Local Wire

Michelle Shocked

When you think of this Texas-bred activist songwriter, you can't help flashing back to the cover of her 1988 album Short Sharp Shocked. It was a black-and-white photograph of the musician taken during a protest of the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, and it shows her getting absolutely throttled by a decidedly nonchalant-looking cop. It was a great, ugly, unsettling image — flattering to Shocked only in that it proved her anti-establishment bona fides. Unfortunately, the musician's career as a commercially significant musician has proved somewhat less durable. After a lawsuit against Mercury Records in 1992 — in which she invoked the 13th Amendment (the one prohibiting slavery) to escape her contract — Shocked took a permanent hiatus from corporate-sponsored music recording, which has allowed her to explore new gospel and bluegrass styles, but also relegated her to no-radio-play obscurity. Hell, maybe the 48-year-old likes it that way. Touring in support of her latest album, Soul of My Soul, Shocked remains the fiery, independent entity she always envisioned herself to be. Only with fewer beatdowns.
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Craig Outhier