Eighty Numbered Streets marks some "firsts" for Sam Shaber. It is the first album that she recorded for the independent SMG Records (all of her previous releases came out on her own Brown Chair label), and it is the first Shaber CD that the New York-based singer/songwriter didn't produce herself. This time, the producer is singer/songwriter and SMG founder Shawn Mullins, who doesn't try to change her -- at least not considerably. Under Mullins' direction, Shaber has a full band backing her; in the past, she often accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. But even though Eighty Numbered Streets is Shaber's most amplified and rockin' album (as of 2002), it isn't a radical departure from her Brown Chair releases -- certainly not in terms of her writing and singing. Shaber's rich, full-bodied vocals are as recognizable as ever, and her songwriting is no less impressive. In fact, she revisits a few songs from her Brown Chair EP, Sam*pler, including "Tempting," "Bare," and "Eldorado." And her rap-rock offering "Intalood" borrows some lyrics from the Sam*pler gem "Beloved." But for the most part, Eighty Numbered Streets focuses on new material, which ranges from the tender "Rain and Sunshine" (an ode to a friend who is no longer living) to the clever country-rock offering "When the Roses Run Dry" (which is about love outlasting wild, sweaty passion). Although this excellent CD is primarily a folk-rock/folk-pop outing, "When the Roses Run Dry" is the closest that Shaber has come to an alternative country-rock/No Depression type of approach -- and it is also one of the best songs that she has written. With Eighty Numbered Streets, Shaber continues to grow as an artist, while living up to the promise that she showed on her Brown Chair CDs.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson