No lie, I have listened to this album in its entirety 3 times today alone… I’m obsessed.
Red Shahan has been a guy on the fringes of my radar for awhile now. I really enjoyed the style of “Men and Coyotes” but anything past that for some reason just didn’t stick.
That is absolutely no longer the case.
His latest album, Javelina, is pure, top to bottom, gold.
The writing is fantastic and the sound might be better. There’s themes that ties the songs together into one piece of art, making the sum greater than the parts, and that’s no knock on the songs, but an appreciation of the collective. As a whole and by its pieces, the record is unique, wild and relatable, yet out there.
The album is a dichotomy of chasing adventure and being dragged and beaten by it. Songs like “Wild Ride”, “Javelina” and “Wheels” show the adventure chasing side, “Pipe Dream”, “Mrs. Buy Me Something” and “Sink or Swim” show the harsh struggles faced when the adventure goes south, while “Get The Money” and “Good Morning Levee” show a bit of both.
Sonically, some of the songs reminded me a little of Sturgill Simpson’sSound and Fury with horns, synth and a driving bass beat strongly featured. There’s also a California Rock sound to some of the songs, but somehow the authenticity of Texas Country is still there, perhaps more in the lyrical quality and vocals than the instrumentation though.
The title track, “Javelina”, is a story of adventure, drug dealing and escape. A man crosses the Rio Grande to see how he would hold up in Mexico, starts making and selling drugs, then fleas the country when the Sinaloa Cartel comes to collect their cut.
A Javelina is a type of wild boar that is notorious for stealing food to stay alive, which is such a smart analogy of the “pay to play” model the cartels operate under.
My favorite (at this point), is “Good Morning Levee”, which talks about some impending doom if this guy doesn’t turn his luck and life around. The melody is so catchy and the chorus is simple, but brilliant.
“Frustrated, impatient Lip stick on a Get Well Card Hungover, Holy Roller Keeping all your feelings in a getaway car Last call The pressure is on”
The most fun song on the record is by far “Mrs. Buy Me Something”. A woman who thought she was really something growing up is now lonely and 40 cause her shitty attitude drove everyone away. Also some of the lines in this are just fantastic. Like how about the start of the first verse?
“Julie lost her disposition Sent back from a bad vacation She left a Gemini Came back a porcupine”
Who comes up with that? It’s perfect. And how about the pre-chorus…
“Seven come eleven this world ain’t no heaven The sun won’t shine on the shoulders of a bitchy woman”
The most traditional country song on this album is probably “Pipe Dream”, a tale of kids leaving their small town to chase their dreams, but when it doesn’t pan out like they planned, find themselves back in town where 30 is old.
And no great country album would be complete without a tear jerker or two…
“Sink or Swim” tells the story of a down and out struggling to keep any semblance of himself together. He’s struggling with staying sober and doesn’t know if life is worth it any more.
“Easy In The Undertow” is a song of lost love and the anger and frustration that comes with it, knowing them leaving isn’t good for either one of you.
This is an absolutely fantastic album by Red Shahan, I am an absolute fan for life.
Put this on start to finish and let him take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, I promise you won’t regret it.