Ellis Martin Report-Music Review: Susan Sheller at The Canyon Club, Agoura Hills, CA


The Ellis Martin Report-Music ReviewSusan Sheller

The Canyon Club –Agoura Hills April 26, 2013                                         by Ellis Martin

I first met Susan Sheller after inviting her to my art gallery last summer to sing for a musical event featuring other roots-oriented singers and players, Susan’s friend Michael Ann Azoulai and the duo The Blue Dolphins (Victoria Scott,Alflonso Rodenas) who I’d heard first on a sailboat.     I’d found some of her previous live performances on Youtube and was as they say ‘taken’ by her soulful minstrelsy……in the same fashion a young teenage lad or younger self (namely me) might be taken by a female singer he’d heard for the very first time.  Where can I hear and see more of her?  Can I meet her?  The world of excellent recording artists is actually very small in Los Angeles and it became clear that we had mutual friends.  I became emboldened and contacted her with my first words being.  “Your music is incredible.  Will you play at my gallery?”  She immediately agreed. 

As a former Music and Program Director/Air-talent for a variety of radio formats including Rock, Country and R&B, I’ve interviewed and listened to hundreds of recording artists over 35 years.   In the mid-90s I left California to run two Country/Roots/Americana stations from the Kansas City area with combined signals that covered 50 counties in 5 states.   We were the first radio group to break Leanne Rimes in the Midwest.  Leanne was a special gem.  There are several special gems across a multitude of musical genres.  Then there is Susan Sheller.   Power, grace, soul, presence, beauty and energy.   Hers is a voice you can hear first with your eyes closed and then ask yourself or anyone around, “Who is that?”…and I’m leaving out a choice colorful word in that question.   It’s enough to simply hear her voice to get you to drop everything else you’re doing to soak it all in to be taken away to a place where only you and she exist.

For those that are reading this article who’ve never heard Susan’s voice……think Melissa Ethridge, Aretha Franklin, Maria McKee, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi and yes, Janis Joplin (only more-did I say that?)  In fact, she’s been compared to Janis more than the very humble Susan thinks is fair to the timeless music legend of the late 60s. All of these comparisons are indeed unfair because Susan Sheller is a stand-alone music legend in 2013.   I’ve deemed her one of those overnight sensations after 20 years.   It takes more than a great voice to win over an audience.  You’ve got to have good songs.  She has them by the bushel and she performed several of them as she opened for The Blue Sky Riders (Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman) at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California before a full house.   During her set she was heavily prompted by the audience to sing Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”   If your eyes weren’t moist beforehand, you were quietly weeping slightly to yourself (come on…was I the only one?) before the sing-a-long song ended.  As Susan is quoted on her website, “My songs are from my life and my dreams.” What a life she’s lived and what dreams she must have.

There aren’t too many people or events that would prompt me to drive 20 miles during Friday afternoon traffic in Los Angeles.  I came to see Susan Sheller.  Those that were there to see The Blue Sky Riders and had never heard of Susan Sheller were righteously unseated into two standing ovations. Susan’s family was in attendance and I think I spent as much time watching her father’s smile as I did looking at Susan. Happiness shined in abundance Friday night in Agoura Hills.  

 As I said, Susan is no newcomer, having played in the same show with the likes of Rodney Crowell and countless others performing shows throughout a career spanning several years.   Not only is her time going to come, it has arrived.  Kudos to you Susan Sheller.  And kudos to veteran strummer and sessionist Randy Ray Mitchell for the superb accompaniment.   You can catch Susan Sheller throughout the year on occasion at the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas and elsewhere.  On October 18th Susan returns to The Canyon Club this time opening for His Honor, the Stranger in a Strange Land himself, Leon Russell.


Ellis Martin is a broadcast journalist, fine-art photographer, actor,poet, apolitical satirist, musican and general self-aggrandizer based in Los Angeles.





contact: martinreports@gmail.com