TVD First Listen: Shamarr Allen and
the Underdawgs

Shamarr Allen has a way with a melody. His song “Meet Me On Frenchmen Street” has already become a local anthem and his new album, 504-799-8147 is filled with songs with more memorable hooks.

He also continues to learn his way around a mixing board. He produced the album and plays virtually every instrument on it with help from his bandmates in the Underdawgs.

The album kicks off with “Typical Rock Star,” which presents Allen as the opposite of the title character. He doesn’t play guitar, he doesn’t wear mascara or skinny jeans. He’s also accessible—the name of his album is his actual phone number. While the lyrics place him outside of the stereotype, the music reflects modern rock and the song would not sound out of place on rock radio.

Allen changes gears throughout the album. He sings love songs like “Friend Zone” that are pure pop confections with a plaint in his vocals that keep them from becoming saccharine. “Think Like You” is a message song that rails against the corporate mindset that infects television watchers through advertising. “Leaky Faucet” reveals insecurities as he repeats the refrain “I scream at the mirror.”

Like his previous album, Box Who In?, 504-799-8147 showcases a range of musical styles. But this effort is more coherent. There are songs that feature auto tune, the staple of current R&B vocal effects. There is screaming electric guitar and rapid drum fills that are the hallmark of modern rock. But regardless of the production values, the music serves the songs and Allen clearly is a songwriter first and foremost.

To my ears, the standout track that defines this phase of Allen’s career is “Mr. Old Man.” Addressed to anyone and everyone who would hold him back, the song walks a fine line between disrespecting his elders and gently chiding them to get with the program. He sings, “Hey Mr. Old Man, I’m surprised you’re still listening, I don’t need another lecture on tradition… I learned a lot from old schoolers, but by design if you want to stay relevant you gotta change with the times.” Then he proceeds to take a trumpet solo that would not be out of place on an album that was recorded by one of those elders.

504-799-8147 is a sly record. It teases the listener by flirting with genre and style. Lyrically, it’s all over the map. But it’s a compelling statement of a time and a place and a great addition to the career of an artist who is still finding his spot in this time and this place.

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