Music News

Critic's Choice

Virgil Shaw, who opens for Angels of Light on Tuesday, December 11, at the 15th Street Tavern, is what you might call an unsung singer-songwriter. He's not exactly well-known for his work with Dieselhed, a first-rate California roots band that's still striving to reach Wilco-like cult status after twelve years on the road, and last year's Quad Cities, Shaw's solo debut on the Future Farmer imprint, failed to make him a household name despite its consistent excellence. Recorded with Dieselhed cohort Danny Heifetz and sidemen plucked from acts such as Mommyheads and Pell Mell, the disc puts quirky instrumentation (a Chinese trumpet, a saw), spare but smart arrangements, and Shaw's emotion-laden drawl at the service of songs that are as atmospheric as the open prairie. Although Shaw's lyrics can be surreal (a character in the moody "Twisted Layer" builds dollhouses just to burn them down), the details they include speak volumes. Witness "Volvo," whose title vehicle is infinitely more interesting because it's "primer gray." Shaw is reportedly working on a followup to Quad Cities, and if his luck holds, it won't be a smash, either. But for an unsung singer-songwriter, ol' Virgil sure can sing.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts