Music » CD Reviews

The Legendary Shack-Shakers

Believe (Yep Roc)

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While the Legendary Shack-Shakers' cranky crockabilly no doubt stems from a family tree decorated with chipped banjos and toothless great-uncles playing washboards, the packaging here is largely a put-on. It's kind of like a Jerry Lewis conjured from southern gothic lore, or a European's idea of a hillbilly.

But bands like this one and their kin in Southern Culture on the Skids, Rev. Horton Heat, etc. are proud to be all about the put-on, and their fanatical fan base wants more than just solid stand-up bass-slapping with their mountain-music updates. They want a show, and the Shack-Shakers are the best at translating their crazy carnival antics to tape.

The Shack-Shakers' second CD is a hopped-up hayride down the byroads of postwar country music. It's mainly rockabilly bop with a fuzzed-out twang, splotched with some thumping boogie ("All My Life to Kill"), blues stomp ("Piss and Vinegar"), and screeching freakouts ("Help Me," "Where's the Devil . . ."). It all buttresses stories of preachers, demons, and "towns where the gravel ends." This cartoonish version of rural testifying has, in light of recent evangelical inroads, taken on an odd relevancy. Better the redneck who plays with a pretend heritage than one who pushes it on others.

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