Swampblood is the fifth album from genre bending, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers. Similar to The Reverend Horton Heat, they combine psychobilly, rock, blues, and country in an intense mélange liable to set your hair on fire. That is, if you like that sort of thing.
An appropriate title, all the tracks on Swampblood have a humid, Southern Gothic feel. The title track is a lot like John Fogerty’s “Born on the Bayou,” if Creedence Clearwater Revival had a harmonica player capable of melting your face off. All the members of the band are talented musicians, but Colonel J.D. Wilkes’ harmonica is good enough to stand alone.
The Shack Shakers even approach their campy songs with seriousness. “Jimblyleg Man” is built on the quick twang of a Jews Harp (or Juice Harp) and conjures the image of a crude wooden puppet dancing on the singer’s chest. “Born Again Again” sounds like an old time revival. Wilkes testifies to living in sin, only to come back to Jesus, while the congregation sings, “guess I’m a little, non-committal, born again, again.” These songs may be tongue-in-cheek, but the focused, loving way the band re-creates these genres is impressive.
While there is humor to be found on Swampblood, most of the songs have a darker edge. “Angel Lust,” is a New Orleans-style blues song that focuses heavily on death and being buried. Most of the songs on the album deal with death and God. “Easter Flesh” has a grisly take on eating the “blood” and “body” of Christ to be “Reborn in the blood/ The burgundy flood / The hemoglobin ebb and flow.”
Packed with energy, mouth harps, banjos, organs, and black lyrics, Swampblood is not for everyone. It is fair to say that if you have enjoyed the Shack Shakers’ previous albums, this one is not likely to disappoint. It has the fiery taste of homemade corn whiskey guzzled from an earthen jug.