On his new album, Bird Bones & Muscle, J Shogren describes his music as “pulp Americana” – a singular conjuring of gut-bucket blues, deep-fried southern jive, Holy Ghost revival, polka night at the Grange, she-done-me-wrong hillbilly boogie with backwater bayou bump and swing. But instead of ghosting over sepia-toned museum pieces, Shogren’s music radiates a gritty immediacy, a stick-to-your-ribs soul that comes from a close understanding of the nooks and crannies of “weird old America.” Recalling everything from Dylan to Dr. John, Buck Owens to Tom Waits, Shogren shrugs and simply explains, “No veneer; Just a coat of varnish to keep out the weather.”
If there is one thing that can be said of Shogren’s music – aided and abetted here by Jalan Crossland (banjo/guitar), Andy Phreaner (drums/percussion), Shaun Kelley (bass), Mandy Bohlender (Vox) and Dan Tinker (Vox) – it’s his ability to summon different times, different places, different waypoints in the American experience. Yet it’s his lyrics that
leave the most indelible impression. “I chose the title Bird Bones & Muscle to illustrate a notion of
fragility living next to strength – how fragile and strong a person can be when lost in the wilderness within.”
Shogren’s previous releases have left their imprint as well, having risen into the top-40 on the Freeform
American Roots, Euro-Americana, and Folk-DJ charts.
It’s not hard to imagine Shogren, who splits his time between Centennial Wyoming and Stockholm Sweden,
as someone at home in the wilds. But what’s more striking is Shogren’s daytime gig. As a favorite Applied
Philosophy, Shogren has served as the King of Sweden’s special professor on environmental science and as a
member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007.
“It’s been a good job,” he winks.
Shogren is getting press across a wide field:
"Brilliant storyteller from Wyoming. Hard Boiled, sometimes dark humorous stories delivered with a voice that clearly have lived through them." Lennart Persson, Rootsy
"J har blivit lite av en konnässörsfavorit i roots/americanavärlden..." Lira, Swedish Music Magazine.
Translation: J has become a bit of a connoisseur's favorite in the roots/americana world..."
"Blending more styles than we can list here Shogren ... He’s traveled the world and the stories are plentiful in these grooves. At the end of the day though it’s Americana at its best."- Village Records.
Top 20 americana cds in 2008-Rootsville (Belgium)
#13 Feb 09 & #15 Jan 2009 on the EuroAmericana Chart
#16 on F.A.R. Chart for Dec 2008
#41 on the Folk Music Radio Chart for Feb 2009
#150 or so on the Americana Radio charts in Jan/Feb
J. SHOGREN has a voice that’s a bit gravely and rough-hewn. Americana can absorb that if the songs hold up, and on “American Holly” (Jaha!, c/o jshogren.com), they do just that. The opener, the album’s title cut, is obviously meant to be the “single,” but it was the third cut, “Everyman,” that caught my “ear.” As the CD glides along, it really started to reach me. The songs are catchy in a folky singer-songwriter pop kind of way, with melody lines that stay with the listener. There is really nice horn work here, like where they counterpoint with the banjo in “Holes.” Another piece that caught my attention was a sort of revisioning of “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” with the biting “Hand Grenade” (“I’ll be a hand grenade for Jesus / And spread His word like shrapnel”). It is also amusing (or can be seen as such) that a “women is bad” song like “Relativity” is followed by the romantic “She’s With Me.” While many of his songs are poignant, it is his closing number that touched me the most in my life right now, “Come All This Way.” The Quiet Corner by Robert Barry Francos, http://www.jerseybeat.com/quietcorner.html
"Like a garden full of wildflowers...there’s something undeniably endearing about Shogren’s ramshackle ramblings."
Performing Songwriter, Jan 2009
"American Holly is an absolute masterpiece."
Moors Magazine Jan 2009.
"There are two other times I can remember when a singer’s voice prompted in me the same reaction I had when I first heard J Shogren’s. Those were when I first heard Randy Newman and Leon Redbone. I had to keep looking at the album cover to assure myself that the singer was indeed white. Shogren’s voice sounds like one of those great bluesmen from ninety years ago."
Oliver di Place, Feb 2009
Bird Bones & Muscle is produced by J Shogren and D Tinker; mastered by J Wilson (Richard Thompson, The Gourds, Joe Ely, Bob Mould); featuring fingerpikkin maniac Jalan Crossland on banjo, the dynamo Shaun Kelly on bass, and the Wyoming Mtn voice of Mandy Bohlender on backing vocals.