Five decades into his career, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Rick Shaffer, is back with his tenth full-length album, entitled “Broken Souls”. Deemed as his most direct album to date, it was recorded partly in Holly Springs, Mississippi and Detroit, Michigan. Co-founder of the Philadelphia band, The Reds©, studio work for Rick Shaffer includes recording guitar tracks on a Marianne Faithfull album (Island); Hilly Kristal’s, “Mad Mordechai” (Stereo Society); Peter Murphy’s, “Holy Smoke” (Beggars Banquet/BMG); and Marc Almond’s, “Fantastic Star” (Some Bizarre/Mercury); as well as writing, producing and recording, “Looking For Right,” for the film, “Collateral,” directed by Michael Mann.
Rick Shaffer is a heck of a musician. His been blasting through the underground scene for a while now. His music encapsulates raw energy, harsh instrumentation and an infectiously ferocious attitude. By turns intense and expansive, violent and sensitive, melancholic and euphoric, experimental and focused, “Broken Souls” captures an artist breaking through genre barriers, and discovering what he is capable of.
“Broken Souls” serves as a blueprint for any serious musician; refusal to be constrained by boundaries, rules or conventions, even within the context of your chosen genre. It’s an album that challenges both the listener and the artist himself, as Shaffer takes a hard look at himself and the world that surrounds him. “Love Light” opens the proceedings with an up-tempo rhythm and blues pitch. Guitars and harmonica combine to create rhythmic mayhem, as Shaffer growls over the top.
“Pale Highway” delivers some retro-flavored psychedelic rock, with jangling guitars and slapping drums. That Rick Shaffer still continues to grow as a songwriter and guitar player, is incredibly evident on the crunchy riff-infused “Just Ain’t Me”, and the more expansive “Same All Over”. Ably assisted by the Detroit rhythm section of Teddy Rixon and Stevie Carlisle, Shaffer demonstrates his visceral rock n’ roll chops, with intense, angular-shaped guitar voicings.
In-between the above-mentioned tracks, we find “Station Man”, which was written for a very close friend of Shaffer’s, and the moody grind of “Desire Street”. Both cuts continue to showcase brilliant sparks of searing melodic guitar work and muddy, gritty rhythmic underbellies. It’s a formula that Rick Shaffer has perfected over his many years of experience.
Shaffer’s songs just build in dramatic dynamicity and atmosphere, like the evolving guitar work, and passionate vocals in “Like Fire” that gets more acute and powerful as the song goes on. “Mr. Boston” delivers the kind of emotion that greatly empowers the bluesy, swampy rock n’ roll Rick Shaffer excels at. Laced with dashes of melancholy, the grating riffs pound underneath the melody from start to finish.
“Closing Time” closes the album on a strong note with reverberating guitars and harmonica lines that strike precisely the way they need to. Rick Shaffer’s vocals have never sounded as emotionally impactful as they do here.
By the time the track strains into nothingness, it seems certain that Rick Shaffer has reached another musical peak with this album. Buried within dark soundscapes and uplifting moments, “Broken Souls” weaves its path between feeling lost and broken, to wanting to uncover life’s silver lining hidden amongst its pitfalls.
For obvious reasons, we can’t call “Broken Souls” a stone cold classic just yet – that will be done a few years up the line in retrospect – but right now, the album warrants that title on raw intensity and emotional impact alone.