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Michelle Shocked manages to stay busy

By Dan MacIntosh, June 2005

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"My concept (about the album) is that it's for young and old alike. Because I've gotten some feedback from folks that have kids who tell me it's playful and user friendly to the kids they play it for. So I'm fairly confident that it's going to be one of those projects that someone will buy for themselves, and then their kids end up enjoying it. Or maybe vice versa: They buy it for their kids, but because it's got that Western swing component, they end up enjoying it as well."Many people become aware of Western swing sounds through the work of Asleep At The Wheel. Or they may go way back to one of the originators, Bob Wills. But in Shocked's case, her Western swing introduction might surprise you."It was Riders In The Sky," she says. "And more than that, it was that incarnation that Hot Rize would come out and do, which was Red Knuckles and The Trailblazers. And that was my exposure - live music-wise - to Western swing. Because it was, you know, pretty much over by the time I came around."

"Bob Wills is as pure of an origin as you could ask for. The recorded work of Bob Wills really makes me happy. Also, I have to give credit to the Mills Brothers, in spite of the fact that no purist on earth would admit them into the Western swing canon. But their swing is so pure and invigorating, that it helped me to distinguish what musical elements I liked. When I heard the Mills Brothers, then heard Bob Wills, maybe I even prefer the Mills Brothers to Bob Wills."Shocked's recorded output is only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to comprehending her wide-ranging musical tastes. In fact, a lot of the styles she likes haven't even made it onto any of her albums yet."With my time being as limited as it is these days, I've focused on a couple of styles that really have my time and attention more than most," she explains. "One is gospel; I'm very immersed in gospel these days. Another, strangely, is electronica. There's a radio program I listen to each night called "Metropolis" (on KCRW in Santa Monica, Cal.). Other than that, I have a passing acquaintance with some of the work of my peers - what's being presented in the name of both Americana and alternative country. If you're asking me for the true answer, it's the gospel and the electronica that I'm listening to primarily.This may come as a shock, no pun intended, to her longtime roots music fans. But she may make an electronica album her next release."I do have one slated for the next release," she affirms."I don't ask my audience to listen to one style or genre," Shocked continues. "So why would they ask me to play just one style of music?"There are some artists, however, that should be commended for sticking to their guns and doing a limited variety of music particularly well."If there's one exception to this rule - of an artist who I think has really benefited from just going into one style and digging just as deep as they possible could, and coming out as a master, and obviously there are older masters, like Gatemouth or Doc Watson - Alison Krauss is such a role model for me," Shocked gushes. "I wish I could do what she has done. But she is so excellent in her area of pursuit and expertise. There is no one that can stand up to her, and she has followed one particular trail. Whereas, you can see that mine meanders quite extensively."

But a part of the fun with following Shocked's career is that you never quite know where her trail is leading. As with other truly great ones, such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, you learn to train your eye on the individual, rather than the type of music he/she happens to be creating at any particular time. "I really do hope I achieve a similar goal of basically creating a genre of music called Michelle Shocked music."

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