Ian Shaw - Drawn to All Things - Jazzwise

Sometimes an album just comes out right: an artist on top of his game, at one with material he loves but doesn't let seduce him, aided and abetted by a producer able to go lush or intimate, guests who are really close friends and a "band that plays so sneaky you can't help how you feel". As Joni might say. "Drawn to All Things", Ian Shaw's first UK recorded album for a decade is just one of those releases. A celebration of the Joni Mitchell songbook, this isn't Mitchell "done" jazz any more than it's Shaw gone West Coast rock; it's just (just!) a gloriously musical album, with Shaw particularly drawn to Mitchell the story teller; listen to how Shaw teases out the scurrilous tale of Harlem in Havana, with Shaw the actor (and comic) able to dramatically recreate the song, not just sing it. And his band are dramatic players in the story too, with Lea De Laria as the scatting MC or Guy Barker's trumpet shouting out loud as, um, a fairground barker.
Shaw also opens out the vulnerability and the joys in Mitchell songs; A Case of You here is as naked as the original "Blue" version, while by contrast Chelsea Morning brims butterscotch full of joy. Indeed, although both Mitchell and Shaw have (undeserved) reputations as gloomy folk, one of the glories of this album is how even in the darkest moments there's a note of beauty to be found, like the moon at the window. The thieves can't take that away. Whether "Drawn to All Things" can do "a Norah Jones" for Shaw is neither here nor there. But if you want an album that's about touching souls, then look no further. A fine album.

01 April 2006