The thing about Shawn Mullins is that his voice is so big it fills the room all by itself - he doesn't need a full band behind him for a full performance.
So two or three songs in during his acoustic show at the Troubadour last night, you forgot he was the only person on stage.
Shawn's currently promoting his new album Honeydew, and this show at the Troubadour was sparsely filled, mostly with industry folks - and I understand this was by design. The Troubadour had set up chairs on the main floor, in addition to their balcony, and nearly everyone had a seat. And the audience felt comfortable enough to ask Shawn questions in between songs, like whether or not he would collaborate again with the Thorns, to which Shawn said it was a possibility, and then jokingly asked if this was a press conference.
Shawn gained national attention some years ago when "Lullaby" became a #1 pop hit, followed by another minor hit, "Shimmer," from his Soul's Core album, which I hear as an Americana album, not a pop album. If you need further proof, you should have been at the show when I started bawling when he sang, "I'd drink a whole bottle of my pride," from "Shimmer." That's some good songwriting.
Shawn also told my favorite story about "Blue As You," from 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor, in which he was writing with Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge (the three of them round out the supergroup The Thorns), and Matthew was a little hung over from the night before and was napping in the other room. But they needed him to contribute the third verse to the song so they could properly share writing credits, so they carefully woke up him, and Matthew mumbled, "Interstellar rainbow on its cosmic wheel; rollin' where the wind blows, never standing still," while Shawn and Pete hastily wrote it down. And Matthew promptly went back to sleep.
THAT's great songwriting.
And there's more where that came from on Honeydew, as evidenced by "For America," "Cabbagetown," "All In My Head," and especially in the tragic "The Ballad of Kathryn Johnston," all from the new album. Shawn also covered James McMurtry's "Where's Johnny," and came back for TWO encores (even the Chris Thile Fan Club didn't get TWO encores!), which included two Kris Kristofferson songs.
An awesome show, and a sweet new album.