Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers play bluesy rockabilly with a punk-Pentecostal attitude. Like so many children with a strict religious upbringing, J.D. Wilkes (“Colonel” J.D., to be exact) rebelled spectacularly, and the result is the bullet-miked, harmonica-slinging insanity of his band. It truly is his band, too, though he’s added new musicians to the lineup since their last record.
I feel obliged to say that while the record may be and is very good, their live show is amazing. J.D. combines the psychobilly strip-show antics of the Cramps’ Lux Interior with the skinny, gobbing punk fervor of Johnny Rotten. He loses layer after layer of clothing, spits and snarls, climbs the walls, and whips the audience into a frenzy, and after wrapping up their opening sets, leaves them asking “Who were those guys?”
Unlike many rockabilly bands, Th’ Shack*Shakers’ music has true Delta soul, but retains a sense of humor and showmanship that keeps them from the haunting creepiness of bands like 16 Horsepower or Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, also reviewed in this issue. With storytelling layered over down-and-dirty blues, carny-flavored country, and vaudeville-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, “Believe” is worthy of the band’s musical skill–even with the accordion and mouth-harp–and adds more impetus to go see them live. If they have you dancing after one spin of the album, imagine how you’ll feel after an hour-plus set.