Photo by Daniel K (not at Bender's)
Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, The Limbs, “Seven Signs” Tuesday, July 1, 2008, Benders Better than: Sunday morning mass.
Down through the ages many have tried to preach the gospel from the stage. The key word being “preach.” For such a tactic to be effective, you have to also be a believer, and believing is the main conceits behind Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and its frontman J.D. Wilkes. Scorching the country with it’s hell-bent barbed wire gospel tunes, Wilkes and company have created a pulpit from which their message could flatten even the most bound-for-leather tough.
The word “believe” is also one of the key phrases used throughout the documentary Seven Signs, the brainchild of Wilkes, which played before the music on Tuesday night. An examination of his southern roots, and the music it breeds, Wilkes's documentary focused mostly on those musicians who have fallen through the cracks, or have been left behind by trends currently dry-humping the music industry. Within this is also a look at how the gospel, in its purest form, free from evangelical constraints, can sometimes influence some of the strangest, most inspiring, music.
Following the documentary, and the rousing ovation it received, was the Limbs, a local outfit led by John Mazzucco. Armed with a guitar and a drum set up out of some demonic marching band, Mazzucco began the set with a crunch that never stopped. While relying on so little, Mazzucco somehow managed to sound like (and I know this will be hard to swallow) a mixture of Daniel Johnston and ZZ Top. Of course this kind of thing can easily break down into novelty, but Mazzucco held it together with a charm and presence that made you forget that he'd lost the beat more than a couple times. Finishing off his set, with the crowd clamoring for more, Mazzucco played a number that was so fierce that for a second I believed that Sabbath was a one man band.
Th' Legendary Shack Shakers have stage show that blows most other acts out of the water. On tour with new guitarist Duane Denison (formerly of punk titans the Jesus Lizard), the group brought to mind what a drunken ride through Dixie hell might sound like. With the aforementioned Wilkes at the steering wheel, both on vocals and harp, the Shack Shakers ripped through a bunch of numbers, most of which were from their latest record Swampblood. Before the last song of the night, Wilkes looked out at the crowd, thoroughly pleased that he had converted more believers, and then shot himself right back into the depths.
-- Jeremy Brashaw
Critic’s Notebook Random Detail: Locals Jay Munley, and Slim Cessna, make an appearance in Seven Signs, doing a rousing duet that is worth the price of admission. By the Way: For more info on Wilkes's awesome documentary is available on his MySpace page.