage. In the meantime, go check out Phunkville: it's nice this time of year."

-Paul Rosner
April, 2005