The first time I saw Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers they were opening for some other band I’ve now forgotten. I remember standing near the stage at Mercury Lounge with my jaw alternately on the floor in awe and in a bemused smile, not really believing that I was seeing something so totally bizarre and completely fucking great. I left that show two years ago convinced that while blues-tinged rock from the White Stripes et al., was the hot new thing, the next incarnation of rock would be through a country rockabilly lens. If the Shack*Shakers were this good, there must be other bands out there like them, some of them probably even better, to knock down and drag rock music back through Nashville, Hank III style.
The Shack*Shakers returned to NYC’s Mercury Lounge last Friday to support their newest release and debut album for Yep Roc Records, Believe. While the foursome is now headlining at Mercury, clearly my vision for the future of rock has not taken over. The Shack*Shakers seem to be alone in their dirty arm of rockabilly punk country, which is probably in the best interest of the innocent youth of America. Under the guise of “Petna-caustic” revival music, these fellas embody everything that’s great about rock and country - the spirit of drinking, rocking and fucking. The fearlessly insane singer/mouth harp rocker Col. J.D. Wilkes alternately rages, jokes, preaches, spits, jumps, and throws himself and one of his two microphones around the stage. Singing and screaming, or as he would say, “yelpin’ the blues,” into an old-timey microphone drenched in distortion the Colonel is the spirit of the Shack*Shakers. The wiry, topless and sweaty Col. is flanked by two of the most imposing men in rock, the tattooed and pompadoured David Lee rips up a country guitar sound with punk riffs and the commanding Mark “The Duke” Robertson towers over his upright bass.
While reveling in their gimmicky vaudevillian road show of a concert, the Shack*Shakers overwhelming power is most tangible through the basic strength of their songs. The manic tone of their stage show escalates through the set, seemingly set to explode and run off the rains at any moment. You have to wonder how choreographed the mania is, because it always teeters on the delicious edge of insanity and rock & roll nirvana. The future of rock, probably not. But hey, a girl can dream.