Do you have one of those albums in your record collection? By this, I mean an album that defies everything you are accustomed to listening to and you want to put it on any time you have friends over so you can share it with them. It is not an attempt to show how interesting you are for having a diverse taste in music, it is to say “hey, listen to this: it is fantastic and you should get on board – if nothing else so I have another person to talk to the artist about.” These albums come around every couple years for me.
It just so happens that my 2011 instance comes from a record that was released a couple years ago. Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers released A Fish Hook An Open Eye in 2009 and this spring I am now coming up with excuses to invite people over for dinner to play it for them. Your dog just passed the first level of obedience classes at Petsmart? Come on over! Hey, have you heard of Shilpa Ray?
There is just something about Ray’s robust alto vocals and harmonium playing mixed with a backing band of musicians well versed in blues and rock that make the 34 minutes of A Fish Hook An Open Eye fly by much too quickly. The organ-like sound of the harmonium never sounds ironic nor are the songs reminiscent of odd carnival music.
Every song showcases the talent and range of Shipa Ray and Her Happy Hookers in a different way. Songs such as “Beating St. Louis” and “Woman Sets Boyfriend On Fire” give way to imagery of a Greenwich Village nightclub singer. “The Coward Cracked The Dawn” sounds like a jam session anthem from a basement bar band, complete with long held distortion-guitar notes and gravelly notes from the woman leading the band. “I’m Not Frigid… Yet” is for all the rockabilly kids out there, with punk-like chords and piano key striking in get up and dance kind of way.
Do you want something for your library to compliment any rock and blues you have? What about an album by a female vocalist with a deep range and smoky voice and a penchant for writing passionate, yet odd, lyrics? Then do yourself a favor and get A Fish Hook An Open Eye. Your friends will thank you.