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Monday, May 10, 2010

Shack Shakers baptized the Earl with spit, snot and majesty

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It was a rowdy and grotesque scene at The Earl on Saturday night as Nashville’s country punk tormentors Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers showed off songs from their latest masterpiece, Agri•Dustrial – an album based on the rhythmic, industrial plod of tractors, motors and the mechanical sounds of farm land industry, butted against the traditions of agrarian Americana rock and roll. Live, the album’s abstract moments were slurred into an explosive set of motorik drumming, and jitters. The group’s front man, Col. J.D. Wilkes’ stage presence meshes the awkward spectacle of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, the spastic energy of Jerry Lee Lewis and the skulk and assault of the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow, channeled into a scarecrow of a man. Wilkes would fit the mold of a Southern gentleman, if he didn’t baptize his audience in a spray of spit and snot from farmer snorts fired at will. But no one in the room seemed to mind getting slimed by him.

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It only caused the crowd to surge even more. He’s one of the few performers on the planet who understands the art of subtlety when playing a harmonica, even though he’s blowing his guts into it. To his right, former Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison swayed to the music with a cool demeanor, unleashing the squelching kerrang that makes his sound instantly recognizable, before turning toward a mutant and countrified jam. To Wilkes left, a burly bass player slapped the strings of a war-damaged stand-up bass, jerking his hand away between every song to wince in pain and snap his broken finger back into place before starting the next number. This kind of energy and totally captivating intensity is a rarity in of modern whatever stripe it may be, and is usually reserved for snake handlers, crazy preachers and the likes; the kind of characters that makes the South such a magically deranged place.

(Photos by Chad Radford)

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