Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers are proof positive that even bands on the fringes of punk and psychobilly are more country than mainstream country these days. Frontman Col. JD Wilkes has the heart of Hasil Adkins, the body of Lux Interior, and more knowledge and wisdom of the ways of country music than all of the songwriters in ASCAP’s cubicle farm on Music Row.
The band’s new album Agridustrial picks up right where their impressive, energy packed discography left off, though I’ll tell you, the verbage leaking out ahead of this release had me a little worried at first, stuff like:
“Picture it: the rustic grind of rural America. The cacophonous crunch and wheeze of motor-driven rock songs accompany the sound of corroded farm implements awakened to service once again. The soundtrack of a time when strip malls will choke with ivy and the vestiges of overdevelopment will be razed and plowed up for acreage.”
Yeah, I like the mood and the message, but I like my Shack Shakers the way they’ve been for years thank you very much. This talk got visions dancing in my head of Stomp. Remember the Stomp craze? Where every knucklehead thought they could beat on barrels in the name of “art” until you wanted to blow a brain vessel? Fortunately that element was present, but not pervasive. With so many “concept” albums around these days, it’s good to see a theme used to bookend project but not bury the music with artsy fartsy manusha.
I want to know what the hell the Shack Shakers think they’re doing. They’ve been around for what, 15 years now? Isn’t it time for them to start slowing down, getting soft? Or the other common scenario for some psychobilly bands, which is try to replace true energy and enthusiasm with eardrum blistering distortion and speed for speed’s sake? They’re having too much fun and still putting our relevant music. What’s a critic like me supposed to bitch about?
I know some will use the acquisition of Duane Dennison at guitar (previously of The Jesus Lizard & Hank III) as an excuse that the band has “lost it’s edge.” He may not have tattoo sleeves and drool down the front of his shirt, but I’m not hearing any letup in the music at all. In fact tracks like “Sin Eater” and “Dixie Iron Fist” are as high energy and hard as anything the Shack Shakers have ever put out. “Dixie Iron Fist” is downright rapturous. It makes you want to bang your head like it is 1983 and punch walls.
But the Shack Shakers never stray too far from their roots. With the Doc Boggs traditional “Sugar Baby,” and a standout in “Dump Road Yodel,” Wilkes reminds us that dirt roads and front porches is where all this music springs from, no matter what spin it takes afterwards.
I have really enjoyed watching the subtle, puseudo Southern intellectual manifesting in JD in the last few years. In this album Wilkes proves that he’s not just all shirt-off, nipple-tweaking stage antics. He has a message. He’s not going to shove it down your throat; he wants you to enjoy the music first and foremost. But the country is disappearing, the Apocalypse is here for the rural lifestyle, and he wants you to know about it. He may be trying to stop it, or like a poet watching it all from atop the levee, romanticizing it’s demise. As energetic and accessible as this album is, there is a deep theme here to take from it.
I give it two iron fists in the air!
Preview the whole Agridustrial album by CLICKING HERE. ***UPDATE**** Stream has been taken down. You can still preview the tracks on Amazon through the link below.
Buy the album from Amazon by CLICKING HERE.
The Shack Shakers have previously been signed to Bloodshot Records and Yep Rock, but this album is release under JD Wilke’s new label “Colonel Knowledge Records.”