Mem Shannon

I'm From Phunkville

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For his fifth album, Mem Shannon continues the mix of funk -- well, soul, really -- and blues that's been his trademark. Along with his own work, he turns in a delightful, heartfelt and bluesy cover of "Eleanor Rigby" that does full justice to the song and adds a tasty midnight-tenor sax solo from Jason Mingledorff. On the way to that cut, there's plenty of meat, like the opener, "The Reason" and "Perfect World," both of which bring political overtones to soul, and the humorous "I'll Kiss a Pitbull" whose spoken opening harks bark to the quiet storm years of soul music in the 1980s. Shannon doesn't exercise his powerful guitar chops a huge amount on this disc, but at this stage he doesn't need to; a decade into his recording career he has nothing to prove. But when he does crank it up, as on "No Religion," it's obvious he means every note. Instead, it's his singing that's front and center, and he's never sounded better, with more depth and resonance in that warm voice. The closer, "We Going," has his guitar sounding more than a little like B.B. King, his most obvious blues influence, but the horns give the whole piece a Memphis swing and he leaves on a good workout. Once again, Shannon hits the bullseye.

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