Album Review: “Shake and Shimmy” by The Amy Ryan Band
On the heels of the last review, the Amy Ryan Band’s album Shake and Shimmy, came across my desk. As soon as the album starts off, the band instantly makes clear to its listeners many of their musical influences. Steeped in blues, swing, and soul, much of this album is highly reminiscent of the musical stylings found on an assortment of classic albums from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The opening track, “Want Me Some Love,” provides an essential glimpse into the sheer tightness of this band’s rhythm section (handled by Dave Imbarrato on bass and Mark McKay on drums). Expanding on the overall sound and aesthetic of the album, the second track, “Don’t Get Too Close,” features a very nice and prominent keyboard section (Ed Stein). The slide guitar work (performed by Richard Green) was also a nice addition to this song.
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects from Shake and Shimmy (the title of which was pulled from a lyric on “Don’t Get Too Close”) is the guitar tone with which this album was engineered, as well as the way in which the drums and bass were mixed together. Songs that feature great examples of this are “FOLB” (track three) and “I Got a Man” (track seven). While I was expecting this album to be a fairly straightforward blues record, I was a bit surprised when I heard the stark change in feel and music as the fifth track, “All Along,” began. One of the things that especially caught my ear was the presence of an acoustic guitar part played by Amy Ryan herself. The change of pace in this album’s music did well to keep the listening experience fresh; before it had a chance to venture into the land of monotony.
Two other songs especially caught my attention: “You Better Run,” (track eight), and “Nobody’s Business” (track nine). It was a really nice effect to start “You Better Run” with a steady, but pulsating guitar riff and groove. As the song continues, the bass and drums assist in lifting the groove and filling out space in the song. As the majority of the album contains songs that contain solid layers of bass and drums being assisted by various guitar parts, it was refreshing to hear a bit of a role-reversal in this track. Being a fan of syncopation, and various world rhythms, the fact “Nobody’s Business,” is a song built entirely around the Bo Diddley groove (think of the song Not Fade Away), instantly makes this song enjoyable for me. The tenth song of the album, “Midnight Sun,” serves as a type of semi-conclusion to the record. Its slower and more acoustic-based nature helped wind down an album that at several moments was often high octane in terms of groove and drive. While ending the album with an a cappella track, “Hummingbird,” was an interesting idea, I’m not entirely sure what it did to deliver the sense of finality within this record.
Throughout the record I could hear Amy Ryan’s influence from singers such as Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, as she belted and crooned her way through this album. It is worth noting that this listener, despite the singer’s melodic nature, often had a hard time deciphering the lyrics to the songs. This may have been due to the fact that the vocal often seems to be blocked at times by the songs’ instrumentation. As a final note, I would also say the solos at times seemed to drift a bit, losing a cohesion or sense of place in the song, but never to an extent that made the songs unenjoyable. All in all, I would say the latest effort from the Amy Ryan Band is an enjoyable one; one where listeners of this genre could easily find something about the record that grabs their ear and pulls them in for a closer listen.