Shaun Cromwell
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Shaun Cromwell

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic


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"The Mainstreet Songwriters Showcase"

Truly, Shaun's guitar chops are astounding. I've seen him perform several times, and I swear, when he gets going, his thumb is nothing but a blur!

Garret Swayne,
The MainStreet Songwriters Showcase
( - Garret Swayne, host of The Mainstreet Songwriters Showcase

""...someone who has truly got inside the music...""

Shaun Cromwell has the unmistakable sound of someone who has put in the time and the heart, someone who has truly got inside the music. - Peter Mulvey, Singer-Songwriter

""Who needs three guitarists when you've got Shaun Cromwell""

At the 2008 Folk Alliance Region West Conference, I overheard someone say... "Who needs three guitarists when you've got Shaun Cromwell". And oh that voice!

Metaphorically speaking... if there is an original first seed from which Roots Music blossomed, it currently resides in the heart, mind, soul, fingers and voice of the rhythmically intuitive world of Shaun Cromwell. To watch and hear him play is to view a Medium absorbed in the trance of conjuring the melodic essence of Mississipi John Hurt, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal to name a few. Cromwell delivers music with the Titan passion Prometheus reserved for fire!

Henry Hallett
Host 'Simple Folk'
KXCI Tucson

- Henry Hallet, KCXI Tucson

""I love this guy""

"Shaun Cromwell's soul is based in the roots of the blues and the dawn
of Americana. His masterful guitar playing demonstrates his ability and
his original music confirms his devotion to the medium. I love this
Betsi Meissner (Amazing Grace), co-host of Acoustic Alternative, KXCI
Community Radio 91.3 FM, Tucson

- Betsi Meissner, KXCI, Tucson

""...Masterful finger stylings and true-to-the-source songwriting of an amazing solo player.""

The Turning of Clocks is an album of original and traditional flat picked blues by Shaun Cromwell. Although released in 2007, the impetus for reviewing the album herestems from his solo performance at the Fourth Ever Los Angeles Old Time Social in May of this year. The reality, and I'm not being trite, his performance knocked everybody's socks off-- an audience largely full of discerning American roots musicians. As stated on his Myspace page, it was recorded with one microphone, a couple of beat-up guitars and many short sessions over a period of several months, is his first release and is a meditation on death and impermanence. Produced by Shaun and recorded, mixed and mastered by Alex Stickroth and Shaun Cromwell at Dead Squirrel Production Studios in West Hollywood, The Turning of Clocks has a beautiful cover painting by Andy Suriano, who also did the layout design along with Ben Kalina and photography by Genevieve Everding. The typesetting for the song titles and the thick brushstrokes of the cover painting of a child clad in a sailor outfit and crossword puzzle newspaper hat sitting among a pile of clocks and a guitar set the tone to complement this quote from the album's liner notes by way of explanation of the album's theme:"...a person who is mindful of death and impermanence progresses steadily and makes the most of every precious moment". Lama Atisha (982-1054 CE) Death is as much a part of life as music.

From the opening Three Deaths to the closing Elegy for the Misinformed you will find yourself on a wood box and steel strings meditative sailing trip floating along the masterful finger stylings and true-to-the-source songwriting of an amazing solo player. It's a selection of songs, covers and rags that swing, wind and pine through the fingers of someone who's done a careful study of his self-professed mentors, Mississippi John Hurt (he covers Let the Mermaids Fly With Me) and the Reverend Gary Davis for starters. His songwriting in music and song reference good old tunes such as in Three Deaths, "And my life has shown me, the burdens of men, they will be/So Lord, show me where to lay them burdens down." He's put the tunes together to tell a story. I'm partial to the rags Death and Taxes Rag and Cholla Rag. Not only do I like the way they swing, but they provide that respite and joy you need. They'll just make you smile, like ice cream. Only in Your Head follows his interpretation of the classic John Hardy almost as rumination that the whole tale of his life was just a nightmare instead of real myth. Reassuring the troubled mind of his love. Sweet. One Step Down Below is my least favorite. It chucks too modern and feels out of place here. Rhythm in the Tall Grass takes it back again to the gentle summer breeze implied in the title with such lyrics as,

Old friend, just tell me how my dreams go
I can't remember what I've seen
Kids dance and gather in that sunshine
The summer's almost gone
and the well written words are reinforced by Cromwell's inventive key change here and stops and starts there, (a method he employs in a lot of his playing.) He busts out the slide on Hope Grace Finds Us (By and By) with the intimacy of the one mic really picking up the creaking of the wood in the guitar's body or the chair he's sitting on, no matter it's just another layer that showcases his nimble fingers and chords. "So It Goes" is the perfect way to name the lilt and drift of its namesake, a lament and hang for the pop of days. It reveals the way his playing and voice does hang on a turnaround just a second too long but perfect, the phrasing reminding you that the resolve in those old songs depended on the mood and personality of the person playing them, not on a musical rule of perfect measures.

The album ends with Elegy for the Misinformed, which finds a line from which the title of the album comes and in the listening I am reminded suddenly of John Fahey, another flat picking blues soloist who did his own tribute to Death and as the final notes and chords ring and these closing lines

I've seen men die for any flag you'd fly
It's just a matter how the lines they get drawn
I've seen men kill for the brevet and the thrill
Thanks to faith in the absolutes of man.
I think "That's not bad company to keep." Just as everybody needs a little Fahey, you're gonna need a little Cromwell to help you along.

Kelly Marie Martin plays guitar and sings in Los Angeles' old-time string band Triple Chicken Foot." She came to old-time when the drummer in her indie/punk/folk rock band quit and while at a bbq at Walter Spencer's house he offered her the upright bass. Three weeks later she was jamming in a living room with Foghorn along with her soon-to-be husband, Ben Guzman on mandolin, Walter and fiddler Barb Hansen.She hasn't looked back since". Blame it on the strawberry margaritas?, and

Close Window - Kelly Marie Martin, Folkworks

""Shaun Cromwell is a genius and I’ll be saying that ‘til the day I die.""

Last night, we played The Talking Stick in Venice, CA. The guy working the food counter (Nick) was also handling the sound and damn if it wasn’t pretty much the best sound we’ve had there! I brought my own mic – a Sennheiser 835S – it’s what Ernest Troost suggested I get. I love it.

The show opened with four songs by newcomer Rebecca Leigh. She plays, she sings, she writes and she’s wonderful at everything. It doesn’t hurt that she’s young and lovely. Her songs are honest and personal. She’s very comfortable and natural on stage and was the perfect opener for us. She brought in a little crowd, too, and most of them stayed for the whole show. She’s currently making her first EP.

We went on next. This is our band now: The Reinforcements - Lorie Doswell and Gene Lippmann. John Cartwright on bass, John O’Kennedy on mandolin, dobro and Weisenborn, and Doug Knoll on drums. We did an hour. There were about 45 people there, I’d say. Other than the occasional obnoxious sound of coffee machines, the room was pin-drop quiet. I looked around the room and realized that most of the crowd either had never heard us, or hadn’t heard us in about a year. What a great feeling that was! I got to sing a few old songs, like "Night Blooming Jasmine" and "Goodbye Aloha", but I mainly did new material. The stuff I’m recording now for my new CD. We started with “I Can Be Bad.” That always puts us in the right groove. Bobby Kimmel’s “One Way Road” felt great. My tribute to Merle Haggard, “Table Nine,” seemed to be well-received. And my new song, “I Just See You,” which is a positive look at aging, really seemed to hit a nerve.

But the stand-out of the evening was Shaun Cromwell. I do a lot of shows with Shaun and he’s always amazing, but last night he was absolutely riveting. Over the years I’ve heard people complain that they can’t understand what he’s saying (diction), but last night, with the sound quality, and hundreds of shows under his belt (he’s been winning contests and playing all over the country,) you could pretty much understand his every word. His songs are brilliant, poetic, dazzling. “Working Title,” “The Gristmill” (aka “The Lord’s Confounding Ways ,”) “Three Deaths,” “The Rise and the Fall of it All,” etc. Shaun Cromwell is a genius and I’ll be saying that ‘til the day I die. He’s in a class by himself and most certainly by any standard, “the real deal.” I’ll let you know when we’re doing another show together. I like to open for him, then relax and watch him. One time at Kulak’s we did a show with Shaun and a guy from the audience came up to me afterward, pointed at Shaun and said, “When that guy started playing, something happened to my heart.” Get in line, brother. - Tracy Newman, Tracy's Blog


Full Length Album: "The Turning Of Clocks"
Full Length Album: "Folk-Worn Prose"



•Chosen as a 2009 Mountain Stage Newsong Contest Finalist that competed on the home of Mountain Stage, the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, West Virginia

•Winner of the West coast region of The 2009 Mountain Stage Newsong Contest people's choice award.

•Chosen as one of 5 finalists in the Dave Carter Memorial Songwriter's Contest at the Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters Oregon

•Chosen as a mainstage performer at the 2009 Tucson Folk Festival in Tucson, Arizona. Shaun performed Saturday evening just before co-headliners Cathy Fink/Marcy Marxer and Todd Snider.

•Chosen as one of 6 finalists in the 2009 Acoustic Blues Competition at the Telluride Blues Festival in Telluride, CO

•Chosen as a finalist in the 61st Original Ozark Folk Festival's Songwriting Contest.

•Awarded an honorable mention in the 2009 West Coast Songwriters International Song Contest

•Selected for a Premiere Showcase at the 2008 and 2009 Folk Alliance Region-West annual conferences, Shaun was chosen to perform for Folk venue representatives, Folk Radio DJs, and others in the Western States’ Folk community.

•Winner of the 2008 Group Therapy Song Writing Contest, Shaun’s song “The Gristmill” was chosen by a group of songwriters in Los Angeles. This began a co-writing relationship with guest judge, Randy Sharp. Randy’s songs have been recorded by the likes of: Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Peter Paul and Mary, et al.

“The Turning Of Clocks” Album Description:

Recorded with one microphone, a couple of beat-up guitars and many short sessions over a period of several months, Shaun Cromwell’s first release entitled “The Turning Of Clocks” is a meditation on death and impermanence. A quote from the album’s liner notes explains, in one broad stroke, the album’s concept.

“…A person who is mindful of death and impermanence progresses steadily and makes the most of every precious moment”. Lama Atisha (982-1054 CE)

While this might seem a fairly pedantic approach, Shaun sees the contemplation of life’s finite nature as largely pragmatic. “All spiritual and philosophical stuff aside, recognizing and accepting that you will die is a very practical way of loving the hell out of your life and trying to fit all that you can into that life. It’s what makes it possible to even consider writing music. That’s why I wanted this to be the underlying theme of the album; it’s not to be morbid, or profound, it’s, hopefully, very simple and optimistic maybe even uplifting at times”

In fact, each of the 11 tracks on the album is decidedly uplifting; Shaun’s deftly unique approach to roots-based fingerstyle guitar and his rarefied soulful voice make sure of that. Shaun’s interpretations of existing material are fresh and inspired; both his bluegrass tinged take on “John Hardy” and his vibrantly jaunting version of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me” serve as a testament to his love and knowledge of American Roots music. His original compositions, including two instrumental guitar rags, a murder ballad, and a slide guitar narrative are flowing & memorable. The album’s sparse production and stripped down approach make for an authentic presentation of Shaun’s music. The recordings are quite literally what you would experience were you in the room with him.

-Tad Parks