Last night I went to see Shawn Mullins at the Cactus on campus. I have been a fan of his for a long long time, since Soul’s Core in 1998 when “Lullaby” was a hit, followed by “Shimmer.” He’s a narrative song writer with a husky voice. He likes to talk in his songs as much as sing, but we let him get away with it.

He seems to have endured some hard livin’ since the pictures and interviews of Soul’s Core. It showed on his face and in his posture and demeanor. I had never seen him perform live, although he comes through Austin fairly often. He did not disappoint me, his control of his songs and his voice and his guitar showing the polish of a seasoned performer. Yet he had a down to earth attitude, first by saying his new single “Beautiful Wreck” was going to be made into a video, which meant the label was going to push it. And that the video was only going to cost $10,000, which was cool with him, because it could be a $500,000 video and he still had to pay for it. When he talks to you, you settle in a bit, absorbing his calmness, the reverberation of his voice, into you.

The Cactus is a small venue–a low stage backed by red velvet curtains with rows of chairs on two sides. Members of the crowd could talk back and forth with Shawn and his opening singer/songwriter Clay Cook. He told the stories behind some of the songs, lightly and with wry humor. He was laid back, calm, toned down. He smiled a slow lazy grin at times, his eyes small under a knit cap he wore for the first set.

Clay was on stage singing backup vocals and accompanying on guitar or keyboard for most of the show. He was hammy, loud and full of jokes, long black hair forever in his face and eyes. Pushing it back or tossing his head while playing became his primary gestures. Shawn never cut him off or joined in for the humor, just eventually started the next song with level strength.

If you haven’t heard him, visit his site and listen. I think “Beautiful Wreck” is probably going to hit. He’s playing again tonight at Cactus at 9:00 if you want to hear him yourself. $14 at the door.

I’m going to go listen to some more of the new CD, just released, which I picked up last night. My day has been frantic and frustrating and difficult. Shawn Mullins always managed to mellow me out. I’m going to let him for a while.

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