by Shawn Nelson

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Where does faith begin? Will it start with the omnipresent power of a higher Does it lie in the safety and comfort of another’s arms? Can it be discovered in the certain knowledge that life can be an uneasy series of challenges?

These questions all weigh on the mind of singer-songwriter Shawn Nelson. Such queries aren’t unique; many search for the same answers and many more will follow suit in the future. Not all will set a pen to paper, but all can understand the struggles Nelson discusses on his third solo recording Ain’t No Easy Way. His expressions of faith lost and found in the face of disappointment, temptation, and redemption offer a voice to those who silently wonder whether they can rise above the world crumbling around them.

As a songwriter, Nelson operates under one basic rule: Keep it simple. Hyperbole has obviously never made his acquaintance, and that’s perfectly fine with him. While the Austin, Texas resident’s compositions do not contain flowery language, he is more than capable of capturing beauty and despair. A host of fine musicians lend their talents to Ain’t No Easy Way including past and present members of Nelson’s own band the Ramblers (Joe Faulhaber, who also provides the record’s only-cowrite on “Jesus & The Honky-Tonk Queen”, Nick Chambers, and PJ Herrington) as well as Kris Brown, Trisha Keefer, Jerome Kinkaid, and LZ Love. Additionally, Nelson’s well-worn, salt-of-the-earth voice elevates him from singer to storyteller, infusing the narratives on the record with a kind of ragged grace under fire.

In a song that seems ripped from today’s headlines, mournful opener “Ain’t It A Shame” follows the plight of a man who has done everything he’s always been told to do in order to survive, yet he is still unable to make ends meet. Nelson demonstrates the palpable frustration of a protagonist who is “chained to the grave/a slave to the game.”

The gospel-influenced rave-up “Don’t Let the Devil Drag You Down” responds directly to “Ain’t It A Shame,” warning against the dangers of becoming overburdened. Keefer’s blazing fiddle solo intensifies the joyous mood of the piece, and Love’s harmonies on the number provide an ethereal contrast to Nelson’s gravelly vocals.

While there’s plenty of talk about faith, Nelson is hardly pious, as is demonstrated in the toe-tapping hook-up tune “Don’t Wanna Be Your Baby” in which he relates with blunt enthusiasm “I don’t wanna be your baby/No I don’t even wanna be your friend.” Lest the potential, somewhat drunken conquest get the wrong idea, he unapologetically admits “We only got tonight/But I gotta be at work by nine.” Exuberant picking and Nelson’s wry delivery carry what would otherwise be construed as a crude conversation.

Elsewhere, in the more melancholy “Jesus & the Honky-Tonk Queen” Nelson offers futile resistance to a temptress in the red dress traipsing around the local watering hole: “I thought I was sittin’ on Jesus’ knee/But it was just a warm barstool and a honky-tonk queen.”

Slow burner “You Are There” and the bluesy “Do Me Fine” are decidedly more romantic numbers, where Nelson seeks solace in the healing love of a woman.

Rounding out the record is “Streets of Gold,” which espouses the hopes of people who are “proud and poor” yet “tired of tryin’ and cryin’ for crumbs/and fighting for nothin’ but war.” In some ways, the protagonist of “Ain’t It A Shame” has come full circle, arriving at a place where he can dare to dream of something better for himself and his loved ones. While Nelson proclaims that “there ain’t no easy way” in life, neither are there any easy answers to the questions he asks throughout his record. Ultimately, he seems to arrive at the conclusion that the answers aren’t as important as the act of finding the courage to recognize the world for what it is and fight against what it isn’t.

- Carolyn Dixon | Melodic Sunburst


released March 15, 2009

Recorded with PJ Herrington in Austin, TX

Mixing and Additional Tracking at The Still Studio with Randall Squires

Mastered by Douglas Ferguson at The Still Studio

All songs written by Shawn Nelson except: "Jesus and the Honky-Tonk Queen" & "Don't Wanna Be Your Baby" by Shawn Nelson and Joe Faulhaber

© 2009 Fonky Tonk Music (BMI) All Rights Reserved.

Shawn Nelson - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and Harmonica
Joe Faulhaber - Electric Guitar and Vocals
PJ Herrington - Bass
Jerome Kinkaid - Piano and Organ
Nick Chambers - Drums
Trisha Keefer - Fiddle
LZ Love - Vocals
Kris Brown - Dobro and Steel Guitar



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Shawn Nelson Austin

Shawn Nelson is a songwriter, musician and singer based in Austin who has been performing and making records for over a decade. The Austin Chronicle named his 2011's San Juan Street "one of the best country albums of the year."
Shawn and the group of string band pickers have recorded a live studio album slated to be released in the Fall of 2016 marking Shawn's 9th independent release.
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Track Name: Ain't It A Shame
My truck it broke down
Transmission dropped
That son of a bitch
Down at the shop
Told me he needs
Another G outta me
Down the damn drain
Ain't it a shame

I went to school
Like they told me too
Got a real job
But I feel like a fool
Chained to the grave
A slave to the game
Just to get paid
Ain’t it a shame

Ain't it a shame
The way they do you these days
Ain’t it a shame
Ain't it a shame

I'm livin' a life
I can't afford
They tell me to work
And work some more
I am a man
I ain't a machine
Money don't grow
On no hill country tree
Track Name: Her Memory
It’s back street bars and honky-tonks
Shattered dreams and broken hearts for me
It’s swingin’ doors and saw dust floors
And she don’t love me anymore
No ‘Dear John’ note was wrote
For me or my misery
So hide the pain and suffering
And drink away her memory

The hardest part ‘bout bein’ here
Ain’t the smoke or cold can beer
And it ain’t the band who sings the songs
We used to dance to all night long
It’s the thought of her tender touch
Her warm embrace I miss so much
But lonely ain’t no way to be
So I drink away her memory

I had a chance to let her know
But my pride wouldn’t let me go to her
‘Cause she’s the one who left me here
To waller in the bourbon and the beer
And if I could you know I would
Be the man I outta be
But there’s too much beer and too much smoke
Too much coke and whiskey

Yea lonely ain’t no way to be
So I drink away her memory
Track Name: Don't Let The Devil Drag You Down
As I walk through the valley I hear a voice on high
Tellin’ me not to worry ‘bout the burdens of this life
‘Cause you cain’t take it with you and you ain’t gonna get it right
If your soul is full of sorrow and your heart is dark as night

Don’t let the devil drag you down
Don’t let him run you ‘round
Don’t even let him in, he ain’t no kind of friend
Don’t let the devil drag you down

‘Cause he will call and he will catch you
He’ll tempt you with all his might
And if you fall know I’m with you
Just look for me in the light

So let that light shine on you
Let it shine through the cold dark night
And when you wake in the mornin’
I’ll be right there by your side
Don’t let the devil drag you down
Track Name: You Are There
It ain’t about the money
Or the guitars honey
But I sure need you
‘Cause in the mornin’
When the clouds are formin’
And I don’t know what to do

You are there for me
In my time of need
When nothin’ is what it seems
You are there for me
You are there

When the honky-tonkin’
And beer joint rockin’
Like to do me in
And nothin’s workin’
But another burden
And I’ve lost my will again
Track Name: Jesus and The Honky-Tonk Queen
Give me heart to anyone if they understood
How to keep me from fallin’ for that honky-tonk girl
But it might be the way I am or it might be the world
I don’t know

It gets harder everyday on that train
Ninety miles an hour in a locked down cage
Thought I was sittin’ on Jesus’ knee
But it was just a warm barstool and a honky-tonk queen

I can be a devil or a saint
When you’re down here trying to fool someone into thinkin’ you’re somethin’ you ain’t
So won’t you be good Tanya told you I am not that strong
To watch you walk in here all alone, you got your pretty little red dress on
Just for me
Track Name: Don't Wanna Be Your Baby
But I don’t wanna be your baby
No I don’t wanna be your baby
No I don’t wanna be your baby
No I don’t even wanna be your friend

We’re down at the ‘ole honky-tonk
Yea we’re down at the ‘ole honky-tonk
And the band is playing their best song
Yea we’re down at the ‘ole honky tonk

Well we only got tonight
Yea we only got tonight
‘Cause I gotta be at work by nine
Yea we only got tonight

Well baby it ain’t what you think
Yea baby it ain’t what you think
Now maybe you’ve had too much to drink
Yea baby it ain’t what you think
Track Name: Do Me Fine
Well tell me what good would it do?
To live a life not lovin’ you
When you’re everything I’ll ever need
And my kind of company

‘Cause I’m as high as I can be
See it’s all over me
Can’t believe you are mine
Girl you do me fine

And when I’m down on being blue
No one can comfort me like you
Worry not when you’re with me
You’ll never be left lonely

Can’t believe you are mine
Girl you do me fine
Track Name: Get Over You
Shake me and break me and do with me what you will
You’re high on a mountain while I’m pushing up a hill
I come from the bottom but I ain’t goin’ down again
You can meet me in the morning dew
Or catch me ‘neath a country moon
But I’ll get over you

So strip me and whip me and make me beg you to live
I’d offer my soul but you know it ain’t mine to give
Your kingdom is cunning but nothing is without end
You can meet me in the mornin’ dew
Or catch me ‘neath a country moon
But I’ll get over you

So pill me and still me and fill me full of your lies
But there is no hiding the willful deceit in your eyes
Cause’ I ain’t the one who’ll turn and run from you
You can meet me in the mornin’ dew
Or catch me ‘neath a country moon
But I’ll get over you
Track Name: Streets of Gold
I’ve got a plan, don’t you understand
Gonna leave this place today
It’s hard on us just keepin’ up
There ain’t no easy way

I have a dream for you and me
To walk on them streets of gold
It may rain and it may snow
But baby we gotta go

Look around and hear the sound
Of our people they’re proud and poor
Tired of trying and crying for crumbs
And fighting for nothing but war

Is there no peace, no harmony
Left in this wretched world?
Maybe it does in Heaven above
But its hell on you and me girl