CD Review of 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor by Shawn Mullins
Label
Vanguard
Shawn Mullins:
9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor

Reviewed by Mike Farley

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W
hen singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins and his soulful lower register of a voice burst onto the scene in the late ‘90s with the hit song “Lullaby,” he had already been busting his ass as a performer selling records out of his trunk. And while Mullins definitely has written some great songs over the years, he is always going to have that one-hit-wonder stigma in tow. The fact that it’s been five years between solo records and that he is now on the twangy Vanguard label instead of Sony says something about that. But having no follow-up hits is certainly not for lack of trying, and Mullins did enjoy a moment more in the sun while part of the Thorns a couple of years ago.

Now he is back with 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor, and while there are sing-along-while-we-sit-by-the-campfire tracks like “Cold Black Heart,” “Homemade Wine” and “Kelly’s Song,” there is also a good bit of the pop/rock stuff that made Mullins an overnight success. “Blue as You” is the opening track and is a throwback to the late Jim Croce, what with smooth, baritone melodies and precision acoustic guitar work. Mullins then successfully blends Americana twang and rock with “Beautiful Wreck,” while singing “At the dark end of this bar/What a beautiful wreck you are.” Who among us hasn’t seen a friend cause his or her own train wreck? Mullins just manages to sing about it with his own unique storytelling ability. “Find Love” is an uplifting melodic gem, but for some reason is buried at track number nine. There’s also a version of “House of the Rising Sun” which is the perfect cover song for Mullins and his deep, hypnotic voice.

Shawn Mullins has certainly paid his dues in the music biz, and is probably living comfortably off of the royalties of “Lullaby,” thanks in part to the Clear Channels of the world that keep recycling the same hits of the last 20 years over and over again. So name recognition will certainly help Mullins’ cause in selling a bunch of new records, and not just out of his trunk. But 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor shows that he’s still a very good singer and songwriter, one that has certainly earned his place in the pop/rock landscape.

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