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Mem Shannon – I’m From Phunkville

Not only is Shannon from Phunkville, but he’s also on the welcoming committee. This former cab driver takes you around, showing you all that there is to offer. In the end, this 70-minute blues showcase covers a gamut of emotions and makes you glad to be alive.

The album opens with “The Reason,” a funky toe-tapper that gets the blood jumping right from the get-go. The horns sound fantastic and they are used well to punctuate the narrator’s emotion. In the first verse, he sets up the situation and explains his actions. On the second verse, the horns come in blaring as he defends himself and then they continue into the chorus. The formula repeats. The lyrics are funny and well written. Shannon doesn’t sketch the whole story, but provides you with enough information that you know what’s going on and who the participants that are involved.

“Swing Tiger Swing” is a jaunty tune that is bolstered by the boogie-woogie piano playing of Robert “Rhock” Dabon. The horns get more time to show off their skills as their solos lead the band to the song’s end. It is sure to appear in Nike commercials once the executives in Portland, OR, hear it. “Perfect World” is touching ballad about a utopian world that he knows can’t exist because if everything was perfect the lovers in the story would not exist. Some of the lyrics bring to mind John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The piano has a wonderful solo.

The 10-minute title track begins with Shannon’s guitar work, and then the rest of the band joins in. Shannon’s lyrics lay down the law of the land. In Phunkville, they “don’t allow no standing still,” and they “don’t allow no squares.” He sings about fooling “around with time,” and everything stops. If you’re not paying attention to the lyrics, you’ll think something is wrong with the CD. The song closes out as it began with Shannon tearing it up on guitar.

From the title alone, you know that “I’ll Kiss a Pitbull” is going to be a laugh riot. It opens with this slow, tender jam as Shannon parodies the way singers speak directly to men as if the women aren’t listening. The song then picks up the pace as Shannon begs for some love and declares the great lengths he is willing to go to achieve his dream, such as kissing “a pitbull in his mouth,” eating his “weight in peas,” and refraining from bathing. I don’t think it’s going to work, but it’s hysterical. It’s too bad Dr. Demento isn’t around anymore because this would be a classic on his show.

But it wouldn’t be the blues if it were all fun and games. There’s the gospel-infused “Battle Ground” about the struggles of life and the doubt that instills. It is dedicated to his mother and sister, the latter who thankfully survived an illness last summer. “The Lights of Caracas” is a Latin-tinged instrumental that has an air of melancholy. The band’s talents are on full display, especially Shannon’s sweet-sounding guitar. “No Religion” is a plea from a scared old man who just wants to make it through the night. He calls out to anyone who will listen and can help. “Jesus, Allah, Jevovah/ Yeweh somebody please”. Its beat is reminiscent of Screamin’ Jay Hawkings “I Put A Spell On You.” “Forget About Me” is a complete heartbreaker. It tells the very real stories of people who have strayed so far that they ask the impossible. They want their parents to return home and forget about them because the pain caused by the disappointment they’ve created is too much for all to bear. It is sad and scary to know that one wrong decision could be so devastating.

Everyone should pay a visit to Phunkville and I can’t think of a better tour guide. Shannon is an amazing talent, a gifted songwriter and guitar player. If you enjoy music, you will enjoy “I’m from Phunkville.”

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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