Pittsburgh in Tune

Shelly Waters showcases her vocals, songwriting chops on sublime new album ‘Drive’
I doubt I’d ever get tired of hearing Shelly Waters sing. The Louisiana native has one of those voices that lures you right in and proceeds to envelop you in sonic warmth. Hopefully latest album “Drive” will be the album that puts the talented singer/songwriter on the map. Waters has earned comparisons to the likes of Shawn Colvin and the great Emmylou Harris, but takes pride in the uniqueness of her emotive vocals. “I never wanted someone to hear me in concert and say, ‘Wow, you sound just like so-and-so,’” Waters explains. “I’m Shelly, that’s who I am.” She’s filled the 10-track release with a host of first-rate tunes that showcase her voice and writing chops. My favorite cuts are “Little Old House,” the title track, “One and Only” and the rocking “State Line,” but Waters also scores with “Dance in the Rain,” “Promises” and closer “Need to Rest.” Highly recommended. —Jeffrey Sisk (Pittsburgh in Tune)



Bluegrass with a twist and a view at Edisto Island festival

While most people are heading to Halloween-related events or driving north to leaf-peep this weekend, one of the most laid-back festivals of the fall takes place Saturday at a picturesque coastal plantation.

The music at Edisto Island Mostly Bluegrass Festival shares the starring role with the grounds of Westbank Plantation, where the sea breeze wafts through centuries-old live oaks with tidal creeks winding in the background.

In that location, a bunch of kids playing kazoos might be enough, but festival organizers recruit performers to equal the stunning location.

The headliner is Hurray for the Riff Raff, which is Alynda Lee Segarra’s take on Americana music. Segarra’s rootsy folk sound has landed gigs on “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan” and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Shelly Waters with the Joe Taylor Group brings a Creole-Country flavor to the festival, while the rest of the lineup is more bluegrass oriented – Southern Flavor Bluegrass, Blue Iguanas, Flatt City, Blue Plantation, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, and Lonesome River Bank.

Doors open at 11 a.m., music starts at noon, Hurray for the Riff Raff takes the stage at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the gate. Bring your own chair, but leave the cooler at home. Dogs are allowed on leashes. Beer and wine is available at the festival. Concessions feature the Roti Rolls food truck and Po Pigs Bo-B-Q. More info: www.edistobluegrass.com (The State)

Joey Holleman



Shelly Waters to Release Moonwatcher Records’ Debut DRIVE

Shelly Waters to Release Moonwatcher Records’ Debut DRIVE Stable of pros backs rising Americana songbird on this soulful, sultry release The first time Shelly Waters met Moonwatcher Records’ owner, Joe Taylor, she found herself facing an impromptu audition. The veteran producer had heard Waters’ demos but needed to hear the voice devoid of home-production trappings. So he said, “play something for me and sing.” Waters briefly flashed back to judging panels at youth beauty pageants, but quickly complied.

“She got two bars out and that was enough,” recalls Taylor, who signed on to produce Waters’ Moonwatcher label debut, Drive. “For me her voice has that indefinable ‘it factor.’ I don’t know how else to describe it. She’s got what Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris and other great, iconic singers have—a voice with such distinctive character that you can easily recognize it.”

The uniqueness of Waters’ voice may have something to do with the twists and turns of her story. From a childhood in south Louisiana Cajun country to her Southeast coastal lifestyle today, there’s a lot of life in the songs Waters writes and sings. When asked to name influences she runs down a list of names drawn from country, rock and Americana, but then she gets a little antsy.

“I never wanted someone to hear me in concert and say ‘wow, you sound just like so-and-so,’ she says. “I’m Shelly, that’s who I am.”

Waters’ songwriting mines experiences for universal emotions. Inspired by a tiny bird that perched on her boat while she was miles out to sea, “Need To Rest” uses the metaphor to point to life’s little resting places. “Drive” is a poignant seize-the-day reminder, inspired by a never taken father-son road trip and a personal metaphor for Shelly’s revitalized musical journey. “Little Old House” conjures up childhood memories of a simple, humble upbringing.

The songs are rootsy, soulful and catchy, with “great hooks,” as Taylor notes, while Waters’ sultry voice smolders at the center of the mix. It’s truly impossible to put Drive in one stylistic camp, owing to Waters’ gumbo of disparate influences. Both “Reaching for You” and “One and Only” (an homage to Patsy Cline) hearken back to the “swamp pop” of Waters’ upbringing—a regional subgenre perhaps best known for Phil Phillips’ 1959 hit “Sea Of Love” (later covered by Robert Plant and the Honeydrippers.)

On the other hand, “State Line” is mid-tempo rock with just the right touch of funkiness, while “She Waits” is a storytelling, acoustic-based ballad comparable to any big Nashville hit.  While there may be resonances with other iconic female singer/songwriters (both Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams come to mind) the product is “pure Shelly,” and a product of her undeniable creativity and soul.

In bringing her musical vision to life Waters has been assisted by a merry cohort of copacetic sidemen, from Grammy-nominated Joe Taylor (who lends his formidable guitar skills) to well-known session pros Randall Bramblett (Widespread Panic, Bonnie Raitt) on Hammond B3 and Rhodes piano, Blair Shotts (Rihanna, The Roots) on drums, and Sean O’Bryan Smith (Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum) on bass. Famed New York City recording engineer Mark Richardson (Alchematic Productions) captured the sound at Salt Creek Recording Studio and Grammy winning mix/master engineer Chris Theis (Theis Mix) put the final touches on the project.

Perhaps as a testament to Waters’ writing, singing and musicianship, these respected musicians are leaving the cozy confines of their usual studio habitats to hit the road with Shelly, playing dates that include shows with Loretta Lynn and Hooray For The Riff-Raff. “These players just love Shelly,” Taylor enthuses.



Shelly Waters prepares to open for Loretta Lynn

Waters traded Louisiana swamps for Lowcountry marshes

Shelly Waters moved from the Louisiana Gulf Coast to Charleston about eight years ago when her husband’s work brought the pair here. Now the singer/songwriter is a regular fixture on the Chucktown music scene, and she’s even landed a spot opening for Loretta Lynn at Boone Hall Plantation this Friday. Though Waters formerly had a swamp-pop kind of sound, Waters’ music now falls more in the country or Americana genre .

Waters has been a singer and rhythm guitarist since she was 11 years old, but she always preferred covering other artists or playing music written for her. “I learned way back when I was a little kid, but I just never had never tried to write my own music,” Waters says. “About two years ago, I just decided to start putting things on paper.”Now Waters is preparing to release her second studio album, the first with her own music. With the new album Drive, Waters has had the chance to establish herself as an artist. “I wrote all of the songs on this record, with a co-writer on one song, so all of the music has a real taste of me and the genres that I like,” Waters says. “And each of the songs has its own little story.”

The song “Need to Rest” is one track off the new record with a story behind it worth telling. A few years ago, Waters and her husband traveled on a sailboat, and it was just the two of them running the boat night and day.

“When I woke up after one of his shifts, he told me this story about a little bird that landed on the boat and was tired, so she couldn’t fly away,” says Waters. “And she struggled a second, then just rested a few minutes on our deck — just sat there until she was ready to go.” The bird’s simple break struck Waters and she wrote “Need to Rest” to remind herself that it’s okay to just take a breather sometimes.

The new record’s namesake was inspired by an article that Waters read on a friend’s Facebook page. The article spoke of a man who died of cancer without fulfilling his lifelong dream of a cross-country road trip, but passed his car on to his son, who eventually took his father’s trip.

“It’s a seize-the-moment song. Like if there’s something you want to do, just drive — just do it,” says Waters. “It’s also a metaphor for my music career, because there was a spot in the middle of my life when I stepped away from it. Then two or three years ago, I just realized, ‘This is what I’m mean to do, and I need to just do it.’”

As Waters prepares to share a bill with Loretta Lynn this week, we’d say she’s on the right track. “The Loretta show is a very big deal, and it’s quite an honor to be able to do, so we’ve been working really hard to prepare,” Waters says, as she attempts to tone down the excitement in her voice. The show will take place Aug. 22 at the Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, with the doors opening at 4 p.m. Local singer/songwriter Ronnie Johnson will open at 6 p.m. before Waters takes the stage at 7:15 p.m. Lynn goes on at 8:30 p.m. (Charleston City Paper)

Posted by Michaela Michienz.