Recording Review

Dreaming In Detail
Shaking Family
Format: cassette, vinyl, CD

By Paul Moffett

I must confess that I've been anticipating this album for some time. After all, it's not every day here in Derby City that a local band has an album released on a major label.

Besides, having interviewed band leaders and primary songwriters Vince Emmett and Barbara Carter between completion of the album and the release, I got a little insight into their excitement in the making of Shaking Family's major-label debut album.

So when I heard that Ear X-tacy Records finally had it in stock, I went out and bought it. I played it and listened to it hard. I played it again, then went back to my notes from their interview. I drove around in my wife's car, the one with the good sound system and I played it. Loud, like the band sounds when they're gigging.

Pretty good stuff, guys and gal.

From the jangley guitar opening of "Hold On," to the crescendo at the end of "Touch Me," this album shows considerable maturity for a major label debut effort.

Having U2 producer David Tickle producing it had a lot to do with it, but the talent, skill and experience of the members of the band must be acknowledged.

The intent was to make an album that could be reproduced live on stage. Consequently, it sounds a good deal more sparse than most rock recordings do. This is not a liability, as it means that Carter's powerful, striking voice does not have to fight the instrumentation to be heard, which is not always the case in their live performances. Fans of Shaking Family know that Carter has a rock 'n' roll voice thatranks with Grace Slick, Linda Ronstadt and Anne Wilson of Heart and here her voice is showcased very nicely on this album.

Drummer Tim Chewning makes his drum kit do intriguing and occasionally innovative things. Bre Lewis' bass accentuates and underscores the drums well and Charles Ellis is tight on keyboards and background vocals. Emmett takes the lead guitar chores and, in keeping with his background as a studio engineer and player, plays only what's needed and no more.

Of the nine songs, all but two were written by Emmett and Carter. The others, "Hold On," and "Tic Toc," were written by Emmett, Carter and Layton Howerton.

The lyrics range from the pop-spiritual in "Do You Believe," with it's slight rearrangement of the psycho-political-pop mantra "What goes around, etc." to the feminist assertions of "No Man's Land" to the angry but elegant eroticism of "Touch Me." There is one straight love song, "Tic Toc."

"Hammer" boasts the best guitar riff and most singable chorus of any of the tunes, although I must admit that I never thought I'd be singing a chorus about one of the four Horsemen.

The closing tune, "Touch Me," contains the only sections of music not reproducible on stage per se. Emmett and Carter described the moment as the time when "the music gods came to visit" Listening to the guitar swooping back and forth behind the closing crescendo, moaning like a banshee, it's easy to see why they felt that way.

Now all that's needed is for the commercial gods to visit Shaking Family and give their blessing to this excellent and deserving effort