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A Bold Soul Man Gets Bolder

Ryan Shaw has the guts, and the powerhouse voice, to pull off a Jackie Wilson cover.
Ryan Shaw has the guts, and the powerhouse voice, to pull off a Jackie Wilson cover.

To cover a song by the great Jackie Wilson takes a lot of gumption, not to mention a lot of voice. But since Ryan Shaw says people are always comparing him to Wilson — and Sam Cooke and Otis Redding — he figured he might as well try one of the late soul singer's classics on his debut album, This Is Ryan Shaw.

Shaw doesn't think oldies need to be recast in a hip new style, so his version of Wilson's "I'll Be Satisfied" lays down the same groove that set the song on fire back in the day: a frisky organ, burbling horns and a heavenly choir that lays down a cushy cloud of "ahhhs."

But when the church-trained belter from Georgia unleashes his pretty, gritty tenor, he's no mere imitator. Running down a checklist of what he needs from his beloved ("just a kiss / just a smile / hold my hand, baby / just once in a while"), he wails and growls, he swoops up an octave just because he can, and he sounds like a modern man who's hopelessly, haplessly in love. Shaw calls it the most difficult song to sing on his debut, but he never seems to break a sweat.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

This column originally ran on June 5, 2007.

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Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.
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