Reviews

Through the looking glass darkly:
Who is Shamus Dark?

Shamus Dark: A haunting philosopher of loss? A singer whose eerily subdued performances of both standards and originals have left critics gasping for more? A mixed up confusion of identities lost in his own world?

You decide.

Live at the Roxy Bar and Screen
“Around 9pm backed by some suitably dramatic black and white film footage, Shamus Dark hits the stage and, accompanied only by a small I-Mac, proceeds to croon his way through a selection of songs from his debut album Songs For Suicidal Lovers. The set consists of moody interpretations of “noir classics”, primarily from the 30s and 40s, but what is entirely unexpected is that the musical backing is a dark and ambient electronica (think Massive Attack meets Scott Walker) with soulful saxophone, piano and trip hoppy beats. If nothing else, it quickly becomes apparent that at the very least, Dark’s love of the golden era of songwriting is genuine.

Watching this performance is like watching a character step out of an old film only to find themselves in modern day London. It is very odd but utterly compelling. It could easily be very, very good and it quite possibly is.”
Johnny Others – indieoma.com

Album reviews for Trouble In Paradise
Trenchcoats, shades, snap-brim hats, open-necked shirts and loose black ties. Not forgetting the cigarettes and alcohol. Vocalist Shamus Dark has a strong line in film noir visuals to complement the selection of songbook classics that appears on Trouble In Paradise. It’s not just the cover photos: the videos that he’s created to accompany many of the songs are also rich with that ’40s B-movie glamor. This is a fine collection — a left-field take on the classics that reminds us how an artist’s vision can throw new light on old favorites.

Dark’s debut, Songs For Suicidal Lovers (Drum Records, 2006), also featured classic songs — a cover of Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” put in an appearance too. On his blog he’s written of a musical career that pre-dates punk rock. The album was recorded in South Africa and Hong Kong, mastered at Abbey Road: hints of a globe-trotting life. But further details of his life are scant, the mystery persists.

In contrast to Dark’s noir-ish visual imagery, his voice is surprisingly smooth and warm — the sound of a sophisticated crooner rather than a bluesy back-door man. An English crooner, too — Dark pronounces “enchant,” “grant” and “witchraft” in a way no American vocalist would ever do. Good on him. The avoidance of any pretence of an American accent — or, even worse, a Transatlantic drawl — gives his voice a distinctiveness and a bit of class.

The instrumentation is also rather at odds with the visuals. There’s a saxophone, courtesy of the excellent Sean Freeman, but the electric guitar is at least as prominent and Paul Carmichael’s bass guitar also features strongly. The result is a sound that obviously post-dates all of the songs on offer (the most recent composition, “Trust In Me,” dates from the mid-60s) but is by no means locked into the 21st century — echoes of ’80s dance, ’70s rock and contemporary jazz all sit happily side by side.

Dark’s fragile vocal on “I’m A Fool To Want You” is beautifully accompanied by Victor Unukovsky’s well-judged acoustic guitar phrases. That fragility is carried over to “Here’s That Rainy Day,” Carmichael’s slinky bass line and Adrian Sledmere’s guitar adding a contrasting funkiness. On the latter third of Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me” Dark’s voice gets some electronic tweaking. It really isn’t necessary — a jarring note to what is otherwise an impressively soulful performance. Dark’s vocal on “Skylark” is crisp and precise — the musical backing, especially Paul Harvey’s guitar, infuses the song with a soul groove.

The album’s high point is “Trust In Me.” Written by Robert and Richard Sherman for Walt Disney’s film version of The Jungle Book (1967) it was sung in the movie by Kaa the python as he planned to eat Mowgli, the story’s hero. Dark turns the song into a seducer’s tale — plausible yet ultimately a lie, the promise of safety and faithfulness is given to the accompaniment of Freeman’s smooth saxophone. Who could fail to be swayed by such charms? Or, indeed, by the equally seductive charms of Trouble In Paradise?
Bruce Lindsay AllAboutJazz.com


In a world filled with independent musicians and artists, Shamus Dark shines above the rest. His new album “Trouble In Paradise” bolsters that statement. 12 songs written by some of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century have been skilfully and masterfully covered… His interpretation of the songs are just sublime. With his soulful and silky jazz voice, he commands each song… Bear in mind, I was never a fan of Jazz, but my mind has been changed and my musical palate has had a re-education… long overdue.
The time, effort, dedication and understanding that has gone into each track clearly comes across when you listen to the album. “Trust In Me”, the classic track from the Disney movie “The Jungle Book” stands out for me. It has been completely broken down and re-arranged, and it blew my mind when I heard it first. The rest of the album is the same. “Skylark” is another track that lifts the album. A great vocal, great orchestration and production. For an independent production, this album really should be a number one chart hit.
If you go to www.shamusdark.com you can hear a preview of the album as well as watching some of the great music videos that accompany it. Buy the album and by doing so, you will be supporting fantastic, new, independent music. When I played some tracks on my radio show on Radio Pure Gently, the listeners loved them and wanted more.
Micky Dodds -RADIO PURE GENTLY
RadioPureGently.com


Reclusive Songster Shamus can be heard on his debut album, “Songs For Suicidal Lovers”, a collection of Noir Classics from the ‘Forties to the ‘Noughties. Here’s what the critics said:

“Shamus Dark is a mysterious Englishman living in Malaysia, who has recorded an album that is by turns stunning and depressing, Songs For Suicidal Lovers. This collection of world-weary songs encompasses Jazz, Country and Rock, and Shamus sings all of them like a man possessed. An understated tour de force.

By now it’s a well known fact that the British have a greater appreciation for American music history–and that includes everything from 40’s/50’s Tin Pan Alley standards to 50’s R&B–than Yanks do. They have proved it time and time again, and here’s yet more proof from a very unexpected source: a mysterious, reclusive Englishman named Shamus Dark has recorded an album of mostly Jazz standards that spans the decades from the 30’s to the 80’s.

Shamus has lived a very colorful life (for the full story, go to www.shamusdark.com) that hasn’t always been good to him, but through it all he has retained a profound love of songs from the golden age of vocalists and songwriters. That devotion and his world-weary vocals are the foundation of his long-in-coming debut album Songs For Suicidal Lovers. And no title was more descriptive of an album’s contents, for these songs are aural film noirs. Each song is identified with a classic vocalist capable of downbeat heartache or end-of-the-world resignation, and Shamus–aided and abetted by Pete Millward’s sympathetic production and Electronica-meets-Jazz-meets-lounge music arrangements–gives the masters a run for their money by milking each lyric for its sadness quotient, while never delving into pathos or squandering the mood. He has that British gift for conveying meaning, without resorting to the over singing or vocal tricks that Americans are often so fond of.

Shamus sensitively essays “Angel Eyes” (Sinatra), “Good Morning Heartache” (Billie Holiday), “Willow Weep For Me” (originally written in the 30’s, but covered by everyone and a hit for Chad & Jeremy in the 60’s), and “I Get Along Without You Very Well” (Hoagy Carmichael) with the assurance of someone who has had a lifetime of experience to draw upon. Even songs that seem out of step with the rest of the project–Joy Division’ s “Atmosphere”, Hank Williams’ “Weary Blues”, and the two original compositions by Millward, “The Party’s Over” and “The End Of The World”–make perfect sense when Shamus wraps his pipes around them.

The biographical information that came with this CD suggested that it be filed under “queasy listening”; they certainly got that right, this album is not for everyone. But anyone who isn’t afraid to delve into the dark side of Pop music (or is a fan of people like Tom Waits and Elliott Smith) then I urge you to give Songs For Suicidal Lovers a spin.”

Gina Morris EvolutionOfMedia.com


“Jazz vocalist Shamus Dark is firmly entrenched into our eternal American Songbook. And, he takes us on an interesting vocal sojourn of viable ”old chestnuts” as it were. His ‘ethereal effects’ will take you a little aside as you peruse his musical choice of standards for our instruction…But for all the digital coloring, Shamus delivers a firm, strong, & communicable set of forceful tunes…Delivered with vocal foresight & contemplation. Shamus delivers his vocalese with a reflective melancholy & a warm romanticism backed up by his group’s sonorous & melodic underpinning. He’s here to stay.”

George W. Carroll/The Musicians’ Ombudsman ejazznews.com


“15 tracks. Running time 49:32   Now for something different on Melliflua. Here’s an album containing covers of songs from the late 1930s until the present day, with the recent ones being written by Peter Millward of the Drum Music label. As the illustrated digipak suggests, this is melancholy music for gloomy depressed hours in the company of cigarettes and booze while a jazz band out of an old noir film plays in the background. And with a title like Songs for Suicidal Lovers you know this is will be an inward looking musical journey.   Most tracks have an easygoing almost nonchalant tempo, but there are a couple of exceptions. Instrumentation is mainly percussion, drums, and various guitars. Occasionally brass instruments like a mute trumpet add lonely jazz refrains, and there’s even a track with the Eastern shakhuhachi and erhu.   Pull up a chair and sit back with a whisky as “Angel Eyes” sets the mood for the fifty minutes ahead. Laid back softly clacking percussion and bass notes set the slow pace while guitar lazily adds melody. In this piece Shamus’s voice is more like musical talking then singing per se, sometimes with an edge of resentment, which fits the lyrics well.   My favourite track has got to be the ambient “Atmosphere”. A prominent hi-hat percussion is heard against the haunting rising and falling notes of an ambient guitar. Both the music and vocals build in emotional intensity as the piece develops, the addition of drums and other effects filling out the sound field. The words suit Shamus’s voice especially well on this piece; the whole effect of his voice with the superb music is hypnotic and begs one to hit the repeat button.   What I like about Songs for Suicidal Lovers is that it could easily have been a collection of self-pitying songs which are merely depressing. Instead, the voice of the reclusive Shamus Dark has a vaguely angelic quality, like that of a fallen angel.”

Dene Bebbington melliflua.com



““Songs for Suicidal Lovers” suggests the bastard lovechild of Frank Sinatra and Morrissey…”.hkmagazine


“…a perfect soundtrack to a rainy, stormy day meant for you to stay indoors enjoying the cool of the muffled raindrops behind closed windows… while you sit in a long chair leaning back, eyes half closed, cigarette in one hand and a stiff drink in the other.”

Think Mag, Issue 24, Singapore