If a relaxed evening of toe-tapping Americana, sprinkled with charming stories of life in the South is what you’re looking for, then keep looking; you’re not ready for the Legendary Shack Shakers. Though they do hail from the South, and their songs are filled with stories of life in the country, take the notion of quiet, magnolia nights on the porch, and replace it with murder, vultures, ditches and hellfire. Then wrap it all up in one of the most ass-kicking, outrageous, rock-your-face-off stage show that you’ve ever seen.
With the heavy thump of the upright bass, the devil-is-on-my-tail drum pace, the frenzied and scorching guitar work, raucous vocals and ghostly harmonica sound, the Legendary Shack Shakers’ music is wedged securely between punk blues, psychobilly, alt-country and swamp rock. Their frontman, J.D. Wilkes was called, “the last great rock and roll frontman” by Jello Biafra. Hank Williams III, the reigning prince of hillbilly debauchery, said that touring with them was “like having Slayer open up for you every night.”
In its formative years, the Shakers’ sound was more straight-ahead rockabilly, but as the band has evolved and spread its musical wings, both the rocka and the billy have been injected with heaping doses of rebel rowdiness. The members have taken on a no-holds-barred approach to music making and performing, and they push their dark and haunting Southern Gothic tales to over-the-top dimensions and decibels. One of the bandmates describes it as playing “field hollers, funeral marches and murder ballads… amped up to 11.”
The current incarnation of the band has Mark Robertson on bass, Brett Whitacre on drums, former Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison on guitar and “Colonel” J.D. Wilkes on vocals and harmonica. Wilkes, who formed the Legendary Shack Shakers in the mid-90s, and is the only remaining original member, is also an accomplished visual artist and illustrator and the creator of the documentary film Seven Signs, a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the music and mythology of the American South.
The Legendary Shack Shakers play the Blank Club on Friday, October 15 at 9pm with Bob Wayne & The Outlaw Canaries and the Shitkickers.