09/14/2015 NARC, Album review , 'ALBUM REVIEW: TH’LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS – THE SOUTHERN SURREAL'
Anyone who’s seen Th’Legendary Shack Shakers live – and they play the North East often enough that you don’t really have an excuse – will appreciate that capturing that manic, maniac energy and stagecraft in the studio is like catching lightning in a bottle. Their last album Agridustrial came close, but was a little short on killer songs. Five years on, and after a short hiatus, they’re back – on Alternative Tentacles, of all labels – with an album that to some extent doesn’t try to replicate their storied live performances and instead concentrates on the songs.
The band’s bewildering array of influences all get an airing – from rockabilly to country, barrelhouse barroom singalong to punked-up polka (seriously) – without the album ever sounding incoherent or scattershot. Any album that can include a straight up countrypolitan tune (The One That Got Away, a sweet duet with Lucy Cochran) and a haunting spoken word account of dispatching a dying canine, courtesy of Shack Shakers fan Billy Bob Thornton, and yet still sound like the work of one band has to be worth a listen, and this is as good an album as the band have released in their twenty years. There’s still plenty of harmonica-driven shitkickers like Christ Alrighty and Mud, but the cleaner production and greater variety of songs mean that the band get to stretch out a little and the Colonel’s songwriting is easier to appreciate. Duane Denison is on hand doing what Duane Denison does and they even close out the album with a deep and bluesy take on Born Under A Bad Sign. The Southern Surreal is a blast.