SPOTLIGHT: David Shultz and The Skyline 

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A face in the crowd

Don't sleep on David Shultz, y'all. Richmond might have its own Ryan Adams in this fledgling 25-year-old singer-songwriter.

On "Sinner's Gold," his sophomore release for local label Triple Stamp Records, Shultz sounds remarkably self-assured and ready for mainstream radio. The acoustic-guitar-driven album is filled with catchy, pop-friendly melodies fronted by Shultz's warm-toned, slightly weathered vocals, recalling the aforementioned Adams and Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) — if they both sang Tom Petty songs.

"The whole time we were recording, we were obsessed with Tom Petty. I was even reading a biography," Shultz says. "His hits are not shitty songs. I wanted to write songs that could be popular but weren't garbage."

View an audio slideshow.

He's on the right track. It's a safe bet that "Can't Can't," the breezy, made-for-driving second tune from the album, would be a commercial hit if released by Petty. All it might need is producer Rick Rubin to sprinkle some Buddhist hipster dust.

Michael Otley, a local computer programmer and musician, says that the new album is pretty enough to draw tears. "I have a joke with a friend of mine where we call [Shultz] Tom Dylan because he reminds me of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan so much," he adds.

Truck-driving man

A recent English grad of Virginia Commonwealth University, Shultz says the lyrics on this album revolve around his intense relationship with music. Many contain images of nature or a pronounced physicality, which makes sense considering Shultz's day job. He works at his dad's warehouse in Dinwiddie County, selling wholesale tools and tractor equipment.

The job often finds him driving a heavily loaded truck on extended trips all over the East Coast and Deep South, delivering tools while thinking up new songs along the way. "I've written lyrics while I'm driving," he says, "or I'll call my [answering machine] and leave melodies."

From punk to alt-country

Shultz, who graduated from Thomas Dale High School, has known and played with his bassist, Marcus Shrock, and drummer, Matt Morton, since they were kids. Back then, Shultz was playing guitar in hard-core punk bands, but he gradually shifted to mellow singer-songwriter material, influenced by a favorite musician, Paul Simon.

"I didn't want to feel limited," Shultz says. "Now I write songs without any consideration for genre or style." He was initially afraid to sing on his own, but found that his FM-ready vocals easily won over fans at open-mic nights at local venues such as Chuggers.

Looking ahead

For the next album, Shultz wants to stop writing everything on guitar and branch out into new territory. The band has a two-week tour coming up centered on an appearance at a music festival in Indiana.

The band also makes occasional weekend jaunts along the East Coast, recently playing the well-known folkie venue Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn. Locally, Shultz says he enjoys playing at Gallery5 ("They're real nice people") and the Hyperlink CafAc.

One thing for sure, the guy has a likeable voice and a knack for melodies. If his lyrics and songwriting can keep pace, he might just catch a lucky break.

The CD release show for David Shultz and The Skyline is March 3 in the back room of the Hyperlink CafAc. The show starts at 7 p.m. and costs $3. Also on the bill are Anousheh Khalili, Prabir and Friends, and Mermaid Skeletons. 254-1942.

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