The Portland Phoenix
April 19 - 26, 2001

[Music Reviews]

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*** Michael Shelley



NYC tunesmith Michael Shelley is a storytelling singer/songwriter in the vein of Freedy Johnston, whose country leanings he shares, and Tommy Keene. And I Blame You, his third solo album (he’s also collaborated with Scotland’s Francis McDonald as Cheeky Monkey on one album, Four Arms To Hold You), finds him once again crafting simple, engaging pop songs with an equal measure of hooks and charm. The opening “Mix Tape” is a near-perfect pop portrait of meeting a girl at a party, feeling the crush bloom, then staying up all night to create “a silly magnetic love letter” and perfecting the tape’s artwork to impress her. Elsewhere, Shelley poignantly examines what happens when the relationship doesn’t end happily (the girl sells the mix tape outside her apartment in “Stoop Sale”) and delivers a punchy, ’60s-influenced three-minute rumination on being tongue-tied in a letter to a dictionary author (“Dear Mr. Webster”). Shelley is ably backed by a core outfit of Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken and ex-Mercybuckets bassist Jon Lee. Guests include guitarist Jon Graboff, keyboardists Andy Burton and Dave Amels, and horn players Jay Hagen, Steve Moses, and Chris Difrancesco.

— Mark Woodlief

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