Charlie Shafter has been around the Texas music scene for several years. Since putting together a band, recording a CD, and playing live endlessly for the past 4-5 years, Shafter has matured into one of the strongest singer/songwriters around. With guidance from Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, his new, self-titled CD is great proof to that fact.

If you were expecting more rocking songs like ‘Not My Girl’ and ‘Big City Baby’, or the intensely produced ‘Jesus And James Dean’ that got radio play on the first Shafter project, you’re in for a surprise. Charlie Shafter has evolved. The thick production and heavy instruments and effects are gone. On the new CD, each word sung and every sound from every instrument has a reason for being there. This is a very smartly produced record from beginning to end, and performed extremely well by the players.

This is a CD that begs for the lyrics to be heard. The first three songs featured, ‘Morgan’s Song’, ‘Dear Diana’ and ‘Sea Wall’ deliver a folk-based tone that lends itself to discovering and dissecting lyrics. The rest of the album follows suit, with some tempo variations on ‘Big Debut’, ‘Lost In A Crowd’ and ‘Dog On A Chain’, a co-write with Hubbard.

My first impression of the new Charlie Shafter CD is that he has found his place in music. The ten songs featured have a new feel. There’s still a bit of a rock edge, and a bit of a country feel to the music, but this is an Americana album. I’ve always thought that Shafter was a solid singer, but these songs truly showcase his smooth baritone voice, as well as the talent of the players. Nothing is suppressed. Everything sound has room to breathe.

Don’t confuse the slower tempo on Charlie Shafter’s self-titled CD with lack of emotion. There’s plenty of that, but delivered in a more subtle form than you may be used to with Charlie. With Ray Wylie Hubbard and George Reiff co-producing, this should come as no surprise whatsoever. This album has their signature of approval.

Hubbard sums up Shafter and this self-titled CD nicely, stating, “Charlie’s craft is uncomplicated, yet complex, profound and always with a purpose.” Mildly confusing, but once you listen to the entire album, you’ll get a better understanding of what Ray is talking about.

Shafter has always been a great singer, and he’s always written extremely considerate songs that have the ability to command your attention. He has never recorded songs about small towns, dirt roads, or hunting dogs and pickup trucks - it's just not who Charlie is. His emergence as a true Americana artist fits him better than trying to force his songs into a red dirt genre where they don’t quite belong. Along with artists like Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll, the Band of Heathens, and Ray Wylie himself, Texas radio will hear from Charlie Shafter from time to time. But if the sound of his new self-titled CD release is an indication of future recordings, Texas charts are only a peripheral goal for him at best.

Here's Charlie Shafter performing 'Dear Diana' live: