San Juan Street (Fonky Tonk)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 23, 2011
Shawn NelsonSan Juan Street (Fonky Tonk)
He's been bouncing around Austin since at least 2003. Still, no one would have picked Shawn Nelson to make one of this year's best country albums. San Juan Street finds the local working with some of the most sympathetic players he's ever had the pleasure of collaborating with while also demonstrating above-average writing skills. Produced by accordion master Joel Guzman and featuring guitarist Matt Slusher and bassist Will Dupuy (formerly of South Austin Jug Band), plus Ephraim Owens on trumpet and Trisha Keefer on fiddle, Nelson mixes and matches styles flawlessly. There's outlaw-flavored two-stepper "Nobody Got a Hold On Me," the fiddle fueled alt.country of "Anna Lee," and the subdued yet ardent Tex-Mex in "Dreams in the Desert." With 14 cuts, Nelson could've pared down some of the lesser tracks; the reggae-fied "Daydreamers" seems out of place. Overall San Juan Street is filled with unexpected pleasures.