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TOMMY SHAW The Great Divide Fontana (2011)

Tommy Shaw Styx guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw has had a varied career outside of his main band Styx, including the supergroup Damn Yankees, a series of enjoyable solo albums, and two fine acoustic based albums with Jack Blades of Night Ranger fame and now he's done a bluegrass album. Yes you read that right a bluegrass album and damn fine it is too!

Even if you have never heard a bluegrass album before or are wary do jump in as this album is so much fun to listen to. Tommy Shaw has assembled some top draw musicians, many of whom are well respected in the bluegrass genre.

There are some real fast and furious numbers full of dobro and fiddle such as 'The Next Right Thing' (with country legend Dwight Yoakum on backing vocals). 'Back In Your Kitchen' has humorous lyric and again a nice, fast tempo.

The title track slows it down with a heartfelt ballad that features the queen of bluegrass Alison Krauss on backing vocals and she really adds to the emotion of the song. She also pops up on 'Afraid To Love' as well. 'Give 'Em Hell Harry' has spoken word verse, similar to Shaun Mullins and a sung chorus. It is a tale of the former US president Harry Trueman and Tommy Shaw weaves a likeable tale through his lyrics.

There isn't a duff song in sight and I am guessing Mr Shaw had a blast making this album as it certainly comes across in the music. It is certainly more fun listening to this than Robert Plant's foray into the same genre with Alison Krauss. It won't appeal to all Styx/Damn Yankees fans but if you've a broad musical palette this will be for you. Hopefully it can crossover into the bluegrass market as well and see him picking up some new fans.


Review by Jason Ritchie


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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