Charlie Christian, pioneer of the electric guitar; Lowell Fulson, one of the architects of the California blues; Elvin Bishop, one of the first and best of the American blues revivalists – and now Shawn Pittman. OK, Shawn may not have achieved the prestige of those forebears – not yet, though the critics are forecasting great things for him and this overview of his recording career so far should help - but like them, he is Oklahoma-born (in Talahina in 1974) and pursued his musical dreams elsewhere.
Shawn headed south to Texas at the age of 17. He was already familiar with the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed, but on hearing Anson Funderburgh and Mike Morgan, he decided The Lone Star State was the place to be. He moved to Dallas and hung around with such respected bluesmen as Hash Brown, Tutu Jones and Andrew ‘Junior Boy’ Jones. Andrew recently told me: “Shawn is a very talented player and singer. I met Shawn about 15 years ago at R.L. Griffin’s Blues Palace. He was one of the people to play my Gibson Les Paul hollow body guitar that Gibson gave me. I recognized the talent back then. He would come around me, and sometimes I would go to one of his gigs. I think Shawn is a special and deserving artist.” During his time in Dallas, Shawn recorded two albums which were released by the now defunct Minnesota-based label Cannonball Records. After spending most of the nineties in Dallas, Shawn moved on again, to Austin, Texas, in 1999. He is still based there, his reputation growing and a further three albums in his discography.
A wise man once said, “A man is judged by the company he keeps”. No worries for Shawn there then. A glance through the personnel of this album reveals some of the very finest players of the modern blues, Texas or otherwise. Many of them have worked extensively with Shawn, which only enhances the cohesion and easy acquaintance so evident on these numbers. The late Stevie Ray Vaughn casts a long shadow over modern Texas blues and so it is a tribute to Shawn’s abilities that he can call on SRV’s rhythm section - Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. Then there’s The Fabulous Thunderbirds - here we have Preston Hubbard, of whom that great talent scout (and world-class guitarist) Otis Grand opines: “Preston Hubbard is truly a legend. He is a truly amazing bassist, intellectually knowledgeable, and a very nice person to be around. Hubbard is that rare musician in the Blues world who understands both the old school and the new school of bass playing and combines them to create a very distinct sound of his own”. Jason and Jon Moeller have also worked with The T-Birds but have actually been associates of Shawn’s since Dallas. “The song ‘Movin’ is with the Moeller Brothers from a session that I produced myself in 2000. The rest of that CD remains unreleased”, remembers Shawn.
Preston was also with Roomful Of Blues, a prime influence on today’s blues; so too was Ron Levy, co-producer of some of these tracks (“I don't remember much other than Ron Levy sitting behind the mixing board and trying to get me to sing words that I wouldn’t normally use...like ‘sugar’...”). But in terms of producers, for modern blues, these days the name is Jim Gaines, whose presence is an indicator of high quality, whether it be Luther Allison or son Bernard, Charlie Musselwhite, Rocky Athas, Stevie Ray Vaughn or indeed Shawn Pittman. Shawn again: “working with Jim Gaines was interesting because he had worked with so many different artists. He was a real genuine nice person. He told me stories about working for Stax and mixing Albert King records. He gave me a lot of encouragement”. And Shawn’s gone on…
That’s the verbal introduction to the talents of Mr. Pittman. Now play the disc and listen to some of the best and bluesiest Texas blues around today!
Norman Darwen (contributor: Blues & Rhythm, Rock 'N' Reel, Blues In Britain, Blues Matters!, Blues In the South, www.bluesart.at and others)
"Shawn is absolutely the best new young talent I have seen in years” Preston Hubbard
(Bassist for Roomful of Blues and the T-Birds)
“For exciting and dance-motivatin’ blues, consult Shawn Pittman. This great young talent, singer/guitarist plays whip-snap leads, chords with the propulsiveness of a smart bomb on steroids, and sings with a sly persuasiveness that belies his youth. When he takes the stages in Texas clubs, bedlam reigns, and now he’s taking on the world. That’s good news to those who want to know blues is in strong hands, as it makes its way to the new millennium”
Tim Shuller - Dallas Observer
“All the albums Shawn Pittman recorded establish him as part of that lengthy lineage of Texas bluesmen, a group that stretches all the way back to Lightnin' Hopkins and Blind Lemon Jefferson and through Johnny Winter, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan. And he has put together the resume to go with it: a fiery teenage six-string phenom” Lone star music
“Simply put, to be a respectable guitar player in the state of Texas you had better be damn good. Shawn Pittman is damn good. The basis of Pittman's sound is his jagged, percussive guitar playing that really ignites a groove and a voice that is really improving as time goes on.
Pittman combines the fire and intensity found in many of the younger guitar slingers out there but plays with much more substance and feeling than most of the others. He is also a naturally gifted singer with his understated vocals showing more true feeling than many performers twice his age. Pittman's intensity has been compared to a youthful Buddy Guy as he plays with the energy rush of a young rock 'n' roller, and the depth and soulfulness of a seasoned bluesman. Shawn Pittman is one dynamic blues performer and you can hear his exciting playing and singing on his fifth album releases”
BLUES ON STAGE
“The music of Shawn Pittman has taken a giant step forward. He has always been a great guitar player, but is now hitting his stride as a vocalist and a songwriter. Given the success of other young blues based artists such as Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, Derek Trucks. A great musician and performer”
Barry Gober - Southwest Blues
Texas-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Shawn Pittman attended the Albert King, Jimmie Vaughan school of blues guitar playing. He's not flashy, and he realizes the spaces between the notes are as important as the notes themselves. Tone and melody are just as important, to Pittman's way of thinking, than fast and flashy runs up and down the guitar neck. By the time he was 28, Pittman had recorded and released three albums that showcase mostly his own original material. Pittman was born and raised in Oklahoma, where his earliest musical memories were listening to his father and grandfather's record collections, which included good people like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. His grandmother was a boogie-woogie piano player and his grandfather played country guitar. His earliest blues heroes were Jimmy Reed and Lightnin' Hopkins. Hearing both of them for the first time was a revelation for the young, impressionable Pittman. He arrived in Dallas in 1992. Shortly after this, he jumped right into Dallas' still-bustling blues club scene, sitting in with and befriending musicians like Anson
Funderburgh, Hash Brown, Mike Morgan Morgan, Tutu Jones, Mark Pollock and Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones. Being schooled by some of the best players around Dallas and Fort Worth, Pittman became a multi-dimensional guitarist who even today enjoys playing rhythm as well as lead guitar. Pittman counts among his influences people like Lightnin' Hopkins, Hound Dog Taylor, Mike Morgan and of course, Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, who came out of the Dallas club scene before they moved to Austin, one at a time, in the late 1970's. Pittman recorded two discs for the now-defunct Cannonball Records label, "Burnin' Up" in 1997 and the Jim Gaines-produced "Something's Gotta Give" in 1998. After spending the next two years battling some personal and professional demons, including the premature closing of Minneapolis-based Cannonball Records, Pittman moved to Austin, got his act together with the aid of two bassists, Tommy Shannon and Preston Hubbard, and released "Full Circle" in Austin. All his fifth releases showcase a mature songwriter with something to say, deep, tone-conscious guitar playing and a fine voice. Pittman is backed by a short who's-who of Austin-area musicians, including Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton from Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble on bass and drums, as well as Riley Osborne on Hammond B-3 and keyboards, and the Moeller Bros.