NO DEPRESSION Review of Lonely Town, Lonely Street
Lonely Town, Lonely Street by Frank Shiner, is the title is his album of covers that also includes his version of the Bill Wither’s song, along with ten other superb versions of what are mostly R&B style numbers he puts a lot of his own blues into. The album must be heard to fully appreciate what he brings to the songs of yesteryear. The album is under consideration for 7 Grammy’s. And to top it off with the bells and whistles, Frank also has a new Christmas cover out which will be heard playing at Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Kohls this holiday season. Both are an earful of homage to some great artists and the spirit of popular music.
“Please Come Home For Christmas,” written by Charles Brown, released in 1960, is universally well-known but Frank Shiner modernizes it with just the right amount of his own musical prowess. The whole track is kicked up a notch, but in the most graceful way to put his own signature in the right places. That’s what Frank Shiner possesses a strong ability to do on whatever he covers.
He re-makes a song in a way that keeps it grounded but also takes it to new heights. This is everything a Christmas song should be and more, now that it’s under in his hands. A vibrant, delightful version of his own, is the result.
The album centers around Shiner’s ability to swing up his own tight versions by adding loads of soul and a fair amount of blues to them. It’s a set of songs that are somehow in his wheelhouse as if made for him to put his heart into and come up with a winning collection of covers. His background is in acting, so he brings a dramatic feel that transforms some of these songs to deeper levels.
It’s never easy to surpass originals, but they can be equaled if you do them justice, and he does that by freshening them up as he does so well. They’re given just the right amount of sparkle to shine in a new way.
“How Can I Be Sure” by The Young Rascals, gets the disc up and running with an absolutely-exquisite version of what is a favorite by so many of its generation, and it sticks to the pattern like new here. If you can imagine any soul artist doing this, it’s a good way to describe how he cuts his own on such a mythically known piece of work. I was reminded of Percy Sledge the first time I heard it, and that might even describe it best. Either way he can’t lose after opening with such brilliance. The rest is a gravy train once you get used to these new versions he’s recorded. And it never lets up as the album keeps swinging out killer covers.
The title cut pays a great dedication to Bill Withers, as it sits just past the middle of the track list, right where it belongs. But the tracks all even out with a clearly well-mixed sound, so it plays just as well skipping around as it does in succession. A cover of Hall & Oats’ “She’s Gone” meets the standard with flying colors, and it probably follows closest to the original as anything on the album.
To give it all that’s worth noting, some of the album’s best work includes award winning female vocalist, Leslie Mendelson on Sam & Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” and included even more on Van Morrison’s “I Will Be There”