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Mem Shannon: Spend Some Time With Me

Former cabbie-turned bluesman Mem Shannon dishes out more downhome humor, commonsense philosophizing, and observations of the human condition mixed with funky backbeats and stinging guitar work on Spend Some Time With Me (Shanachie 9013: 49:21). His third album since quitting his day job is full of the same earthy slice-of-life stories, hard luck tales and social commentary that marked his critically acclaimed 1996 Hannibal debut, A Cab Driver’s Blues. Always one to avoid tired blues cliches, Mem shifts nimbly from funk to jazz to rock to heartfelt balladry. He injects a decidedly jazzy quality into “The Last Time I Was Here (Millenium Blues),” introduces some classical guitar stylings on the country-flavored love ballad “A Certain Shade of Blues,” and conjures up a traditional New Orleans jazz vibe in his charming guitar-clarinet duet on “Born in This Time.” Aside from his musical eclecticism, no other artist on the blues scene has the wit, insight, and compassion to write tunes with such wide ranging themes as the influence of social pundits (“Who Are They”), the breakup of a lifelong bond (“Not My Friend”), the horror of drive-by shootings (“Pray for the Children”) and slavery (“The Last Time I Was Here”). All this plus not one but two songs about his mother (“Mother’s Love,” “Don’t Talk About My Mama”) makes Mem the most prolific blues poet since Willie Dixon.

Originally Published