Christopher Shaw,
Adirondack Serenade
(Twining Tree, 2000)

Christopher Shaw should probably have been born in Texas. In fact, if he had just a bit more twang, he'd pass for a native, hands down ... which is a pretty good trick for a New Yorker! Listening to this collection of tunes I could hear Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen, all excellent singer/songwriters from my home state. Perhaps we should just adopt Christopher Shaw and add another incredible talent to the list.

The CD starts with a heartbreakingly beautiful story-song about the two men left behind when the stubborn redhead they both love strikes out for fame and fortune. One man, her high school sweetheart who leaves home as well, eventually returns to their hometown to find the other man, her father, still there and still waiting. Fiddler John Kirk adds a lonely, sweet melody to "The Streets of Montreal." The traditional tune "Shebeg Shemor" is a lovely piece featuring guitar, fiddle and pennywhistle. It is unhurried, and well played, if just a little on the short side. About the time I expected it to circle back, it was gone. Thankfully, I have a replay button!

The lively "Adirondack Rose" follows and includes beautiful harmonies, which I can only assume are all sung by Chris since he's the only one credited in the liner notes. I've never been a fan of Vaudeville, so "Easy Street," which is a throwback to New York's younger days, is my least favorite song on the CD.

Coming from the south, I have always been mystified by folks who could make maple syrup, or "surp," as it's pronounced down here. "The Sugarbush" is sort of like a singing "how to" lesson in making syrup. Chris's love of storytelling comes out in another story-song, "The Pole Trail," about the men who made their living freeing logjams on the St. Regis River. Not a bad story 'til one man gets caught in the logs and is killed. The recovery of the body is described in somewhat graphic detail.

Quite a pleasant surprise is the a capella "North to Long Lake," which details a family's disastrous move away from the stress and turmoil of the city. A hilarious song well sung! I've found myself humming the chorus of "Dad's Flattop Guitar" for several days now. It's just one of those songs that sticks in your head -- even replaying it doesn't help -- as soon as it's over, I'm humming it again. James Taylor still does my favorite version of "The Water is Wide," but this version includes Bridget Ball Shaw on vocals, which makes it well worth the listen. The final song on the CD, "The Battle on Snowshoes," is a detailed history lesson on the French and Indian War. There is a definite Native American theme to the background music, and the story beats anything I ever read about this war in a book.

I found Christopher Shaw on the Internet (where else, he doesn't play Texas!) and discovered a very interesting man. He hosts guitar workshops throughout the country (for free, or at best, a nominal charge) and supports Arts in Education programs by teaching young children through a combination of music, history and creative writing. You can visit him at his website.

[ by Sheree Morrow ]

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