This Cab Driver Brakes for Blues


From the first emotive notes of his debut CD, "A Cab Driver's Blues," it's clear that Mem Shannon is bucking tradition. The musician's use of a classical guitar to begin "Play the Guitar, Son," a slow blues shuffle, gives fair warning that he has no intention of getting stuck in the past.

Shannon is a New Orleans-based blues singer whose original songwriting is a driving force as blues head for the next century. Powered by a syncopated New Orleans funk, he has finally stopped the meter on his cab after 15 years and taken his show on the road. After a summer of national touring, he heads for Europe this month.

When his father died unexpectedly in 1981, Shannon used his father's Buick Le Sabre and a connection through his mother's church friend to begin driving a taxi. Turning his back on music, he did what he needed to do to support his family. But the music didn't go away. By 1990, he was playing again and carrying a guitar in his cab.

"A Cab Driver's Blues" includes snippets of conversation recorded in Shannon's cab. We get a glimpse of the seamy side of New Orleans in his customers' comments and destinations. But more important, we witness Shannon's unflappable and nonjudgmental treatment of his fares. We hear a man who is able to meet people where they are and accept them without giving up any of his own integrity. And between these segments we hear a good man playing good music.

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