“Brainwashed” Shana Morrison’s Family Tradition

shana-morrison-small.jpgShana Morrison tried to chart her own path from youth to adulthood; her aspirations – business school and a career in finance – would seemingly delight most parents. But Shana’s wasn’t an ordinary household.

Her father responded to her plans with a terse question. “Why do you want to do business? Business people are a**holes.”

Later, Dad tried a more sanguine approach to coax Shana into the family trade. At graduation, he suggested she try a few months in his profession before looking for work in hers.

Thus, she joined Van Morrison for a brief tour in late 1993. 13 years later, Shana Morrison is still carrying on the family tradition.

Van Morrison’s ‘Blues and Soul Review’ tour, said Shana during a phone interview Saturday, “was a three hour show with a bunch of different musicians. I only did two songs, so it wasn’t like people had to hear his daughter squawk all night.”

After the tour, Shana joined Claddagh (leader Kevin Brennan had also worked with Van), and later formed her own band, Caledonia. “Then fans started asking for a CD,” she says, “so we thought we’ll release something as a snapshot in time. It wasn’t something that was planned. “

Shana, who performs tomorrow night at the Ascutney Mountain Resort, shares her father’s penchant for exploring many musical directions. 2002’s “Seven Wishes” was produced by studio heavyweight Steve Buckingham and has a country-pop feel. It was, says Morrison, “a really beautiful, pristine-sounding record.”

Her latest, however, churns with the raw power reminiscent of artists like Susan Tesdeschi and Bonnie Raitt. This begs the question: is the album’s title, “That’s Who I Am,” a declaration of sorts?

“Yeah, definitely,” says Morrison. “I’d never been able to record anything that was really bluesy or really R&B-oriented. That’s what the goal was for this record, to choose a group of songs that would work for that kind of approach.”

Morrison produced most of “That’s Who I Am” herself, with help from longtime guitarist Chris Collins. Listening to it, one is struck by how much fun the band seems to be having, quoting the Sugarhill Gang’s hip-hop classic “Rapper’s Delight” in “Drive,” and turning the traditional standard “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” into a high-speed rave-up. The album’s highlight is “Simple,” an epic blues number that showcases Collins and “Mighty” Mike Schermer trading off bristling guitar solos.

Unlike “Seven Wishes,” she released the new record independently. “It’s easier to record an 11 minute song without an label executive looking over your shoulder,” she says.

Morrison stuck with blues rock for the new disc. “Each time you do a record, you need to focus it a bit,” she says. Onstage, she’s less encumbered, more adventurous.

“My music can be really…” Shana pauses to explain, though anyone familiar with the many twists and turns in her father’s body of work certainly understands that the Morrison muse is nothing if not diverse. “If you come to see my show, people can get really confused. We’ll start the night with some Irish songs, then we’ll do some pop and some blues.” She’ll also put her own touch on “Van the Man” favorites like “Into the Mystic” and “St. Dominic’s Preview.”

Things will be even more interesting for this short East coast tour. Worcester chamber-pop trio The Curtain Society, augmented by Huck’s Scott Ricciuti on guitar, serve as her backup band for Friday’s performance.

Economic necessity dictates the move. “Gas prices,” she sighs. Travel costs in general make mounting a tour with a band difficult. She’s considered a solo or a duo act, “but when you’re in the bar and nightclub settings you want to do something a little more raucous,” she says.

She’s worked with the Curtain Society before. “I did some shows with them last year when I was on my way back from Europe,” she says. “They can play some really interesting things that we’ve never come up with before with my band. It may not be something an audience would notice, but it perks me up.”

Her life today is a far cry from the one she imagined in college. She once told financial writer Lee Silber that, as a child, she “envied other kids whose parents had normal jobs,” recalling how they would “live in a mansion and buy a new car and stereo system one year and have to sell it all” the next.

She is, says Morrison, “aware that most people go at this a long time and never make any money. “

“I guess I was brainwashed,” she laughs.

When she decided to become a full-time performer, “my parents were ecstatic and proud,” says Shana Morrison.

“Because what else is there better than being a musician?”



2 thoughts on ““Brainwashed” Shana Morrison’s Family Tradition


    Unlike so many iconic entertainers from those halcyon “daze” of The Counter Culture where hedonism and exploitation became a dichotomy that would separate traditional values from the youth of America in search of personal identity, I have only seen Shana Morrison once in my life of documenting an entire generation and the music that defined it. After the demise of my friend Chet Helms in 2005, Pete Sears invited me to the benefit in remembrance of the true visionary of world peace through music and the peer group pillars that were the structure of Haight Ashbury and the Valhalla of the era. David Freiberg came to the stage with a host of gifted singers, i.e., Linda Imperial, Lorin Rowan, Joli Valenti, Prairie Prince, Diana Mangano, Pete Sears and a petite, attractive young woman , some viewing her acquired skill as nothing more than being the daughter of musical genius Van Morrison but that’s rubbish as Shana becomes the liaison of the noted past and her trademark, sanguine link to a brighter future for contemporary music. What I do know about Shana is that she is college educated, initially had no desire to become a singer and definitely avoids the pratfalls of using her Father’s name as a fulcrum for success. Her ascent to rock n’ roll royalty is comparable to the Dionysian approach, a Goddess who exudes principle and ethics over all other attributes of her chosen art from and concerted effort to eradicate the disarray of the mainstream and digress to music that matters. This sanguine trait has made her a west coast diva but seems somewhat limited with that description while her ability should expand into an odyssey that could endure for perpetuity. Paradox or paradigm, Shana should be on the brink of rock n’ roll royalty which has nothing to do with the genius connotations of her Father. When the decision was made to pursue the personal muses of the music business, the untapped ability rose immediately to stardom in the metropolitan area of San Francisco. Few musicians and or singers have made an instant impact in my life, with the exception of Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Lydia Pense as a teenager with Cold Blood, Nancy Nevins of Sweetwater, Grace Potter now and Shana. She would obviously avoid comparisons and justifiable so but in a genre saturated with banality and crass lyrics that will never endure nor transcend from decade to decade, she remains a beacon in a sea of one-hit wonders. She seems to be opinionated but not provocative, a stunning visually alluring woman but not pretentious, talented but not condescending and appears to have a reverence for the past while expanding the parameters of her gifts so that the pundits of contemporary music can justify her ascension into the pantheons of unheralded but known divas who are the saviors of a less than stellar category of music. These thoughts and conceptual overview are based on nothing more than an opinion that comes from a vibrant, chilling display of sensual tandem singing at Great American Music Hall in 2005.
    I disdain the descriptive adjective “angelic” but in the realm of Shana Morrison, a youthful cherub seems apropo and few can equal the stage presence of this Marin County icon. Where this talent goes remains to be seen but to paraphrase a great line from an antiquated movie, “where she plays, we will follow”
    Some see it as I do, an essentially untapped marvel, a gift to the musical family both in this country and abroad and for those who obviously wear blinders, there is no excuse for ignorance, it just “is”.
    The legacies of Haight Ashbury, past & present are now the juxtaposing image of Shana and I doubt there are others more capable of grasping that torch and keeping the dream alive. Universal peace through great music was always the goal, a quest for a common elixir that would bind the burgeoning hordes of malcontents with songs from the heart. Although conjecture rears it’s ugly head, the concept remains in the hands of a selected few and who better than a youthful diva from the grassy knolls of Marin County?
    When opportunity arises, I will try and confirm my thoughts but I’m convinced that Shana could easily be the “darling of San Francisco” music and the toast of the town. Change is a constant, memories last forever and “poetry are the words of the heart, music are the words of the soul”. That seems to be figuratively speaking but for most of us, that “soul” now resides in the precious few from the glory days of The Woodstock Nation and a very gifted, sultry singer named Shana Morrison. Forty years after Woodstock, we now need to realize who truly matters, those who never did and those who always will.
    Keep the faith
    Rock In Peace
    Don Aters – Editor
    Haight Street Music News – 2009

  2. Thank you for your article. But please tone down the flowery prose try to be intellectual gibberish. yeesh

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