For as much good as Stevie Ray Vaughan did for the world of music and blues music specifically, it can be argued that the leagues of shred-happy disciples he inspired have had a mostly shallow and redundant effect on Americana as a whole.
Vaughan’s seemingly endless influence has affected the way blues guitar players approach everything from their phrasing to their tones to their scrunched-up guitar faces. And it’s this homogeneity of Strat-slinging, big-hat wearing white guys that makes it so difficult to approach modern blues releases with an open mind. It’s also what makes Shawn Pittman’s “Make It Right!” such a wonderfully refreshing listen.
Pittman’s playing is conversational and steeped in 1960s and ‘70s Chicago blues fundamentals. Especially apparent on standouts “Finger On The Trigger” and “How Long?” are Pittman’s patience, King-like vocabulary (see: King, Albert), and ability to dig deep into the rhythm section’s pocket. “There Will Be A Day” features the guitarist’s most adventurous playing and even in that, his poise is evident.
Much like his playing, Pittman’s vocals are without pretense — no forced growls or falsified accents here — simply a singer singing. Semi-nasally and plainspoken, the Tulsa-based bluesman emotes with the confidence of a man who knows who he is, artistically and otherwise. “Done Tole You So!” is a particularly strong performance.
From beginning to end, the album swaggers and struts thanks to father-son rhythm section Erkan and Levent Ozdemir. Their take on the James Brown classic “Cold Sweat” marries their period-perfect take on the blues and the iconically funky source material perfectly.
In the liner notes Pittman writes “what I like about the record is it’s honesty: genuine three piece live performances,” and that honesty is bolstered by the fantastic production of Christian Heyman Zinckernagel and Levent Ozdemir. The tape-laden sound of the album highlights its strengths; the guitars sound greasier, the drums sound boomier, and the bass sounds groovier. What would have been a very good album was made great through the recording process and production of Heyman Studios.
“Make It Right!” is an album that says dig in, don’t fake it, be honest. And in a world where it can easy to forget those sentiments, this album is worth spinning.
- Shawn Pittman
- ‘Make It Right!’
- Label: Continental Blue Heaven
- Release: May 8, 2020