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I'm From PhunkvilleReviews


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



more reviews of I'm From Phunkville
 

I must admit I was surprised to see this New Orleans Star R&B/Bluesman on Toronto’s Northern Blues Label, but it’s certainly got the potential to do good things for both parties. Mem Shannon is a legitimate Black music star whose career is still on the rise thanks to his great voice and ‘keen-observer-of-life’ songs. Given Northern Blues widespread distribution and big promotion/publicity abilities the combination should work just fine as to getting Mem a few thousand more admirers.

Recorded in New Orleans and produced by Mem, it has a big-time sound/feel that reminds me somewhat of Solomon Burke’s best album in recent years, (
Definition of Soul on Point Blank) and it’s poignant to remember that Mem was driving a cab 10 years ago with a full-time music career just a dream. I like to believe that if an artist has a solid game plan, a serious spiritual/moral foundation, is driven by love of people/music and has a heaping dose of talent, then we get someone like Mem Shannon. Each of his CDs has been a progression in music and in visibility and you find yourself rooting for a guy who is making music for all the right reasons. His S.U.V. song from the 2001 CD "Memphis in the Morning" was most everyone’s pick for ‘Blues Song of the Year’ and a big reminder that; (a) Blues is supposed to be about speaking-out when speaking-out is required and (b) that Blues will always have a contemporary issue role when madness abounds (fossil fuel consumption continues to go crazy thanks to big-engine SUVs) and, when it comes to writing songs about ‘what’s-goin’-on’, Mem Shannon takes a backseat to no one. He’s emerged in the last 6-7 years to become a composer of wit, conscience, and power. He’s also a wonderful producer/arranger with this disc his finest achievement to date. For anyone possessing such mighty merits we’ll probably see a few more masterpieces as Mem is like a ‘kid-with-a-new-toy’ now that he’s fulfilling his life-long dream as a full-time performer (and producer/arranger). The Reason opens this disc and it’s got so much complex New Orleans funk and flavor it’s worth 3 or 4 listens in a row just to start appreciating everything that’s going on. Horn lines that jump from almost traditional to space-age funk (Jason Mingledorff did the charts along with adding his own sax and clarinet, while Shep Sheppard gives us tenor sax, Barney Floyd is on trumpet, ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews is heard on one track) makes this track an ear-catcher. Tiger Woods gets a spirited tribute with Swing Tiger Swing and one would hope Tiger hears it as this would be a great theme song (big bucks for Mem for TV spots) and one is reminded of the hundreds of Blues/Pop tunes written honoring Black sports icons. Perfect World is more proof that we need to start looking at Mr. Shannon in a new light. ‘The guy who-drove-cabs’ identity is history and people (who are healthy) are supposed to grow spiritually, intellectually, and professionally and Mem Shannon is now in the Upper Echelons of Black Music ... actually, let’s just say music. Contemporary music ... Phunkville is such a great New Orleans funk tune that I’d be surprised if it doesn’t become a club dance hit or better. Rhock Dabon’s Hammond organ is a delight with a snaky solo that makes one want more and more and the 10:03 tune seems too short. This tune Burns!! And, Mem struts his stuff on guitar proving that he’s star material in that dept. as well. Hey, Mem Shannon is a serious, deadly serious, Heavyweight Blues contender and so far, after just 4 tracks, I’d be inclined to give him the ‘crown’ (No more whining about Blues being in ‘trouble’ ... got it!). I’ll Kiss A Pitbull starts off as a smooth ballad but gets transformed, in a flash, into a funky Blues, complete with growling/barking doggie. Battle Ground is a really fine Gospel-style ballad about life’s pitfalls highlighted by Mem’s big voice. The Lights of Caracas has (surprise!) a Latin feel to it and everyone gets to stretch out on this instrumental. Sweet Potato is a jazzy Blues that really grooves and should win Mem fame in multiple genres. No Religion has a driving relentless fearful beat as Mem sings "Ain’t got no religion on me and I’m scared to sleep at night ..." as the band drives home a tough Chicago-style Blues. Forget About Me is a song about broken lives and dreams that shows Mem’s conscience is always working. Eleanor Rigby is proof that Mem Shannon possesses what all Greats possess: the ability to transform standards into their own unique vehicle. You’d think Mem wrote this Beatle classic, the adaptation is so complete. Few would attempt it; fewer would succeed but Mem soars. Ignant Stick is a karmic warning tune to The Man with "Hey mister politician, you better stop abusing your position... somebody gonna hit you with an ignant stick..." Lots of excellent guitar (melodic!) from Mem and then we all get to climb aboard the closing track, We Going a nice little New Orleans ditty.

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.
 

 

"Mem Shannon is a legitimate Black music star whose career is still on the rise thanks to his great voice and ‘keen-observer-of-life’ songs."