Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Shinyribs: “I Got Your Medicine” (2017) CD Review

Bummed out? Frustrated? Eager to go on a homicidal rampage in Washington, D.C.? I totally understand. Some relief may be contained within digital grooves of the new Shinyribs disc, I Got Your Medicine. If you can relate to lines like “They think I’m crazy/It might be true” (and these days, who can’t?), this album is for you. If you want to drape Mardi Gras beads on alligators and drink whatever might be in that punch bowl the straight-looking folks have been deftly avoiding, this music is for you. If you’re not too self-conscious to dance to the songs playing on the jukebox at truck stops, this band is for you. Yes, this music is for my kind of people. It’s rock, it’s soul, it’s funky, it’s fun, and it’s so fucking good. Turn off the news, pour yourself a drink, and put this album on. Shinyribs is led by Kevin Russell on vocals, guitar and ukulele, and features Keith Langford on drums, Winfield Cheek on piano and organ, Jeff Brown on bass, Tiger Anaya on trumpet, Mark Wilson saxophone and flute, Alice Spencer on backing vocals, and Sally Allen on backing vocals. Joining them is Jimbo Mathus on guitar and mandolin. Jimbo Mathus also co-produced the album. I Got Your Medicine features mostly original material, written by Kevin Russell.

The album gets off to a great start with its title track, “I Got Your Medicine.” And that’s no empty bragging there. This music certainly functions as medicine for those of us sick of the new fascist America, those of us in need an antidote to the intense anger we feel every bloody day that racist twit occupies the White House. There is a good groove, some fun backing vocals and also nice touches on horns, and a bit of a rock and roll vibe. On certain lines in the first half of the song, there is a bit of a “Ticket To Ride” feel to the vocal delivery. That’s followed by a kind of funky tune, “Don’t Leave It A Lie,” which I totally dig. I love the exuberant blending of voices on this track. “Well, there ain’t a lie that ain’t been told/Unrealized dreams, pots of gold/Sitting alone under a window sill/Of a bride-to-be against her will.” Will Van Horn plays pedal steel on this track. This song is one of my favorites, but really, this whole album is excellent.

The first cover of the album is “I Gave Up All I Had,” written and originally recorded by Ted Hawkins. This rendition maintains the original’s Sam Cooke vibe, while adding a bit of power. “I gave up all I had/All the good things that made me glad/I gave up all I had/For you.” Man, these guys can really create a delightful early rhythm and blues sound, making it authentic and true. Shinyribs also cover “A Certain Girl,” a delicious old-time playful rock and roll number written by Allen Toussaint and previously covered by such artists as The Yardbirds (it was the flip side to their first single), The Paramounts, The First Gear, The Levon Helm Band and Warren Zevon. Come on, somebody, tell us the girl’s name! This rendition by Shinyribs features some good stuff on keys and horns, and by Lumar Leblanc on percussion. It’s followed by the final cover of the album, “Nothing Takes The Place Of You.” Yes, from Allen Toussaint to Toussaint McCall.

Trouble becomes personified in “Trouble, Trouble,” a lively country rock number, in the lines “Trouble comes at you a hundred miles an hour/Trouble just wants to pass/Trouble don’t slow down in the curve/But trouble runs out of gas.” That’s followed by a ridiculously fun song, “Tub Gut Stomp & Red-Eyed Soul.” Certainly part of this tune’s charm is the work of the backing vocalists, who give it a playful innocence. Plus, there is wonderful stuff on keys by Winfield Cheek. I can’t help but fall in love with a song that has lines like “He once was a verb, but now he’s just a noun.” Shinyribs then slow  things down with “I Knew It All Along,” a soulful gem with a classic feel and an excellent, passionate vocal performance by Kevin Russell. “I let you go where you want to be/Even if that’s not here with me/And it hurts me to sit here and watch you leave.”

My favorite track on this album is “I Don’t Give A Shit.” Seriously, this one totally made my day. It’s about the perfect couple, and is delivered as a duet, with Alice Spencer taking the female lead vocal part. This song makes me laugh every time. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I remember our first date/You told me I was just the bait/For your old girlfriend/She came walking in/I don’t think we ever even ate/Nobody ever said we was compatible/Nobody ever said we’s meant to be/No one ever suggested/We should in any way be connected.” (Okay, maybe I’m insane, but the chorus reminds me a bit of “Achy Breaky Heart,” but please don’t let that keep you from listening to it. And actually, I didn’t hear “Achy Breaky Heart” until after I got the soundtrack to A Dirty Shame. A friend had to tell me that “Itchy Twitchy Spot” was a parody of it. I had no idea. Fuck, am I still in parentheses?) “I don’t give a shit/You don’t give a shit/We’re a match made in heaven, it’s plain to see/I don’t give a shit about you/You don’t give a shit about me.”

The fun continues with “Ambulance,” which has a classic rock and roll ending and asks that eternal question, “How did I get here?” And then for those in need of a bit of roadhouse gospel, the album concludes with “The Cross Is Boss.” “I was baptized in a swimming pool/The holy hand of the man, you know, it pushed me down/Our communion wine was Concord grape/All that chlorine and the preacher in a gown.

CD Track List
  1. I Got Your Medicine
  2. Don’t Leave It A Lie
  3. I Gave Up All I Had
  4. Trouble, Trouble
  5. Tub Gut Stomp & Red-Eyed Soul
  6. I Knew It All Along
  7. A Certain Girl
  8. Nothing Takes The Place Of You
  9. Hands On Your Hips
  10. I Don’t Give A Shit
  11. Ambulance
  12. The Cross Is Boss
I Got Your Medicine was released on February 24, 2017.

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