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CD REVIEW: Red Shepherd - Blue Skies
By Chip Withrow - 05/18/2009 - 06:53 PM EDT

Artist: Band: Red Shepherd
Album: Blue Skies
Genre: Folk/Rock/Power Pop
Sounds Like: Gin Blossoms, U2, Coldplay, touch of Beatles
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: What Is Wrong, Made For Me, Crush, Glow
CD Review: Tomorrow, I am introducing a lesson on writing reviews and opinion pieces to my high school journalism students, so I figured I would write this today to share with them.

Nashville’s Red Shepherd crafts vibrant and dramatic folk rock, brainy yet hook-filled. With a clever and compelling twist, Blue Skies opens with a guitar-drenched instrumental that fades into the almost reggaefied, thumping “What Is Wrong.” Following that fist-pumping salvo is the introspective, shimmering title track – the layers of guitars ring nicely.

The band boasts spiraling guitars and harmonies built upon an insistently propulsive rhythm section. Songs like “Undone” and “Made For Me” bridge acoustic strumming and arena-worthy theatrics. “Made For Me” is particularly awesome – clever, kinda goofy lyrics, Rett Wood’s swooping bass, and Matt Fox’s crystalline, incisive lead guitar.

Hearing “Crush” on the way to work one morning gave me an oh-yeah jump start. It’s driving power pop, a chorale of harmonies, sort of Beatle-y, and Aaron Johnston just nails his lead vocal.

“Sunrise America” and “Know It” are a couple of cool curveballs – “Sunrise” is built upon big piano chords, and “Know It” is lilting, with charmingly quirky lyrics. This album is full of standout guitar solos, and “Know It” has a couple of them … but they are too short!

“Let Me Have It” is a nod to the band’s acoustic roots, reminding me in both sound and mood of the Bob Dylan classic “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” The next tune, “Glow,” is a magnificent blast of folk-pop with a bit of twang.

“For the Best” is ethereal but edgy – dense guitars and vocals atop torrents of drums. And the closing “Grey” is a delightfully simple juxtaposition, wistful and hopeful, front-porch intimate.

I get the feeling my students will dig Blue Skies, too, so I’m glad I get to share this review with them. Now, I’m going to listen to this inspiring set again as I try to cobble together a sample opinion piece.

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