The Rise and Fall of Shaun
Fighting a Battle When You’ve Already Lost the War EP
Review by Kent Manthie
At the age of 14, Shaun Tutt picked up the guitar and got started on a musical journey that has, so far, lasted a lifetime. In the years since he got into the music scene, he’s wandered in and out of myriad genres, styles and structures. For the rest of his adolescence into his mid-20s, Tutt put a lot of heart and soul into mastering his instrument and sharpening his skills as a songwriter.
By 2011 Shaun started writing his own songs, emulating some of his heroes and influences, such as John Martyn, Neil Young, Frank Turner, The Admiral, To Kill a King and others. Now he has an extensive catalog of songs of his own -some 40 songs that he’s either written by himself or that he co-wrote with friend and lyricist, Jim Radford, who is in the band These Curious Thoughts.
Now that this EP is out and free to the public – just visit Bandcamp to get your copy, Shaun is busy working on collating some of his many songs and recording some for a full-length debut album.
I was lucky enough to get an email from Shaun that had a link to the download of Fighting a Battle… which is a four-song EP; it’s mellow, acoustic in nature, with the vocals mixed in to not be overtaken by the music – in other words, his voice carries, neither drowning out the music nor being drowned out by it. Opening is the title track, which is an introspective ditty about taking on one’s personal demons even when one knows they can’t be completely licked, but instead of giving up you keep on trying, pulling your head above the cesspool you might drown in if you don’t keep kicking and aiming toward a way out. The second tune, “A Mixture of the Two” is a bit more upbeat. It’s a sort of attempt at telling it like it is and hoping that the one to whom you’re speaking understands what you’re trying to say, such as “We’re alive tonight/and that’s all that matters now”, as if right here, right now is what matters, getting through this thing before us and when this is done, we’ll tackle the next thing they throw at us in its turn. After that, it goes into “So Let Her In”-still staying in the acoustic realm, with a bit of a backbeat, putting a little energy into it. I can’t pretend to know exactly what the song is saying, but, if I have to try and put a spin on it, I’d say it’s about giving this girl a second chance, perhaps(?), letting her back in to your life. So she isn’t perfect and may have done some bad stuff, screwed you over, lied to you, but, what the hell, as much as you may want to throw her out and be done with it all, you, deep down, still have feelings for her and they keep tugging at you, prodding you to let her back in – back in to your house, your life, your mind – but, hey, she’s lied to you, did you wrong, whatever, so there’s a trust issue there – how in the world can you just let it go and forgive – you’ll never forget; once someone loses your trust, it’s usually impossible to ever get it completely back again. Sure, you may cut her a little slack and try again, but you know that from now on you’ll always be watching your back, watching her back, always keeping one eye open and, while hoping for the best: that things will indeed get back to the way they were, you have to be cynically realistic in these situations. Now, I know I may be over doing it. Who knows if I’m even close to the mark or not. But that is a common thread in relationships such as I just described. The last tune on here, “The Solemn Optimism of a Graveyard” seems the darkest of the four, but not that dark. Taking the title for starters, one gets the idea that the meaning could be an ironic one or it could be talking about the kind of optimism one could relate to a graveyard in that there’s no way any of us are going to not end up in the graveyard, that’s just a fact of life, but if one can live with oneself and come to have as few regrets as possible, although that’s a hard goal to reach, well, even the act of trying to go down that road can give a person a type of optimism.
Whatever the true nature of the meanings, I like the fact that they are a little vague and not so typical faux-teen angst anthems or syrupy love fluff, etc. It’s music to make you think and it’s up to you to interpret the meanings – not unlike with certain abstract paintings you might chance upon at a modern art museum, for instance.
Shaun Tutt has a clear, distinct voice; a clear, concise blissfully pleasant sound that really shines.
I’m just glad that we connected and I was able to shine a light on yet another DIY-independent band that definitely deserves to have some publicity. Let’s hope that he and his mates do a good amount of touring around, playing clubs and such, so as to garner the best publicity you can get: word-of-mouth. A friend telling you that he or she just heard or saw this band play at X club the other night and they were awesome and, hey, you really ought to check out their new album goes a lot further than all the advertising money can buy. Advertising is just a way to trick people into buying things and, whether what’s being advertised is good or bad, the fact that you’re exposed to ads but at the same time aren’t hearing your friends or even a writer at the local independent weekly paper raving about this or that band, will not get your attention. So – my advice to you is to go to Bandcamp and download Fighting a Battle When You’ve Lost the War and, after listening to it (and hopefully, liking it), tell a couple friends about it, or better yet, play the album for them so they can hear it. That way, the chain can continue – those people will then tell someone else about it, then other people might pick up the vibe and so on. Keep an eye out for The Rise and Fall of Shaun to show up in your area for a gig. Then, bring a bunch of friends with you. -KM.