Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Little Chesnutt...

Several years ago, when I first moved to LA from Detroit I got a job in a studio as a tape op/Pro Tools guy. The studio (Penguin Recording) did mostly transfers, that is, transferring audio from one format (usually analog reel-to-reel tape) to another (usually digital files and/or CD references). We did a lot of work for all the major record companies and, as a result, did a lot of the transfers for various reissue projects from their massive catalogs. As you can imagine, I got to hear the original masters of some pretty incredible music, stuff that the general public will never get to hear; stuff like out-takes from a recording session with Aretha Franklin and a four piece funk band; In-studio performances by Bonnie Raitt; the multitrack masters from various Paul Simon sessions; every single 1/4" stereo recording of just about every Yes concert (from Steve Howe's personal stash)... Anyway, one of my top-five all time projects at that studio was when a funky little 4-track cassette came in. We had to rent a Fostex four track to do the rough mixes and transfers (due to the fact that 4-track cassette isn't really considered a professional format). Now, for every completely awesome, incredible, mind-blowing project that came through the door, there were at least 8 or 9 nightmare projects that were anywhere from mediocre to unbearable, so this little cassette didn't seem very promising. I hit play on the deck and began trying to get some basic levels and do some EQ-ing (I would usually get 1 or 2 passes with this stuff). By the time I got to the 3rd or 4th song I was slightly hooked and by the time we got to the 5th or 6th track, "rabbit box", I was a rabid fan! It was definitely unlike anything I had ever heard. In fact, the barely credible guitar playing and quirky dialect screamed at my rational mind to hate it, but instead, I thought it was one of the most amazing things I had ever heard. I couldn't quite explain it. The words painted such unusually vivid pictures and the language was completely unique, colloquial and sophisticated at the same time... That cassette was the "Little" session for Vic Chesnutt, produced by Michael Stipe (of REM); it was one of the maybe dozen musical-paradigm shifting experiences of my life... seriously.

Vic Chesnutt died on Christmas and as someone who is usually pretty unaffected by death, even untimely ones, I was truly saddened. Sad for his family and his friends; sad that the exorbitant cost of healthcare in our country played a large role in his passing; sad that I won't get to hear any new Vic Chesnutt songs; sad that I won't ever get to see him perform live; sad that, seemingly, only shitty music prevails (where did that one come from...); and just... sad, I guess... maybe it's partly the holiday blues or whatever... whatever. Anyway, I'm going to go listen to West Of Rome; that song "Steve Willoughby" kicks ass...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I opened for John Hammond and David Lindley down at Brixton Southbay in Redondo Beach. It was fun and an honor to meet and get to share the stage with the legends!!! In short... twas badass.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here I am in-the-round with Randy Sharp, Jack Wesley Routh, and Dillon O'Brian. Collectively these guys have written some incredible songs, songs that people have recorded... people you've heard of!!! People like Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Susanna Hoffs, Joe Cocker, et. al. So you might ask yourself, "what the hell is Shaun doing up there"?
Not exactly sure myself, but Randy asked me to do it, so I wasn't about to decline. It was real fun by the way!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2009 FAR-West Conference

This is me doing my Premiere Showcase sound-check at the 2009 Folk Alliance Region West Conference. My actual showcase went pretty well and was well attended. I think people dug it and I got a few local gigs out of it... Below is Nicole Gordon, Ernest Troost and me getting ready to sing "Prayin' On What Goes Down Must Come Up," a song that Nicole and I wrote for an independent film called Gaia. Ernest wrote an awesome mando part for it... we should record it!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm not keeping up with this blogspot stuff very well, but I will attempt to make up for it in the next couple of weeks...

In any case, here's a photo of me at the Key Club in West Hollywood...

Yes, that is a naked woman above me, and yes there were far more graphic photos that I could have chosen. I'm not positive, but I'm somewhat sure that I'm the only folk-based-singer-songwriter to have ever played an Adult Industry Party (to you non-Hollywood types, that would be a PORN party...) In any case it was a good time. Thanks to Matt of Matt's models for being a fan and for asking me to play his shindig. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stick around for the panties and pasties contest that was hosted by none other than Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy himself, perhaps next time...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Well, where do I start? These past couple of months have been action-packed...
I'm currently in the middle of what I'm calling a West Coast Tour, a significant part of which
is spent doing television work here in LA, where I live... (they are shooting Dexter on the lot where I work, that's a picture of me with his boat 'Slice Of Life' above...) . In any case I still managed to log some 8000 miles! My jaunt took me to Central and Northern California where I played some great venues, met lots of new friends and bonded with some old(er) ones. I even got to play for some kids at a Native American Reservation school where they start their day out with a drum circle and the burning of sage! Of note was Evangeline's Café run by Evangeline Elston. The place is up in Colfax, California, a great little town up near Grass Valey/Nevada City. Evangeline was incredibly hospitable and the venue is all about the artist. She runs it a bit more like a house concert. I joked with her that I didn't know whether to tell everyone that I knew, or to keep it a secret; it's really that kind of place. I should also mention Kenny Schick, Sabine Huessler, and David (DB) Walker. Sabine and Kenny set up an incredible show for us and really brought out an amazing crowd. They are incredibly dedicated artists and they work their asses off. They also happen to be REALLY GOOD; you should check them out. DB is also incredible. He started our 2 hour round with a dead-on-cover of a Chris Whitley tune and ended it with a tune about masturbation... beat that... no, not THAT!
I then camped in Ashland, OR and stayed at a Motel 6 outside Portland, mainly because it was new and smelled ALMOST like a NICE hotel! While up in Portland, I coaxed the incredibly adept fingerstyle blues-woman, Mary Flower, into coming out to my gig at The Mississippi Pizza Pub. The next day I went to a centennial bridge ceremony for the Hawthorn Street Bridge that she played a few songs at, the mayor was there and a woman they call the Bridge Lady. Very interesting. Definitely not the average experience of a person just traveling through. Afterwards Mary let me do laundry at her house, made us a salad and we jammed a bit. I think we're friends now. After Portland I headed over to Sisters for the Dave Carter Memorial Song Contest... that is perhaps a post in-and-of-itself; more on that later. Oh, I didn't win, but it's OK... many other great things happened.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Healdsburg Guitar Fest

This is me and friend/luthier, John How (maker of my guitar). This is in front of his booth at The Healdsburg Guitar Festival. Below is me doing a demonstration of John's guitars. I think that's one of his little concert size guitars, they're all nice!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How Now Brown How...

Here it is! My new custom John How Grand Concert delivered straight to my door. I've been breaking it in since I got it, and it sounds sweet! It has a very dark, warm, even tone; incredibly balanced with a good bass presence. The best thing is that it also sounds amazing plugged-in! This baby has a K&K pure western in it and, I have to say, it suits the guitar perfectly. I've gotten more unsolicited compliments on this guitar's sound than on my Gibson or Collings, both of which sound damn good. In a couple of weeks this here guitar and I will be up in Healdsburg, California at the bi-annual Healdsburg Guitar Festival. I'll be demonstrating this and other excellent John How guitars to an audience of enthusiastic guitar nerds (much like myself). By the way, I go on right after 1993 National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion Tim Sparks, maybe the last guy you want to follow doing Guitar Rags, as he is the undisputed master (along with a dozen other genres, including Fado, Brazilian, and Klezmer!!!). But no matter, it will be fun and exciting and hopefully a chance to meet some good people. I'll be sure and do a post about it from the road...

Monday, June 1, 2009

The 4th ever Los Angeles Old Time Social

Here are some shots from the 4th ever Los Angeles Old Time Social, taken by Matt Knoth of The Black Crown String Band. It was quite an evening. Following me were two incredible acts, the inimitable Tom Sauber and the afore mentioned Black Crown String Band from San Francisco. Ben Guzman of Triple Chicken Foot made a recording of my set, I'll post some of it up here or on mySpace when I get a chance.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

2009 Tucson Folk Festival

Spent last weekend at the Tucson Folk Festival. Met some great people, heard some great bands and got to play the mainstage in front of about 2000 relatively attentive folks. I went on
just before Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer who had some kind words for me. Then I sat back and watched a sublime performance by Todd Snider... good weekend.

Here I am after the midnight drive from LA... somewhat tired and a bit unclean.

Here's a shot of the crowd while it was still light out...

Here I am at work...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My New How Guitar...

Here she is all purfled and such. John's going to put a fancy aged-looking-amber sunburst of sorts. He has a nice touch with color. Check back to see, and eventually, hear more!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recording In Progress...

Here's a couple of shots of the new recording setup...

There's a Blue Kiwi at the 12th fret , a Mercenary Audio KM-69 behind/below the bridge, and a Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist for the words and stuff. It's all going into an Apogee Ensemble and on to a Mac running Logic. Most of the time  I'm tracking guitar/banjo and vocals together. After I do the basic tracks, I'll be calling in a lot of favors and probably paying a few folks to come in and do some overdubs and such. Plus, there's all the incredible stuff I got in Nashville from the session guys. They tastefully put some accordion, upright, clarinet, pedal steel, dobro, and mandolin on four of my tunes (I'll be sure to put up a post when I get the pictures). Check back later to see the album's progress, maybe I'll even have a few sound files and whatnot up here.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Sitting in with the band at my sister's wedding reception. This was in Everglade City, Florida at the Camellia Street Grill. We played "A Day's Gap Keening" and then I did a dedication of "I Am Undone" for my sister and her new husband. All in all, pretty fun. The folks here were incredibly nice and the food was good. You can sit in the evening and watch the Crab boats chug by while you sip on a frothy Yuengling Lager (from America's oldest brewery... 1829) and listen to some fine Classic Country.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nashville 2

A couple people asked about pics/sounds from Nashville. It's going to take me a little while to get them up here, as I have to get them from the photographer AND I'll be at my sisters place in Florida for her wedding all next week. All in all, it will probably take a couple weeks for me to do a worthwhile post. In the meantime, remember to check out the new Shaun Cromwell guitar being built for me over at John How's "building blog" When you get there, click the arrow next to February and look for my name.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I'm writing this from the communal-lounge-internet-depot at Omni Sound Studios here in Nashville, Tennessee. Tomorrow I'll be doing some recording on Tracy Newman's new album and putting together some of my new tunes as well. Tracy's producer, Travis Allen is hooking me up with some of the same Nashville session guys scheduled to do Tracy's session; guys like Russ Pahl, Dave Francis, Pat McGrath, and Jim Hoke (these guys have played on many a fine recording for famous artist types!!). I'll be sure to post some pictures-and maybe even some sounds-from the session up here in a few days.


Friday, February 20, 2009

John How's "Roots Guitar"

Go check out to see a little mini-profile on me and to listen to a Guitar Rag that I wrote, performed, and recorded for John as a demo for his new “Roots Guitar.” There is also a recording of "Three Deaths" that I did with the "Roots Guitar." I made the recording with my newly purchased recording rig which you can read about in subsequent blogs. Just click on the picture of the “Roots Guitar” at the bottom of the home page and then scroll down to the bottom until you get to the “The Turning Of Clocks” album cover and do some reading and clicking. John is also in the process of building me my very own custom guitar that I’m incredibly excited about. John is blogging about the guitar he’s building for me; go check out the pics on his "builder's blog" on the home page. Upon the completion of the instrument, I’ll be recording some additional tunes for John’s site! Stay tuned…


Recording has begun!!!

In a few hours the last microphone in my little recording setup will be delivered via fed ex, thus  beginning the recording process for my next album. Please check back here for semi-daily updates on the album's progress.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

John How Guitars

This past weekend I took the 45 minute drive from my place in Hollywood down to Anaheim, CA. I went not to attend the NAMM conference but rather, because John How would be attending the Luthier's Consortium - an after hours conglomeration of like-minded luthiers dedicated to the craft of hand made guitars (and other stringed instruments). I saw John's work on the Dream Guitars website ( and was immediately struck by his unique take on traditional guitar building. John had some of the most beautiful sunbursts I had ever seen and his bridge and pick guard designs were inspired. I thought, if these guitars play and sound half as sweet as they look, I'm going to buy one! So when I found out that John and his guitars would be within a stone's throw, I was off. John had one of his ladder-braced Guitars, a cross-braced guitar and two of his "Roots Guitars". The one I couldn't put down was the Ladder Braced Grand Concert (a little larger than a 00 smaller that a 000). It had a Lutz top, Maple sides (I usually don't care for maple guitars, but this one was sweet....) and a Rosewood fingerboard. The tone was well balanced and smooth. John can definitely nail the growly plunky tone that charaterizes L-oo's and similar traditional guitars (as evidenced by The Roots Guitar and the smaller hog top I played), but where he excels is in his ability to blend the old and the new. The ladder-braced GC  had the feel and basic tone of a small bodied Pre-War Gibson or Martin but with slightly more complex overtones and a smoother midrange. While I'm sure that John's guitars will sound incredible 20 years down the road, they sound amazing right out of the box. I'll be sure to let you know how mine is working out as I'm in the process of putting together the Specs on my very own custom John How guitar! Also look for a feature on my guitar and some sound clips on John's website in the months to come. I'll keep you posted.