REVIEW: Legendary Shack Shakers @ The Cluny (17.11.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Here it comes again, the near-annual visit from the mighty Legendary Shack Shakers, promoting their remarkable new album The Southern Surreal. It’s a shame to see that avuncular stand-up bassist Mark Robertson isn’t with them, but while his replacement Fuller Condon lacks Robertson’s bearlike charm he’s a fine musician. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, which in the case of the Shack Shakers means a relentless blast of harmonica-driven hillbilly mayhem fronted by the astonishing Colonel JD Wilkes, who as I’ll never tire of pointing out is probably the finest frontman in the world now Lux Interior is no longer with us.

Comparative new boy guitarist Rod Hamdallah gets better all the time but never resorts to flashiness and drummer Brett Whittacre – now powered by a ‘robotic monkey heart’ after flatlining a couple of times not that long ago – is undiminished and frenzies. As is sadly typical of LSS gigs at the Cluny, the usual gaggle of ageing drunken psychobillies did their tiresome and fairly half-hearted slamdancing down the front, which saw other audience members getting pushed back while these relics acted out their sweaty, tops-off mating rituals. It’s obvious Wilkes is sick of them too, but his barbed exchanges with them – verbal and physical – were perhaps too nuanced for the buffoons to process and they just carried on thinking THEY were the show.

Wilkes was on grand form – chattier than  usual, full of ‘moonshine and chicanery’, prefacing a particularly blistering run through Blood On The Bluegrass with tales of teenage vampires and slashed van tyres and pulling the kind of onstage backflips that a man of his advancing years should really be avoiding. We got a lot of old favourites tonight – Pinetop Boogie and Ichabod, of course – but the new songs from The Southern Surreal work fantastically well live and it seems nothing – not MIA bassists or near-dead drummers – can stop the revivified LSS at the moment.

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