Remember this name: Shelly Waters. Her new self-titled recording showcases a voice that demands adjectives such as huge and wide ranging. Best of all, she really knows how to sing. These twelve tracks capture her in many moods. “Drink the Water” is a gritty and grungy song in which the soulfulness of an old Motown record meets the muscularity of a Stax recording with Waters wailing above the Hammond B-3 about the man who done her wrong. She gets saucy on “Red Hot Red,” a retro road song with surf guitar, gets bluesy in old-style country way on “Jackpot,” covers Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine” like it’s a six-tissue weepy, makes the miles melt away in the (ahem!) “MyFirst Car,” and goes all Emmy Lou-like on “Evangeline.” Waters milks emotions from her material, sometimes in a commanding way, as she leads a bold electric song like “Blood, Sweat, and Tears,” and sometimes by making herself vulnerable, as in the lovely “Louisiana Rain.” ★★★★ (October 2017, Off-Center Views)
Louisiana native Shelly Waters has a powerful and soulful singing voice. That is perhaps the biggest selling point of this album. However, this doesn’t shirk on music, either. The blend of sounds here ranges from blues to country and rock. The guitar really shines throughout the set. There is enough range in terms of musical style, tempo and intensity to really keep it varied and interesting throughout the disc. I like this one a lot. October 2017 Issue, Gary Hill
Track by Track Review
Drink the Water
Old school country music and fuzz driven blues guitar merge on this cool number. It’s a slow moving tune with powerful vocals. The arrangement gets a bit more powered up further down the road, but it doesn’t really speed up at all. The organ brings a real retro vibe to this thing, but the whole song conveys that in a lot of ways.
Red Hot Red
The tempo gets an infusion of “oomph” on this. It’s an electric rocking country based stomper that’s quite strong. This is a fun tune.
This one definitely has a lot of bluesy hard rock built into it. I love the guitar soloing, but the whole musical tone is just so tasty.
Knew You When
This mellower cut has a nice balance between blues and country music. The organ again brings some retro texture.
Time for a Change
A more rocking number, this one also has a lot of blues in the mix. Sure, it’s still packed with plenty of country. I love the guitar sound and the picking on the piece.
Red Red Wine
I’d bet that most people know of this as a song by UB40. It was actually written by Neil Diamond, though. I don’t think I’ve ever heard his version. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is closer to it than the UB40 rendition is. This is a bluesy kind of number as presented here. It has a real classic old school bluesy country sound to it. It’s a strong tune, but I prefer the one from UB40.
The bluesy, distorted guitar sound on this brings an almost garage band sound. The cut is just guitar and vocals. It has a real down-home country blues vibe to it.
More of a rock sound permeates this piece. It has a much more modern sound than the last couple songs did. It still has a basis in bluesy country sounds, but it lands much more in the vein of pop rock than it does anywhere else.
My First Car
Old school rock and roll is the idea here. I love the bouncing energetic groove to this cut. It’s just a lot of fun.
Lost My Way
An acoustic guitar based number, this is a slow ballad.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
This cut is very much a hard rocking number. It has plenty of blues and country in the mix, but really fits well into the kind of hard rock that was such a big part of 1970s music. That said, this has a more modern edge to it. However you categorize it, though, I love this tune. It’s just so cool.
This mellow cut is solid. It’s more of a modern number in a lot of ways, but still has plenty of that old school sound built into it. Personally, I tend to think that the previous cut would have made for a better closing song. Still, this works reasonably well in that slot.
It doesn’t take long to recognize a classic country voice. That’s obvious from the initial listen to Shelly Waters.
After a budding early music career, starting as a pre-teen, life intervened in Shelly’s early twenties. But she has returned to music with a vengeance. On the heels of her critically acclaimed 2014 release Drive, Shelly followed it up with this summer’s new album, the self-titled Shelly Waters.
Shelly has a versatile voice that leans toward classic country a bit. Her songs come across with an honesty that draws upon her Louisiana roots. And the song selection and ordering on this disc provide a showcase of the breadth of country music ground she can ably cover and deliver a satisfying listening journey.
The first song on the new album wowed me right from the start. Indeed, when trying to attract fans (and reviewers), it’s good to lead with strength. And the initial guitar chords of “Drink the Water,” followed quickly by a classic country gravelly wail, signals the gritty country awesomeness of this disc within the first few seconds. Though she’s leading men rather than horses in this song, the title phrase provides a familiar point of reference for the emotional lyrics Shelly delivers with a bluesy country soulfulness.
The slow-to-mid-tempo opener is quickly followed by the uptempo “Red Hot Red,” an energetically rockin’ country boot-scooter.
Shelly showcases the mellow end of her musical spectrum with oh-so-slow, heartfelt ballad “Knew You When,” a tune on which her vocals almost seem to expose a crack in her emotional strength, aligning with the vocals in a way that suggests the singer would love to break down and cry but is maintaining strength. With the added emphasis of slide guitar twang, it’s primo old-fashioned country balladry.
And it’s followed immediately by the more energetic “Time for a Change,” another example of the song placement I referred to earlier. It’s why you listen to albums like Shelly’s in their entirety, beginning-to-end. There’s also some deft, well-placed guitar-picking in this number that helps bring a smile to the listener’s face while the tempo and arrangement suggests a train rolling down the tracks, signifying the unstoppable nature of the lyrics’ decision, whether it’s truly unstoppable or merely an attempt by the song’s subject to convince herself of it.
I’m also fond of the next song pairing. First up is a countrified cover of “Red Red Wine,” full of slow, soulful mellowness. It’s not the “red” but, instead, the “blue, blue heart” from that song that ties nicely into “Nothing Bluer,” another blue tune that, if anything, ratchets up the sadness on the country blues meter. Though, contrary to the song title, it’s an old-fashioned country crooner that’s bursting with Opry and devoid of Bourbon Street.
The rest of the album continues showcasing Shelly’s talent and versatility. While I could touch on a distinctly original point within each of the songs, I’ll mention just two more by name.
“My First Car” could be a modern country hit, in large part because such cleverness often strikes a chord with current country music fans. Though there’s a throwback nature to this song (if not for the gender-specific lyrics, I’d say it sounds like it was written specifically for Marty Stuart), lines like “country girl with a little bit of luck/my first car was a truck” sounds like it could be a companion number to Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” either on the radio or on a cover band’s set list. Oh, they’re not stylistically similar, but the two songs share a symbiotic attitude.
And album-ender “Louisiana Rain” serves as an ideal finale. It twangs sentimentally, coming across with an honesty that can probably only come from a genuine Louisiana girl like Shelly. And such honesty is a great way to close a disc.
I’m glad this disc found its way onto my radar. There’s nothing groundbreaking about Shelly Waters’ self-titled sophomore effort, but it is an emotionally satisfying, exceptionally well-written and performed country music journey, and that’s one of the main reasons we all listen to music, isn’t it? Shelly’s music is more classic than new country, though in the end it’s probably best described as timeless country. If you’re a fan of this kind of country music, then Shelly Waters should be part of your collection, one of your 2017 country music album acquisitions.
Shelly’s website lists a couple upcoming shows, both in Portland, Maine. Tomorrow night, September 9th, Shelly will be at Andy’s Old Port Pub. And on October 18th, she’ll be at The Dogfish Bar & Grille. Keep an eye on her website for additional dates as they’re added. I’ll be checking back regularly to see when she next makes her way down to Boston. – September 8, 2017 by Geoff Wilbur
Sometimes albums are meant to flow together as a single piece. Sometimes they’re designed for each track to stand on its own, destined for a shuffle playlist. While it’s clear that Shelly Waters put thought into the story this album tells, it feels much like the latter. It’s not that there’s anything artificial about this album. Quite the contrary — every song on this album is a keeper and is more than strong enough to stand on its own. Waters dominates the gamut from blues to country to swamp pop with her Rickenbacker hollowbody and full-bodied voice.
Waters has been a touring musician since she was 11, minus a stint putting in thousands of miles of sailing afterwards. Her travels have brought depth to her songs. The tales of love, loss, and youth (“My First Car” is easily up there with my all-time favorite songs) come from the heart in a way that’s hard to find, even among sincere musicians who proudly stand outside the mainstream. Waters’ tender and hard-won wisdom is perfect for anyone whose heart could use some nourishment. (Adobe and Teardrops)
This Nov. 4 release is singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist Shelly Waters’ debut recording, and she’s backed by some heavy hitters. Producer Joe Taylor adds guitars and mandolin to a crew of Randall Bramblett (Hammond B-3 and Rhodes), Blair Shotts (drums) and Sean O’Bryan Smith (bass). This is a genre-jumping group of Waters original songs.
My favorites are the bluegrass-blues flavored “Little Old House,” the slide-guitar-powered title song, the country-bopping “Dance in the Rain,” the twangy “She Waits” and the beautiful-but-exhausted “Need to Rest.” (HHHH)
Broad-minded Americana fans will dig this one. (Sun Herald)
I love the challenge of attempting to describe genre-less music and their artists. I’m not very good at it but I do love the challenge, nonetheless. Such is the case with new Moonwatcher Records artist, Shelly Waters, and her debut CD, “Drive.” To borrow a line from Donny and Marie, Shelly is a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll . . . with a bit of great cajun spice thrown it to make things interesting.
To that point, Moonwatcher Records haunch, Joe Taylor, said of Ms. Waters, “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.” Boomerocity couldn’t agree with Mr. Taylor more.
It’s been said that the uniqueness of Waters’ voice may have something to do with the meandering path of her life story. Raised in the Cajun country of southern Louisiana and currently living on the coast in the southeast, she can draw for that diverse experience to write the kinds of great songs that she does.
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 and says, “I never wanted someone to hear me in concert and say ‘wow, you sound just like so-and-so. I’m Shelly, that’s who I am.”
Here’s a little insight into Shelly’s “Drive”:
“Little Old House” is a brilliantly written tune that conjures up childhood memories of a simple, humble upbringing that we all long for in contrast to the crazy world in which we live. The title cut, “Drive,” is a poignant, not so gentle reminder to take advantage of every moment and opportunity afforded to us as well as serving as a personal metaphor for Shelly’s revitalized musical journey. “Reaching for You” and “One and Only” (an homage to Patsy Cline) reaches back to the “swamp pop” of Waters’ upbringing. “Need To Rest” was inspired by a small bird that nested on her boat while she was miles out to sea and uses the metaphor to point to life’s little resting places. “State Line” is a funky little rocker that smacks a little of Melissa Etheridge (and that’s a compliment!) while “She Waits” is a storytelling, acoustic-based ballad of comtemplation.
This is a great CD by an up and coming artist who I think we’ll hear a lot more about in the years to come. I’m keeping my eyes on her. (boomerocity.com)
If there is one word we would use to describe Shelly Waters’ music that word would be…real. In a world where most commercial artists have a sound that is about as genuine as a can of Cheese Whiz, Drive immediately stands out because it sounds like a real person with real emotions. Ms. Waters wrote all ten tracks on her Moonwatcher Music debut and they are all reflective and memorable. Shelly has some heavyweights backing her up. Artists lending their talents to these recordings include Joe Taylor (guitars, mandolin), Randall Bramblett (organ, piano), Sean O’Bryan Smith (bass), Blair Shotts (drums, percussion), and Sherry Hill (backing vocals). While Waters’ voice and songs may remind listeners of many classic singer/songwriters from the past and present, it’s hard to pin down exactly who she sounds like. And that’s probably because she isn’t really trying to sound like anyone but herself. If all the pieces fall into place as they should, Shelly may soon find herself playing for some huge crowds. Kickass cuts include “Little Old House,” “She Waits,” “One and Only,” and “Need To Rest.” (babysue.com)
Shelly Waters’ debut release for Moonwatcher Music has seen her link up with a whole heap of talented musicians, who have worked with stars like Keith Urban, Rihanna, Widespread Panic, The Roots, and others. It is testament to her talent that Shelly has also got these same musicians to head out on the road to support her as she embarks on a tour that includes dates alongside Loretta Lynn.
While her label boss asserts that “these players just love Shelly,” she looks set to gain plenty more fans with her latest, 10-track album. There is no doubt that ‘Drive’ could only have been made in the United States, with a distinct Americana flow that brings in tints of rock and a strong Country music swagger too. Whether it is with the country-blues laden ‘Reaching For You,’ or the inspiring title track, Shelly never fails to impress with the musicality of the tracks. However, it is Shelly’s voice that really carries the day and makes this album stand out. Take the stripped back ‘She Waits’ for example, which lets the listener focus on the lyrics while the guitar plucks play lightly and organ lines bring a depth of feeling.
With a soulful and emotive delivery that is all her own, Shelly Waters shows exactly how she impressed Moonwatcher Records boss, Joe Taylor when called to audition for him. Taylor says that he made his mind up to sign Waters after just “two bars,” but there is much more than that on offer here.
With a rich, lush production backing her up, Shelly Waters looks set to become a real leading light of Americana, and will be sure to please and appease fans of everything from this style, through to swamp pop, country, acoustic rock, and folk. At times the influences can seem to be writ large, such as the Dire Straits-sounding guitar lines on ‘Revolve,’ but it would be unfair to compare this album to closely to that of others. Shelly shows she is her own woman, with her own voice as ‘Drive’ offers a relaxed yet emotive selection that deserves attention from fans of Americana, rock, and more.
Well worth a look…(PopcultureZ, UK)
Ten singer-songwriter tracks mixing up country, rock and blues. The key to Waters sound in that trio is country, with a brace of tracks that is more sounds of Bakersfield than today’s radio. Not to say this is retro, far from it. Tracks like “Dance in the Rain” do come across like a Patsy Cline outtake with authentic sound and mix. However, “Revolve” is an all together more modern sounding track – still country, but atmospheric, with Clapton-esque lead work from Joe Taylor. The clear single here is “Promises” which melds an R&B beat and pop hooks for a great chorus – it’s not hard to visualize a crowd singing along to this one. “One and Only” is a more straight forward bluesy ballad, think Etta James, while “State Line” adds a bit of Hammond driven funk to the proceedings. The singer-songwriter field is overcrowded at the moment, but Waters songs are well worth searching out if you’re a fan of those first sentence genres or just good music in general. Produced by Joe Taylor. (San Diego Troubadour)
There’s a new artist on the Americana scene, but Shelly Waters is not a beginner. A native of Louisiana’s Cajun country, Waters previously worked in the genre known regionally as “swamp pop,” but Drive finds her, well, driving down many of the various lanes that the Americana tag offers. And clearly her eyes are on the road. “Dance in the Rain” is a classic country shuffle that’ll get listeners off the hay bale and onto the dance floor, “Reaching for You” is a bluesy torch song that recalls Patsy Cline and “She Waits” is a quiet tearjerker about an absent lover. The album’s title cut is also one of its most striking; “Drive” has an unmistakable Allman Brothers Band feel to it as it borrows from “Midnight Rider” but it is Waters’ strong voice that’s the star, plaintive one moment and determined the next and with all the emotion heightened with slide guitar interplay from Joe Taylor. Fans should be thankful for whatever it was that made Waters decide to tweak her sound as Drive reveals a stunning talent not far from household name status. (antimusic.com)
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)