Soul of My Soul is Michelle Shocked’s first studio album since the trio that comprised Threesome in 2005. Over the course of just 34 minutes and a few different styles, she presents what’s been occupying her soul as she sings about the “official love of her life” fine artist David Willardson, who painted her portrait on the cover, and her ire towards the Bush administration and the state of the United States. Producer Devin Powers deserves an equal share of the credit since he co-wrote half the tracks and nearly served as one-man band.
On “Love’s Song,” she states while it was “on the lips of other singers,” she found it to be a trap. Then one day, as many people do, she discovers “Love’s song is singing me.” “Other People” appears to be a breakup song. However, by the fourth verse, she reveals she is “saying this citizen to country, not woman to man” and changes the dynamic. Shocked subtlety is skillful, though her timing slightly off, although it will always be apropos to someone.
“Liquid Prayer” is a gospel number about tear-filled prayers brought on by a broken heart. “Ballad of the Battle of the Ballot and the Bullet Part 1: Ugly Americans,” a title almost longer than the song itself, calls out her fellow Americans on this folk tune for issues, such as “reaping our harvest of greed” and “vot[ing] for a war president.”
“Waterproof,” which she declares is what “love was designed to be,” is a quick number with a Latin flair. Aside from my disagreeing with her premise, the synthesizer strips some of the emotion away. Breaking the pattern of love song followed by political song, “Paperboy” is a lusty tale about the title character stopping by.
“Giant Killer” is my favorite, a snarling rocker with Shocked channeling Patti Smith. “Heart to Heart” is a rather touching and insightful look at the way love transforms people into best friends. “Pompeii” has a tropical sound, which would make it right at home at a Jimmy Buffet concert minus the metaphoric lyrics about modern-day America.
The album closer “True Story” is revealed to be just that as Shocked sings directly to Willardson, who she gets the phone at the track’s beginning and professes her love and thanks for coming into her life.
Soul of My Soul finds an artist displaying a portion of hers, and she succeeds by avoiding the pitfalls of corniness and cliché many of her peers stumble into while blinded by bliss or rage.