Elvie Shane: ‘Damascus’ – Album Review

Elvie Shane’s brand new album, Damascus is out now, April 19th on all streaming platforms. Check out our full review and listen to the brand new music below.

For Elvie Shane, his sophomore album, Damascus, is a continuation of a story that began with his debut project, Backslider. Released in late 2021, his Broken Bow debut was an autobiography of sorts, sharing his personal journey, while his new LP continues to tell that story while mixing in those of others.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot since Backslider,” Shane shares in a statement. “I’ve attained just about everything I’ve ever dreamed of…seen the world and made a living with music. I’ve been on top and back down in the mud. In that travel and experience, I’ve paid close attention to people more than anything. I’ve seen a lot of struggle, but in that struggle, I found common ground and inspiration,” he continues. “Damascus is a record that aims to pick a fight with what holds people down. Normal everyday Blue Collar America…my people. These are not all my stories, but they are all stories I believe to be true.”    

Throughout the collection, the “My Boy” singer dabbles in hip hop, blues, soul, 80’s, and of course country. He pairs his powerful voice with choirs, female background vocalists, unexpected instrumentation, and even Little Big Town. 

Produced by Oscar Charles and featuring thirteen songs written or co-written by Shane, Damascus is truly an album that makes a statement. “It’s just so raw. It makes me feel like I felt when I was a kid, pissed off at the world and rocking headphones on the school bus,” he says. “I don’t wanna ever be put in a box where I can’t explore the craziest music. And this way I had an excuse to put it all on one record.” 

The album opens with “Outside Dog,” unexpectedly pairing twangy guitars with a hip-hop-meets-scat-inspired melody that finds Shane an outsider. “I’m an outside dog howling along,” He growls over thumping guitars, comparing himself to a pup who never quite fits in. It’s the perfect opener for Damascus with its unexpected sounds and message of nonconformity.

Much of the album finds Shane exploring similar themes, appreciating his Appalachian roots, while also escaping them. “What Do I Know?” is a clear example of this, a slow and moody track that finds him looking back at his raising over a downtuned guitar. The song builds to an incredible climax as the singer-songwriter growls in an almost prayerful passion, “What do I know?”

“I think red lipstick on a woman’s lips look sexy // I think coke’s okay, but it’s way damn better with Jack // I think the outlaws, Waylon and Johnny are gone forever // I think Jesus // He’s coming back // Oh, but what do I know // what do I know // I’m just a hard-working, beer-working, son of an average Joe // Like to think there ain’t nothing that I can’t fix with a hammer and crescent wrench, oh, but what do I know // what do I know // what do I know”

“Appalachian Alchemy” and “Forgotten Man” are also nods to his upbringing, with the latter a soaring Springsteen-esque anthem. “The color of my neck is still the same as my blood,” He proclaims. “Send me off to school // Try to turn me to a scholar // Can’t unpaint the blue on my collar”

Throughout Damascus, the background vocalists often shine, adding incredible depth to these already-powerful songs. While the vocalists are not always known to the listener, there’s one exception: Little Big Town. The harmonic quartet join Shane on “First Place,” a driving uptempo that finds him drowning his sorrows in the bottle. Here, he’s drinking to forget but this is a song to remember with its incredible vocals. Shane blends seamlessly with the synchrony of the iconic band, providing an epic moment that would be a live show-stopper.

The Kentucky native also touches on more sensitive topics on the album, including prison, addiction, and seeking out a fix. “Jonesin” is a wild up-tempo that finds him on the hunt for what’s next, and what’s bigger or better to give a quick fix. Meanwhile, “215634” is a tune about one’s time spent behind bars. “These 4 cold walls, they don’t change much,” He sings. “Oh My name ain’t my name no more…it’s 215634.”

“Pill” is truly a powerful and poignant moment on the album, dealing with the Opioid crisis and the effect it has on families. “’Pill’ is my story, told from the perspective of a note to me from my little brother in my most trying times. It’s an apology to those I love for the turmoil I put them through,” Shane said in a statement. “But for me this goes way beyond just what my family and I have gone through. I want to be a vessel and share other people’s struggles and experiences, even if it helps one person, that means I did my job.”

“Fan on High” offers a moment of levity on the LP with its dancehall inspired music and incredible sliding piano. Meanwhile, “Winning Horse” is a love song that features driving percussion meant to emulate a horse running as he implores someone to “take this love to the finish line.” 

“Baptized” also offers a clever take on a love song, bluesy and punctuated with powerful choir-like background vocals throughout the slow groove of a track. Frankly, Shane is in no rush to discover heaven if it can’t top what he has on earth.

“If this ain’t heaven on earth // Not sure what heaven is worth // ‘Cause I damn sure ain’t in a hurry to get there // If there ain’t moments like this // Lost in the rush of your kiss // Found in the touch of your skin, out somewhere // Down that same Wild Creek Road // Where sins get set afloat// Washed by the want in your eyes // Baptized”

The album ends with the powerful “Does Heaven Have a Creek,” which also finds the singer grappling with the afterlife. It’s a Gospel-inspired piano ballad that came from questions he struggled with after the passing of his grandmother. It’s “simply the wondering mind of a believer,” shares Shane. “A testimony of hope that Heaven has a few of the simple pleasures we enjoy here on earth. Is Heaven only for A-List Christians? Is there room for a prodigal ‘Good Ole Boy’ from Kentucky just trying to live a decent life and be a good man?”

Elvie Shane is truly unapologetic yet triumphant on Damascus, blending styles and sounds with incredible vocals and honesty that creates a must-listen for music fans.

Damascus Tracklist

  1. Outside Dog (Elvie Shane, Oscar Charles, Jonathan Sherwood)
  2. What Do I Know (written by Elvie Shane, Oscar Charles, Dan Couch, Jonathan Sherwood)
  3. Jonesin’ (feat. Jenna McClelland) (Elvie Shane, Oscar Charles, Ryan Tyndell, Jeremy Spillman)
  4. Baptized  (Elvie Shane, Luke Preston, Dan Couch, Oscar Charles)
  5. Forgotten Man (Elvie Shane, Luke Preston, Dan Couch, Oscar Charles)
  6. Pill (Elvie Shane, Lee Starr, Nick Columbia)
  7. 215634 (Elvie Shane, Adam Wood, Ben Chapman)
  8. Appalachian Alchemy (Elvie Shane, Luke Preston)
  9. First Place (feat. Little Big Town) (Elvie Shane, Adam Wood, Dan Couch, Jakob Miller)
  10. Winning Horse (Elvie Shane, Dan Couch, Oscar Charles)
  11. Fan On High (Elvie Shane, Driver Williams, Hayes Carll)
  12. Chicken Shit (Elvie Shane, Jeremy Spillman, Ryan Tyndell, Oscar Charles)
  13. Does Heaven Have A Creek (Elvie Shane)

Country Swag Picks:

  1. What Do I Know
  2. First Place (with Little Big Town)
  3. Does Heaven Have a Creek
  4. Forgotten Man

Elvie Shane shares his brand new album, ‘Damascus,’ out now on all streaming platforms.

Fans can join our Weekly Round-Up e-newsletter here, for the latest in country music and more news and announcements about future Elvie Shane releases.

For tour dates and more, visit Shane’s website here.

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Damascus is available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released tunes on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.