60 miles east of Los Angeles where the urban sprawl finally starts to thin out and the desert starts to take over sits the old railroad town of San Bernardino. In 1978 when Rick Shea was growing up there, dozens of honky-tonks and truck stop bars still lined the outskirts, tough places where the remnants of California's golden age of country music still drifted through like the hot winds.
"I started playing folk and coffeehouse gigs after high school and I sort of fell into the country music scene. As a sideman and a singer I worked six or seven nights a week. It was rough sometimes but a good education. That’s where I first heard a lot of those old songs - a lot of Merle Haggard and a lot of George Jones."
Shea has managed to parlay that tough but real education into a successful career as a solo artist, with five critically acclaimed albums and appearances at the Strawberry Festival, the Tucson Folk Festival, the Canmore Folk Festival, the Freight and Salvage, McCabe’s Guitar Shop and many of the other folk, rock and acoustic venues in California and the West.
"Staunchly independent...represents the best of California music," -Jonny Whiteside/LA Weekly.
Shea’s voice is smooth and bittersweet and his guitar playing goes from subtle on the ballads to blazing through the rockers. His songs are almost cinematic in their scope and embrace everything from norteño and border rock to the more traditional folk and country music of California that he grew up with.
"He has a storyteller’s sense of detail and more, a sense for which details to leave out," -Jim Washburn/OC Weekly.
As a sideman, Shea has worked with everyone from roots rock kingpin Dave Alvin to folk chanteuse Katy Moffatt to indie rock legends R.E.M. As a member of Dave Alvin’s band, ‘The Guilty Men’, Rick toured the U.S. and Europe for 6 years as an opener and multi-instrumental sideman, playing everywhere from Hollywood to Austin to Madison Square Garden and played on all of Dave's albums during that time including the Grammy winning Public Domain.
With the re-mixed, re-mastered Sawbones wrapped and shipped, re-titled Bound for Trouble with 3 new songs, Shea has plans for a new solo album next year and more solo appearances along with shows with his longtime backing band The Losin' End. After three solo albums and two collaborations, Trouble and Me (2002) with fiddler/singer Brantley Kearns which Dirty Linen called "stunningly good" and an album of hard country duets with Patty Booker, Our Shangri LA (2004), called "nothing short of a masterpiece" by Shaun Dale in Cosmic Debris, Shea says he's enjoying playing again as a solo artist.
"I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do. Music to me is a very direct and pure form of expression that can reach across time and place. The songs I go back to are the old ones, the ones where you feel the connection 70-80 years later like you were in the same room. That’s what gives me goose bumps."