Is there a place for, you know, an American in a world of soul shouters dominated by a certain big-voiced Brit superstar? Cut to two-time Grammy-nominated R&B singer Ryan Shaw, who returns on May 15, 2012, with Real Love on Dynotone Records; a sizzling album that perhaps finds its emotional peak with Karina.
Shaw thrillingly melds R&B sounds both old and new, with no small amount of credit probably going to veteran producer Jimmy Bralower who has helped stir up similar genre-busting triumphs with the likes of Hall and Oates (Say It Isn t So, Out Of Touch), Steve Winwood (Higher Love) and Eric Clapton (Tears in Heaven), among others.
There's an element of sleek Motown sophistication to Karina at first, a buttoned-down old-school cool, but then by its middle Shaw begins to let loose a little and the groove gets deeper, traveling down the Mississippi Valley, toward the humid salaciousness of Memphis and New Orleans. Even as Karina gets a little more rangy, though, and little more tangy, it keeps building (like the best Stax songs from Otis Redding, another Georgia-born belter) into this almost orgasmic sense of passionate abandon.
Since bursting onto the scene with the well-received 2007 debut The Is Ryan Shaw, the New York-based singer has followed up with 2010's It Gets Better, which like its predecessor included credible versions of standard-bearing gems this time, People Get Ready and Knock On Wood. He's already garnered a pair of Grammy noms for best traditional R&B vocal performance, and opened for everyone from John Legend and to Van Halen. But he hasn't always sounded like his own man, his own voice.
What Karina makes clear is that Ryan Shaw is getting better at combining those influences into something that sounds uniquely his that, in short, shows Shaw is here to stay: Adele, better watch your back.
-Nick DeRiso --somethingelsereviews.com
NPR Song Of The Day
Raised in the church and possessed of a honeyed tenor with a gritty underside, Ryan Shaw showcases his formidable vocal chops on Real Love, his second album. With a veteran Hall & Oates producer at the helm, a lot of its cuts have that duo's smooth-and-sexy vibe. But in 'You Don't Know Nothing About Love,' the musicians climb into a time machine and head back to 1967. That's the year unsung soul tenor Carl Hall recorded the song, which was written by Jerry Ragovoy of 'Piece of My Heart' fame. The 2012 arrangement of this slow-burning ballad mimics its predecessor, complete with an insistent drum beat, mournful horns and a strummed guitar, all creating the structure a soul singer needs to push harder and harder, higher and higher.
That's just what Shaw does here: He outdoes Carl Hall in both tenderness and pyrotechnics, and more than lives up to a poignant version of the song by soul singer Lorraine Ellison. Shaw effortlessly shoots up an octave for emphasis, turns 'love'; into an 11-syllable word, repeats the 'You don't know nothing' four times in a row to make sure listeners get the point, and tosses in a 'heh heh heh' just to show that he understands the absurdity of giving up 'all your pride, just to have her by your side'; With big-haired U.K. stars like Adele dominating the soul world, Shaw serves up a reminder that there's still room for pure American soul. -Marc Silver --NPR.com
If success in the contemporary music world was predicated upon an artist's ability to sing strongly and with conviction, then Soul crooner Ryan Shaw would be one of the best known, most successful vocalists in the industry. Because unlike many of his musical peers, Ryan doesn't hide behind production wizardry, studio tricks or guest vocalists on his songs. On his second album, Real Love, his rich, powerful and emotive voice is front and center, giving Real Love the type of warm, personal sound that's missing from much of today's R&B and Soul music.
One example of how he's grown between his first and second albums is an overview of the albums' content. His debut consisted of nine cover songs and three original tunes; the new album has nine original tunes and three cover songs. And even his remakes differ significantly from the originals. His cover of the Beatles' 'Yesterday,' for instance, is a slow-burning Soul number that sounds like a far distant cousin to the Fab Four's version.
The album's high point is 'Karina,' where Ryan begs his woman to take him back after he's hurt her. Other winners here include 'Can't Hear the Music'; where Ryan implores his woman not to give up on their relationship; his Grammy-nominated love song 'Evermore' and a goosebump-inducing cover of the 1960s classic 'You Don't Know Nothing About Love.'
Real Love is one of those rare modern albums that can be listened all the way through repeatedly without having to reach for the fast-forward button more than a couple of times. This is easily one of the better R&B/Soul albums of 2012. - Mark Edward Nero --randb.about.com