Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nick Shaheen New Album, Sauvignon

Chicago singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nick Shaheen’s new album, 'Sauvignon' is a brilliant interpretation of Americana, a mix of Rock and Roll, Bluegrass, Folk and Country that incorporates everything from Horns to a Wurlitzer for a distinctive sound rich in varied traditions. From the first two songs, the hook-filled 'State Song' and the boogie-woogie "Big Hippo" the album is an instant classic that will have you doing multiple repeats.

The Musicans: Nick Shaheen Vocals, Banjo, Composer, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Harmonica, Organ, Percussion, Piano,  Chris Crisman Bass, Bass (Upright), Nathan Mark Drums, Marty Kondziolka Drums, Johnny Iguana Piano, Eric Frantz Cajon, Composer, Harmonica, Russel Gillespie Composer, Guitar (Electric), Piano, Wurlitzer, Cisco Rodriguez Congas, Horn, Percussion, Vocals, Stephen Shirk Engineer, Guitar (Electric), Mixing, Musician, Percussion, Producer, Vocals

Via Press Release:
A Major in Finance and Marketing at the University of Michigan, Shaheen toyed with music a bit in his teens and early 20's but admits to not committing to songwriting until 2009, when he crafted a tune rather out of the blue that he couldn't shake.
"The song came out so fast and afterwards, it was something I could look at and I felt like it stood on its own and didn't need me to validate it or anything," he recalls. "I always felt connected to music and knew I'd be doing something with it, but I never really wrote anything (before that)... so it seemed kind of strange. But when it all started to happen, it just sort of unfolded for me and I felt very connected to the whole thing."
After relocating to Chicago to continue work in finance, Shaheen met up with those that would make up his backing band through open mic performances and connections at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. It seems like fate that these members, most of which being from Michigan as well, also sport not-so-typical work histories: Shaheen is backed by a lawyer, an Apple Genius, a mechanical engineer, a brand strategist and a district manager of a hardware store chain. All of which should be able to quit their day jobs if this album gets the attention it deserves.

Shaheen's journeys throughout the album aren't just by foot or automobile, but deep within the recesses of the mind. In the fever-dream chaos of "Flashbulbs," one of the album's many lively highlights, he struggles with being framed and eventually exonerated for murder, a scenario that developed from a real-life panic:
"I was in the kitchen cooking dinner,” prefaces Shaheen. “I remember I was chopping up potatoes when this violent vision completely overtook me. Everything was so vivid. I had a full-on panic attack right there.” Even two weeks later, he was actively dealing with guilt he had no control over. “I couldn’t hold a knife for weeks. ‘What the hell was that? How could you even think that? You’re going crazy.’ I read all about it online, like I'm a psychiatrist trying to diagnose myself and find the cure all at once. I found these message boards where people were dealing with stuff like this for years. It made me more nervous, but at the same time gave me hope. After I had some time to reflect, I started to write down the scene as it came to me and a song started to take shape. The idea was to lay it all out and triumph over it.”
Listening to Sauvignon all the way through, one takes these trips with Shaheen and the band, and comes out the other end like they've actually traveled some distance, despite camping out in front of their stereo. Just as the album's opening cut "State Song" begins the journey (with landmarks and names of locations adding to the personal nature of the track), Sauvignon wraps up with "Younger Years," where Shaheen suggests his sweetheart fetch a bottle of wine while he slips an LP on the turntable. It's a fitting final chapter to an album full of carnal instincts, wild dreams and a sense of adventure for the ears, eyes and soul.

Within those final few minutes, Shaheen admits he's "having trouble realizing that I'm not that important / It's a good lesson, I suppose." And while he's reflecting about the loss of those days within "Younger Years," there's a sense that we should all be thankful for that id inside all of us; that mythical sense of self that drives us to create, dream, drive or scream. Without it, we don't have much to remember or look forward to, and game-changing albums like Sauvignon - and the experiences that shape them - wouldn't exist.

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