If only that “Loser” guy — you know, the one who took a slide folk guitar and hip-hop beats and rapped about termites choking on splinters? — if he never hit it big back in 1994, Shea Seger would probably be the shit right now.
It’s difficult not to think of Beck when you put Seger’s debut album, The May Street Project, for a spin.
Dallas native Seger recorded the album in London, and the results sound approximately like what would happen if Texas and England had a musical love child.
The opening track and first single, “Last Time”, sets the tone for everything else that happens musically — semi-robotic beats and eerie, atmospheric effects laying foundation for solid American, perhaps even Southern songwriting.
That overused saying (drastically paraphased) is true — you can take the woman out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the woman.
“Clutch” features some very soulful backing vocals, even while a drum machine thumps out a dirty, gritty club beat. “Shatterwall” feels like a four-track demo taped next to a campfire. (And no, I refuse to mention the name Michelle Shocked.)
If “Always” were recorded in Nashville, it would probably have been covered by Lucinda Williams or Emmylou Harris. But The May Street Project is not a southern rock record. Hardly.
The folk-rock guitars and funky bass lines of the album feel very much at home with the analog synthesizer effects and the dry, programmed beats.
Seger and producer Martin Terefe strip The May Street Project of any gloss, leaving the album to sound dusty, just like portions of Seger’s home state.
And while the southern influence in Seger’s music is strong, she does allow herself some wiggle room. On “Blind Situation,” Commissioner Gordon breaks out in a rap. “Twisted” channels into “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know” from that most predictable of comparrisons. (Alanis Morisette, if you couldn’t tell.)
“I Can’t Lie” is pure rhythm and blues, while “Isn’t It Good” goes for the “Let’s Get It On” vibe.
The May Street Project is an incredibly impressive debut, full of unlikely combinations that work seamlessly with each other. Seger has done something marvelous.