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Shea Seger - May Street Project Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 June 2001
May Street Project,
RCA Records, 2001
| Performance 7.5 | Sound 7.5 |

ImageOn her debut album The May Street Project, Shea Seger (no relation to baby boomer rock icon Bob), a relatively unknown twentysomething from Quitman, TX, a tiny town of 1,200 people, shows off a sound that combines the pop sensibility of Sheryl Crow, the hip-hop tendencies of Macy Gray and some Janis Joplin-inspired grunts and howls. Seger’s Texan upbringing shines through occasionally with a drawl finding its way into the music, but the May Street Project could never be mistaken for a Shania Twain record.

The album’s first single "Clutch" has the biggest hook on the record and is the one song I find really resonating in my mind after repeated listenings. Instrumentally, it’s fairly stark, with the bass line as the focal point. During the chorus, more instruments such as keyboards and distorted guitars enter the mix, but in all of the breaks and during the main verses, it’s that bass line that really drives the song.

At times, this album has the kind of loose hip-hop feel of "peace and love" groups like De La Soul, Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest. In the song "Blind Situation," rapper Pharrel from the Neptunes joins Shea in a vocal duet that works quite well. She goes a little too hippie on the tune "Shatterwall," a song that begins and ends with some musical noodling and has samples of an old Southern woman giving words of wisdom about life. "You’ve gotta go across your bridge and talk to your neighbor" is the sample that plays under the musical bed of a finger-picked acoustic guitar that sound a little like a Southern lullaby.

Shea performs a duet with singer/songwriter Charlie Sexsmith called "Always" that is another of the highlights on May Street. It’s a sparse acoustic ballad that has a mellotron keyboard part and some great two-part harmonies. Other standout songs include the funky "Twisted (Never Again)" and the album’s opener "Last Time," a song filled with some killer keyboards that make for a nice layered sound.

The weakest moments on the May Street Project are the little interludes that seem almost as if they were improvised. Sometimes these extras can add a positive element to an album, but Shea’s a little too inexperienced to pull it off effectively in every instance here. It’s as if she’s trying really hard to make the record seem like it’s more of a well-executed rehearsal than an actual studio album. I also found that she tends to hide her voice behind studio tricks a little more than I would have liked to hear. Although I made the Sheryl Crow comparison, Shea has a fresh and unique voice that seems a trifle wasted when hidden by vocal filters. It’s a small complaint about an album that is chock full of solid songwriting from an exciting new performer. MTV has called Shea one of their "new artists to watch" for 2001. MTV isn’t exactly my main source for new music, but I’ll agree with them on this one. Shea Seger hasn’t changed the world of pop music, but the May Street Project is certainly a good start on her way to making her mark.

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