Live at the Variety Playhouse

by: Shawn Mullins

Perhaps it's tempting to dismiss Shawn Mullins as a one-hit wonder, as the artist enjoyed one chart-topping single (1998's "Lullaby") before fading away into the ether of forgotten singer/songwriters. On this engaging live release, however, Mullins emphasizes the strengths that have maintained his moderate fan base for years: a rich, worn-in baritone; a knack for spinning tuneful narratives; and reverence for his red clay, roots rock predecessors. This is music for Southern highways and Georgia fields, dotted with the characters that occupy both locations, and Mullins receives an appropriately warm response following his hometown performances of "Anchored in You," "Sante Fe," and others. He's a veteran frontman, cracking an audible smile during some of his wryest lyrics ("She was buzzing like a battlefield tracer/She was grinding like the gears on a Pacer") and piloting his band through a mix of alt-country and heartland rock & roll. When presented in this element, playing to his fellow Atlanta natives with an ace band behind him, Shawn Mullins throws off that one-hit wonder stigma with little trouble. "Lullaby" does make an appearance on this disc, but it shows up late in the set, long after Mullins establishes himself as a competent, underrated songwriter. ~ Andrew Leahey

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