On Notes From Hoover Street, Shawn Pander’s songs and stories sound so immediate it seems he’s living every line for the first time as you listen. “I take a lot from the experiences of friends and the people around me. Even though I may not know all the details, I know the results and how they feel about them, and I conjure up a story about it.”
His friendship with a local Houston bluesman and street musician named ‘Homeless James’ stirred Panders passion for music and at their last meeting, James gave Pander one of his own guitars as a parting gift, but while Pander treasured the gift, it would be many years before he actually did much more than ‘fumble around on it.
Eventually Pander picked up James’ Yamaha SG75 and moved to centre stage. In 2002 he relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, ultimately releasing a record entitled Memories 4 Sale in 2006. The album played well on a variety of AAA, AC and Country stations. Memories 4 Sale made a dent in the public consciousness. After spending seven years in L.A trying to further his career, Pander had had enough of the city. “I’d been in LA for maybe a year and a half, but the honeymoon was over. I didn’t notice the palm trees anymore. All I could see was the traffic, the attitude and the desolation in people.”
Written on a shaky dining room table in his Hoover St. apartment in Los Angeles, Notes From Hoover Street reads like a collection of short stories. A series of impressions that represent the beginning of a new chapter in the Houston based singer/songwriter’s life.
Out of work, and with a relationship of nine years coming to an end, he focused on songwriting. With a fistful of fresh material in hand Pander left LA for Texas to work on his next record. Recorded with producer/saxophonist, Carlos Sosa, at Austin’s Satellite Studios, Notes From Hoover Street is exactly the record Pander wanted to make, he says. A product of good timing, good luck and the perfect creative storm unleashed by Sosa and the musicians playing on the record, including Jason Mraz’ band members; Michael ‘Leroy’ Bram on drums, Jai Dillon on bass and Stefano Intelisano on piano and organ.
Notes From Hoover Street truly showcases the depth of Pander’s musical influences and experience, evoking shades of Dire Straits, James Taylor and Patsy Kline, and treading a fine line between vintage jazz, country and blues. But all comparisons aside, Pander’s brand of contemporary folk has a soul all its own, a signature style underpinned by the sense of rhythm he developed as a jazz drummer. “The way I approach playing and singing, jazz is the catalyst. It’s a huge part of the way I write.”
Although songs like ‘Allison’, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Because Of You’ dwell on the pain of love failing fast and the kind of loneliness that threatens to overtake us all from time to time, Pander’s upbeat delivery leaves listeners with the sense that even during times of personal struggle a measure of hope can be found if you’re willing to look for it.
“I still talk about things that are kind of dark, but now I’m saying, ‘hey, it’s just today’. There’s always tomorrow. I’m able to tell a story, get it out and move on. I don’t have to harbor it anymore.”
As deeply personal as Notes From Hoover Street sounds, it’s as inclusive and straightforward as Pander himself – An invitation to listeners to find common ground in the challenges they all share, take solace in the fact that they are never entirely alone in meeting them, and, through hope, rediscover their faith in themselves.