As both a musician and recording engineer, Elijah Shaw treks a path between interconnected aspects of American music that brings to mind the drummer of the same name whose career began in 1911. The two men are not related by bloodline, but coincidentally are heavily connected with the Midwest city whose graceful curving arch only slightly diminishes its well-earned nickname of "Sad Louis." The historic jazz drummer who became known as Lige Shaw played in minstrel shows, circuses, classic jazz combos, even a "Wild West" show. He seemed to avoid recording studios. The Elijah Shaw who began playing in St. Louis indie rock bands in the late '80s is just the opposite, studying recording and engineering in Nashville in the '90s and eventually working on projects for artists such as Jill Sobule, Bobby Bare, Jr., and Marshall Crenshaw.
Names such as Skuntry and Hoobellatoo come up in connection with Shaw's instrumental activities on the playing side of the recording booth window. Neither are simply a band: Hoobellatoo, an innovative D.I.Y. package tour, describes itself as an "ongoing field recording project," while the former is an umbrella enterprise promoting and distributing the music of more than a dozen performers. Shaw is proud of the fact that his first guitar teacher also fired him from a band, the firing process sometimes serving as yet another educational lesson for both sideman and leader. No such risk was involved in Shaw's decision to teach himself banjo from a manual, since nobody has ever been fired down the line by a music instruction book, at least not yet.
Chris King was Shaw's partner in sprouting the Enormous Richard band in 1989. Even more hard on the ears would be Three Fried Men -- a subsequent band project, presumably a trio but perhaps not based on the historical precedent of combo names involving numbers. Speaking of counting, the addition of fiddle would make three instruments this artist has been credited with playing. The E-Bow, for which he receives a credit on a Vince Bell CD, is more of a torture device than an instrument.