Local Wire

Michelle Shocked

Has our 'Shell gone all "born again" or something? Nope — eclectic folk-rocker Michelle Shocked has discovered the joys and power of the African-American gospel tradition. Although she's being singing in an African-American church choir for a while, with the live recording To Heaven U Ride, Ms. Shocked has avidly embraced gospel music but avoided any sanctimonious Christian dogma. Featuring a quartet of vibrant voices (so vibrant that they sound like a choir thrice their size) and a small, earthy backing band, Shocked performs a mostly "gospel greatest hits set," wherein "Wade in the Water," "Uncloudy Day," and "Study War No More" are supplemented by gospel-imbued versions of The Band's "The Weight" and Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child." It would've been cool to hear more off-the-beaten-path selections, but there's no denying the determination and zeal Shocked brings to these performances. Her vibrato-heavy voice has rarely been better than it is here. Her ecstatic wails during "Good News" are, indeed, awesome to behold. One would have to be the hardest-hearted atheist not to be moved during this Ride.

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Mark Keresman