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Dawn Shipley and the Sharp Shooters

Baby If I... – 2006 (El Toro)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Dawn Shipley and the Sharp Shooters

Dawn Shipley's sophomore release provides snappy cover tunes and well-crafted rockabilly originals. Aided by guitarist Joel Morin, bass-slapper Tony Macias and drummer Tony DeHerrera, the Texas-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter delivers an album that is not always technically perfect, but completely fresh and engaging.

Instrumentally, Morin captures shades of Merle Travis and Scotty Moore with his expressive guitar histrionics ("Sharp Shootin' Girl"). The guitarist proves the perfect foil for Shipley, who sounds defiant on Buddy Holly's "I'm Gonna Set My Foot Down" and cleverly imbues Glen Glenn's "One Cup of Coffee" with rising hope and dashed expectations.

However, the best moments come via the artist's own material. Two versions of "Empty Stretch of Highway," smartly showcase her emotional command on country heartache ditties. Far sexier, "Goin' Crazy" reveals the smoldering influence of Peggy Lee. Further, her ability to forcefully declare her love on flirty rockabilly la "Anyone But You" and "Sealed With a Kiss" is completely enjoyable.

There exist scant moments wherein Shipley sounds a tad off-pitch, or is singing too fast to fully express a lyric. That said, this performer takes more artistic risks than most who tackle her genre. In doing so, she lays the ground work for future triumphs.