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Album Review: Ryan Shaw - "This Is Ryan Shaw"

Who IS Ryan Shaw?

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating


Album Review: Ryan Shaw -

Album cover © Red Ink/Columbia.

It's pretty funny that this album's called This Is Ryan Shaw, because there's absolutely no way to know who Ryan Shaw truly is by listening to the album. Instead, the 12 songs sound like imitations of vocal performances by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and other legendary R&B and Soul singers. The 26-year-old Shaw does such a good job of impersonating them (and other singers), that you're left with absolutely no idea of who Shaw really is, unless all he is is a guy who has a strong knack for mimicking long-dead music legends.

No Future in the Past

There's no doubt that Ryan Shaw can sing. As a multiple-time winner on Amateur Night at the Apollo, he proved more than once that he's talented. But the raw vocal talent he possesses is stuck in a time warp; each and every song on his debut album harkens not only back to 1960s R&B, but even further, to 1950s doo-wop.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing: plenty of artists, from Joss Stone to Angie Stone, have made a living bring that old school sound back. The difference is, they dusted the old school sound off, freshened it up, modernized it a tad and then unleashed it on the world.

Shaw, however, seems content to not reinvent the wheel. Or even remake the same wheel. He's too busy paying homage through his songs, which are straight-up '50s and '60s era tracks featuring him singing at the top of his lungs. The album's opening (and perhaps best) track, "Do the 45," is a perfect example. It takes the beat from Junior Walker's classic song "Shotgun" and cleverly incorporates it into a song about - depending on your perspective - a dance or a pistol.

Shaw does a great job mimicking a bygone era, but the drawback is there's not enough here that sounds fresh or new. The album might as well be an oldies cover song compilation. And in fact, nine of the album's 12 songs were all originally recorded in the 1970s or earlier. As the saying goes, if you live in the past, you'll die in the past. And for Ryan Shaw, there's no future in music history.

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