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* POP REVIEW

Shocked Mixes Personal Insight With Politics for a Powerful Set

March 26, 1998|NATALIE NICHOLS

Kicking off a four-night stand at the Mint, a radiant Michelle Shocked road-tested her new album and band on Tuesday, continuing to define herself as a performer who strives to blend activism with art to achieve the perfect balance of political and personal.

For the first hour, Shocked and the Anointed Earls sextet showcased their new self-released, limited-edition album, "Good News," whose title track appears in a 15-minute Greenpeace documentary about the battle over vinyl-industry pollution being waged by some communities in her home state of Louisiana. The video was shown before her set, followed by a brief Greenpeace appeal.

Rather than dragging things down, however, this prelude got everyone's attention, which the players then kept with an appealing, low-key mix of blues, R&B, rock and jazz. Listeners drank in Shocked's new tunes, a collection of character studies such as "Little Billie," an uplifting blues-rocker about a friend's son's funeral, and personal confessions like the rueful ballad "Crying Shame."

Shocked made the most of the intimate setting, dancing with her guitar and baring her soul in a remarkably off-the-cuff way. She rewarded the audience's patience with old favorites in the second hour, but she probably could've played not a single familiar note all night and still left people feeling like they knew every word.

BE THERE

Michelle Shocked, the Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., tonight and Friday, 9 p.m. $15. (213) 954-9630.

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