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Michelle Shocked


Michelle Shocked

Michelle Shocked

promo photo: MichelleShocked.com

Description of Michelle Shocked's Music:

Contemporary folk, singer-songwriter, gospel, roots, Americana


Michelle Shocked was one of the most popular breakout artists of the American singer-songwriter scene in the 1980s and '90s and, as such, could easily be compared with some of the other popular songwriters of that era - Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Lucy Kaplansky. Fans of Ani DiFranco, Joni Mitchell, and Dar Williams will likely be intrigued by Shocked's lyrical and often poetic approach to songwriting. Later in her career, she developed a much bigger, band-oriented sound which could interest fans of folks as variant as Steve Earle and Dr. John. She's also toyed with gospel and Carribbean music, swing, and other folk music styles from around the world, and fans of the vast array of world music might also be interested in Shocked's later recordings.

Recommended Michelle Shocked Albums:

Short Sharp Shocked (Polygram Records, 1990) compare prices

Mexican Standoff (Mighty Sound, 2006) compare prices

Arkansas Traveler (Mercury, 1992) compare prices

Purchase/Download Michelle Shocked MP3s:

"Wade in the Water" (from Toheavenuride)
"How You Play the Game" (from Don't Ask Don't Tell)
"Mouth of the Mississippi" (from Mexican Standoff)

Michelle Shocked Biography:

Michelle Shocked (aka Karen Michelle Johnston) was born in February, 1962, and raised in Texas. Borne of the always vibrant Texas-based singer-songwriter music scene, Johnston hightailed it out of Texas to explore the greater, wider world when she was a young woman. It was a song circle at the much-adored, well-attended Kerrville Folk Festival, however, which helped to kickstart her career as a folksinger.

While at the festival one year, she sat at one of its storied "campfires" and recorded a collection of songs onto a tape recorder which was eventually bootlegged and sold in Europe under the title The Texas Campfire Tapes. Unbenownst to her, the recording traveled Europe as a bootleg, eventually garnering the attention of Mercury Records and scoring Shocked a major label recording contract.

In 1988, Shocked released her first official (i.e. intentional) full-length studio album in the US. The album was titled Short Sharp Shocked and had a photo on the cover of an angry Shocked being dragged away by police. Indeed, she had developed an affinity for aligning herself with grassroots political activism in the '80s and was, years later (2011) carted away by cops during the Occupy movement in Los Angeles. Prophetic as the cover image may have been, the disc introduced a college radio crowd to Shocked, the intuitive singer-songwriter.

The following year, she dropped a rock album followed by another almost completely folk/bluegrass disc called Arkansas Traveler (after the traditional bluegrass standard).

Finally, in 1994, after recording for Mercury for about seven years, Shocked struck out on her own and began releasing follow-up albums independently. Through the years, Shocked has dabbled in various styles and sounds - from swing to rock to gospel and back to folk again - always staying true to the intrinsically creative qualities in the songs, veering from trying to craft songs to fit a specific style.

Since The Texas Campfire Tapes found its way into the world in 1986, Shocked has released a total of sixteen albums through the year, including a couple collaborations and a collection of her recordings for Mercury records. Her music appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Dead Man Walking and the 2004 documentary film Bush's Brain. She had a small handful of US chart hits in 1988 and '89 with her first couple of albums on Mercury Records but has mostly maintained an underground, independent, and cult status since.

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