The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Records

Reviewed by Greg Beets, March 18, 2005, Music

Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers

Believe (Yep Roc)

Tempting as it may be in today's regressive socio-political climate, you can't write off the South without writing off 90% of America's musical heritage. Assuming the veneer of tent revivalists, Nashville's Legendary Shack*Shakers ram that point home with evangelical zeal, peddling a stirring gumbo of blues, country, gospel, rockabilly, and even polka from the Mississippi Delta clear up to Appalachia. The trio plays with an intensity that recalls the confrontation of punk rock, but their music has too much sophistication and breadth to let that notion define them. "Agony Wagon" opens with a rollicking polka nod from the hollers back to the old country. From there, the theatrical, hold-and-release sermonizing of "Where's the Devil ... When You Need Him?" and the closing time juke-joint stagger of "Piss and Vinegar" take hold. "County of Graves" best epitomizes the Shakers' Southern gothic inclinations by dramatizing the real-life story of a Kentucky mother who stabbed her 12-year-old son in a cemetery. The rockin' "Bible Cyst" is a fun little ditty slipping in sly references to Maccabees and "Mary Magdaloo," where you'd expect wop-bop-a-loo-bops. "The Pony to Bet On" sounds like a Depression-era country tear-jerker recorded off a honky-tonk jukebox, while "Fistwhistle Boogie" is an atomic-powered blues shuffle. At just 35 minutes, Believe may be the most succinct crash course in Southern musical idioms you'll ever drink to. (Thursday, March 17, 10pm @ Austin Music Hall)


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