Robert Plant called them "fucking great," inviting the manic quartet to open for him on his forthcoming European tour. And no wonder: The Shack Shakers are among the best live acts on the rock circuit. Irrepressible frontman J.D. Wilkes' bug-eyed stage presence combines the fervor of a Pentecostal preacher with the ribald rock spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis.
The Shack Shakers' sound mines a wide stretch of Americana, from rockabilly and gut-bucket blues to gospel, cabaret rag, and even klezmer, all pumped up by punky rhythms. The band's latest, Pandelirium, adopts an even broader palette and delivers more mid-tempo, New Orleans-style carnival numbers, sounding like a cockeyed blend of Tom Waits and Gogol Bordello. It's a smart play that demonstrates their versatility and might help them avoid the pigeonholing that has ghettoized kindred spirit Reverend Horton Heat. And Wilkes is arguably the greater artist, melding a southern gothic sensibility with roots rock and punk in an even more intriguing way than the Cramps.