The Boneshakers, you might say, are a danceable roots rock version of Steely Dan -- two songwriters/instrumentalists/vocalists (Randy Jacobs and Sweet Pea Atkinson) compose tart, biting songs and perform them with ensembles of guest musicians, some bearing impressive credentials (in this case, critical fave Jon Butcher among them). Jacobs and Atkinson had previously worked together with Was (Not Was); individually, they've collaborated with everyone from Elton John and Coolio to Iggy Pop and Ofra Haza.
But even down to its title, their debut album, Book of Spells, seems to promise just slightly more voodoo than it actually delivers. It opens with the James Brown warhorse "Cold Sweat," later revisits Was (Not Was)' twisted, oddly graceful "I Blew up the United States," and concludes with the fluffy and tasty funk vamp "Fudge Brownie." But the journey between isn't exactly crammed full of memorable moments. The roadhouse blues "Part Time Man," the ballad "Let's Straighten It Out," and other tracks such as "The One You Run To" might be pleasant enough, authentic grooves, but there are no great songs on this album.