The Legendary Shack Shakers have long been known for their knack for grinding up the most unstable aspects of American roots music forms, including redneck country, punk, honky tonk, swamp blues, garage rock, and primal rockabilly and serving them up in a dark, steaming, 200-proof cocktail of chaos. But "Melungeon Melody" and "Killswitch," the track that closes the album, are extreme even by Shack Shaker standards. Why they'd choose to open a set with a discharge of unlistenable noise is anybody's guess, but the rest of the album finds the band in its familiar, over-the-top mode. There have been a few recent personnel changes, but new guitarist Duane Denison (Hank III, Jesus Lizard) plays with the enthusiastic power of his predecessors, while new drummer Brett Whitacre drives his kit like it's a semi full of dynamite rolling down a steep hill with no brakes. Singer Colonel J.D. Wilkes matches the mania of his bandmates, and with longtime bass man Mark Robertson in tow, they deliver a disc packed with sizzling slabs of rock mayhem. Wilkes' primal snarl and demented harp work drive the bluesy "Sin Eater," the punky truck driver song "Greasy Creek," and the odd, galloping gothic tale of serial murder and mystery, "The Hills of Hell." Fans would have been happy if every track bristled with their usual uncontained energy, but they change pace every now and then with surprisingly good results. "Hammer and Tongs" is a haunted love song using metal-working metaphors to celebrate nasty, passionate lovemaking. "Hobos Are My Heroes" is a swing tune with a clattering banjo and a restrained vocal from Wilkes, with a bit of casual yodeling tossed in for good effect. "The Lost Cause" is an anti-war song that features an army of skeletons marching home from the war they lost. Wilkes wails like a defeated soldier and blows some primal harp to bring the tune home. The Shack Shakers have long been tearing it up on stages around the nation since 2001, and while it's hard to imagine their next record topping the dark, uncontained energy of this one, critics have said much the same after every previous album. Whatever it is they've tapped into should be on the menu of every other American band. In an era when most bands plod along with albums full of midtempo snoozers, the Shack Shakers still play like their lives depend on wringing the maximum force out of every note.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet