Album Review – Red Shahan’s “Loose Funky Texas Junky”

#577 (Country soul) on the Country DDS

They may not know him from Adam out on Music Row in Nashville. But in West Texas and parts adjacent, Red Shahan is considered a cult hero, a cooler cat than most, and a songwriter’s songwriter. He even helps put on a festival called Caveman out in Colorado every Labor Day weekend, using his clout to entice big names to the stage.

But “Texas” isn’t exactly what you hear when you pull up Shahan’s new album Loose Funky Texas Junky, aside from it being the point of origin of Shahan, and the influence on a couple of the songs. What you do hear is a loose and funky soul-infused album indicative of the Muscle Shoals sound, which makes sense when you read the fine print of the cover and discover it was recorded at the historic FAME Studios on Avalon Avenue in Alabama.

Shahan was never a trad country kind of guy to begin with. He’s always been a songwriter first. But on this new album he leans heavily into a groove-laden approach to these songs, often trading steel guitar or lead guitar licks for a second organ/keyboard part, and allowing the ivories to handle most of the instrumental breaks. This intentional approach makes the album unique in the Texas music and independent country space, if not entirely novel in the greater roots world.

In fact, this shift toward more soul and R&B sounds is pretty common among the songwriter class in the “Americana” realm. Jaime Wyatt took this approach with her last album, Feel Good. Brent Cobb, Adam Hood, and Jason Eady have all gone in this funky direction with recent projects, even if it feels like Red Shahan takes it even further with the heavier reliance on keys.

Take the opening song “Evangeline,” for example. It’s about a guy pursuing a rich man’s rodeo queen daughter, until he determines he’s over his head. The writing is completely of the country world, but the sound is straight ’60s soul. Much of Loose Funky Texas Junky is a character study into someone who fits the album’s title: a coos hound hitting the bars, getting a lot of living out of life, while also facing the consequences of such behavior. This culminates in one of the album’s coolest tracks, the funky and groovy “Wish Me Well.”

But when the album turns more personal and introspective for Shahan, that’s also when the album sounds its most country. The real Red Shahan is a father of three with a wife who was a COVID nurse. “Wild in My Mind” feels like his eternal love letter to her, and a really good one that conveys an everlasting, unbreakable appreciation and admiration that helps give a spouse the strength to endure life’s tribulations.

“Clues” is another slow, sparse, and spectacular track, giving those country listeners the steel guitar they crave. True fans and open-minded listeners should never want to hem in their favorite artists by expectations of genre. But if you’re a country fan, it’s understandable if an album like this can leave you a little wanting, especially when it seems like so many of your favorite songwriters have been following this same sonic arc that moves them away from country sounds over time.

For others, this is exactly the sound they’re on the hunt for. Loose Funky Texas Junky is produced by Marc Ford, who these days is known mostly as a producer, and a very good one. In a previous life, Marc Ford was the lead guitar player for The Black Crowes. So he not entirely out of his depth trying to make a soul record for a Texas country artist. Country or not, this album is well-crafted and passionately executed.

Your level of appeal for Loose Funky Texas Junky may depend on your personal appeal for this particular type of Muscle Shoals-inspired music. But whether that requisite is filled for you or not, it remains an album that’s well-written, well-executed, and will be wildly appealing for those who find favor with the results.


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