"He turned the rock/He turned the rock/He turned the rock into living water … He turned the rock/He turned the rock/He turned the rock that was my heart"—from "Psalm"
That Michelle Shocked is a slippery one. Those who have tracked the spirited singer/songwriter's career for 20 years have either come to expect unbounded stylistic shape-shifting, or else found themselves left behind, unable to keep up with her music. What began with a bare bones, lo-fi field recording in 1986 (The Texas Campfire Tapes) eventually morphed into big band (1989's Captain Swing), rootsy country (1991's Arkansas Traveler), avant-garde R&B (2002's Deep Natural), blues-cured Tex-Mex (2005's Mexican Standoff) and jaunty, acoustic Disney fare (2005's Got No Strings). Applying a different musical descriptor to each album isn't quite enough to fully capture the breadth of Shocked's artistry.
Now comes another musical shift with To Heaven U Ride, a live gospel set recorded at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival four years ago without Shocked's knowledge (despite a "no recording" stipulation in her contract). It offers the most revealing glimpse yet of the vision driving her—an open-armed embrace of emotional and spiritual freedom. (The album's title is a response to the "To Hell U Ride" twist of the festival's name.)
"I admit that you can't really see the whole picture yet," she told Christian Music Today. "I've been on this journey for over 15 years now and I'm starting to catch on. It takes the scope of vision of God to create this kind of journey. There have been plenty of times when the person all of this has made the least sense to is me. But I've just gone forward with it, sometimes feeling like Jonah being sent to Nineveh or Moses being ...1