Friday, September 22, 2017

Legendary Shack Shakers: “After You’ve Gone” (2017) CD Review

Legendary Shack Shakers are led by vocalist and harmonica-player J.D. Wilkes, who has lent his tremendous talent on harmonica to several other artists’ recordings over the years, including Lew Jetton & 61 South’s recent release, Palestine Blues. The band has been playing for a couple of decades, though with several changes in the lineup during that time. The band is currently J.D. Wilkes on vocals, harmonica, and piano; Rod Hamdallah on guitar and backing vocals; Fuller Condon on bass and backing vocals; and Preston Corn on drums and percussion. Their new album, After You’ve Gone, features all original material, and includes a few guest musicians – Liz Brasher on backing vocals, Shane Pringle on saxophone, and Chloe Feoranzo on saxophone and clarinet.

“After You’ve Gone” opens with “Curse Of The Cajun Queen,” a heavy and wild blues song, with a raw, steady, stomping groove, and of course some delicious work on harmonica. The vocals seem to be rising out of a portal to hell, forcing their way into our realm to claim our souls, the music getting us dancing. Oh yes, we should all be so lucky to dance our way to eternal damnation. That’s followed by the album’s title track, though the back of the CD case says “War Whoop” is next. “After You’ve Gone” has more of a classic rock and roll sound, with saxophone. There is something both innocent and exciting about the sound. “And this place just ain’t the same/And I’m calling out your name/Just an empty echo/After you’ve gone.”

“Single Boy” has a bit of Bo Diddley thing happening, which I love. This song is a whole lot of fun, the guitar coming at you with fury. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Now, when I was a single, I had women by the score/But now that I am married, well, they don’t come ‘round no more.” After “Single Boy,” we get “War Whoop (Chief Paduke’s Revenge),” a wild western tale that doesn’t fail to follow through on the promise of its title. (Hmm, Discogs seems to have the song order listed incorrectly too.)

One of my personal favorites is “(Sing A) Worried Song,” an absolutely delicious song with a something of an old-time vibe, and another that urges us to dance toward oblivion. “Well, sing a worried song/For it won’t be long/That we’ll be dead and gone/And be passing on/To the by-and-by.” I am so glad people are making music like this. “Well, see how the trees they grow/Pushing up the dead beneath your feet/You may chew your kudzu down/But it’s you more likely it will eat.” Halloween is coming up, and this song will be a perfect addition to your party play list. It’s followed by “Long Legs,” which begins with a cool bass line, then bursts in with a wild, demented energy, like from a rockabilly voodoo doctor who is part Carl Perkins, part Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Yeah, it’s fun, and I dig the interaction between the J.D. Wilkes and the backing vocalists.

Obviously, “Frankenstein’s Monster” would be another excellent choice for your Halloween party. It opens with the lines, “Well, I created a monster/And then I lost him.” This song itself becomes a fiery beast, with some wonderful work on harmonica, leading back to the line “Well, I created a monster,” which this time suddenly ends the song. By the way, another song you might consider playing at your Halloween party is “Garden Of Delights,” which features these lines: “You know your sins have salted the earth/And the worms will have their claim/And nothing wants to grow/And the garden looks like graves.” Yes, the song is about the end of a relationship, but the imagery certainly works for the holiday. And besides, it’s just a great tune.

“Get Outta My Brain (South Electric Eyes, Slight Reprise)” begins as an instrumental, and is another twisted delight. “Well, step into my eyes/And follow me down the drain/You’re welcome to my heart/But stay out of my brain.” “South Electric Eyes” is a song from Legendary Shack Shakers’ Pandelirium album. After You’ve Gone concludes with “Invisible Hand,” a song that features just J.D. Wilkes on vocals and piano. “But the stars on the chart are a lie/Made of paper instead of the sky/So I’ll lay down my head here and die/Because it’s all over now/I lost you somehow/I let go the invisible hand.”

CD Track List
  1. Curse Of The Cajun Queen
  2. After You’ve Gone
  3. Single Boy
  4. War Whoop (Chief Paduke’s Revenge)
  5. (Sing A) Worried Song
  6. Long Legs
  7. Garden Of Delights
  8. Frankenstein’s Monster
  9. Branding Iron
  10. Get Outta My Brain (South Electric Eyes, Slight Reprise)
  11. Silent Key
  12. White Devil (The Curse That Worked)
  13. Invisible Hand
After You’ve Gone was released on August 25, 2017 on Last Chance Records.

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