In many cases, professional songwriters' albums serve as little more than showcases for material best performed by more established artists. Not so in the case of Phil Vassar, who in addition to being a hit-making singer, is one of Nashville's most respected tunesmiths. As might be expected, considering that Vassar's main instrument is the piano, there are shades of Elton John, Michael McDonald, and Billy Joel throughout, with the poignant "Here to Forget" sounding like a world-weary relative of "Piano Man." Like McDonald, the Virginia vocalist has a powerfully soulful voice, which he uses to great bluesy effect on "Good Ole Days" and "Erase" (which might not sound out of place as a ballad on a Lenny Kravitz album). "Nobody Knows Me Like You," on the other hand, is old-school pop-country that finds Vassar crooning in a strong baritone reminiscent of Charlie Rich and Ronnie Milsap. Lyrically, SHAKEN NOT STIRRED is in another class altogether, compared to many contemporary country albums. Even "What Happens in Vegas" turns an old cliche into something fresh, relating the story of a woman who leaves behind her abusive boyfriend to find true love in Sin City.