Michelle Shocked

Deep Natural

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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann

Michelle Shocked's natural eclecticism, long since unfettered by the commercial considerations of a record label other than her own Mighty Sound imprint, means that, on the infrequent occasions when she issues a new recording, one approaches it with no idea what it will sound like, except, of course, that it won't sound anything like her last one. Deep Natural is a case in point. This time around, an artist who has varied from singer/songwriter folk to swing to traditional country, with elements of rock and gospel thrown in, makes her stand with blues and soul, for the most part. In this case, that means blues boogie in the manner of John Lee Hooker and gritty soul in the manner of Stax Records. But that isn't all, by any means. Shocked sometimes uses odd percussion and compresses her vocals in a style that recalls Swordfishtrombones-era Tom Waits. She turns to New Orleans second-line rhythm on "Peachfuzz." And she goes back to close-miked, finger-picked folk on the love song for a child "I Know What You Need." She also covers Jimi Hendrix's "House Burning Down" in a slowed-down, stomping arrangement. And then, of course, there are the dub tracks, which are not restricted to the entire extra disc (Dub Natural) packed with the main album, but also include "Can't Take My Joy," a version of the introductory snippet "(((Joy)))." And even within tracks, the styles combine and clash. "Draughts of Dublin," one of the dub tracks, for instance, mixes a Hooker guitar riff with an Irish tin whistle and a Miles Davis-like trumpet. It may be an instrumental, but it is Michelle Shocked at her best, mixing things up and finding connections in forms of music others might keep separate.

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