Shannon Shaw – Shannon In Nashville (Easy Eye/Nonesuch)

Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach seems to be on a one-man crusade to make records “the way they used to”.

Stocking his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville with grizzled veteran players such as drummer Gene Chrisman and keyboard ace Bobby Wood, Auerbach began his trip back in time with his second solo album, last year’s Waiting On A Song. Both the songs and the production on that record sounded like they were lifted straight out of 1968.

His next moved was to pluck 60+ year old Robert Finley from obscurity and produce Goin’ Platinum, another record full of the sounds of the 50s and 60s.

Now comes Aurebach’s most fully realized project.

Shannon Shaw is frontperson of the Oakland-based retro-punk band Shannon & The Clams. Dan produced their album, Onion, earlier this year, no doubt in order to assure Shannon’s bandmates and her fans that he wasn’t breaking up the band.

On first glance, Shannon looks a bit like Etta James, and her voice turns out to be similarly big and soulful.

But the sound she and Auerbach cook up on Shannon In Nashville is more along the lines of early sixties girls groups treated with the production found on classic Roy Orbison records.

The album opens with Golden Frames and immediately the listener is swept away by the production…plenty of reverb, sweeping strings and tonne of twang in the guitars. The rasp in Shaw’s voice had me thinking of Lulu, but then by the second track I was hearing the ghost of Amy Winehouse. The other obvious touchstone is Dusty Springfield…particularly her Dusty In Memphis period.

The songs themselves are written by Shaw and Auerbach, and for the most part, they hold their own against the ornate production.

A couple of tracks feel like filler…Goodbye Summer and Lord Of Alaska, but Shaw injects some genuine emotion into most of them, particularly Broke My Own, where she faces down her own self-doubt, singing, “My worst enemy is my own flesh and bone”.

Yeah, they may not make ‘em like they used to, but don’t tell Dan Auerbach.

He’s managed to recreate the sound and feel of the 1960s without sounding camp or silly and one gets the feeling that Shannon Shaw would sound good no matter what decade she was in.

Marty Duda