Th' Legendary Shack Shakers haven't called their fifth studio album Swampblood for nothing -- there's plenty of the band's usual amped-up Dixie-core frenzy on this album, but as usual they continue to expand their musical palette with each album, and on this set the Tennessee hell-raisers have added a healthy portion of classic swamp rock to the menu. The title cut sounds like Tony Joe White if he'd been born under an especially bad sign, the dark harp-enhanced shuffle of "Old Spur Line" calls up the ghost of Slim Harpo, and "Hellwater" could be the best Creedence Clearwater Revival track John Fogerty and company never bothered to record. There's a lot more stylistic shape-shifting on Swampblood; "Eastern Flesh" and "Cheat the Hangman" show the band can still crank the tempos with the best of them, "The Deadenin'" and "When I Die" are a gloomy but energetic slices of Southern gothic, "Down and Out" is a weird ghostly march into the unknown, "He Ain't Right" is a whacked-out rockabilly stomp, and "Angel Lust"'s rollicking piano could pass for jazz in dim light. Whatever th' Shack Shakers do, they do full-out, and Swampblood offers ample evidence that these guys have instrumental skills to go along with their imagination and mania -- David Lee's guitar work is superb regardless of the context, Colonel J.D. Wilkes' vocals and harmonica are both feral but superbly controlled, and bassist Mark Robertson and Brett Whitacre are one powerfully tight rhythm section. While some have accused th' Legendary Shack Shakers of being more about schtick than music, a quick spin of their albums tells the real story -- they offer up something different each time they step into the recording studio, and Swampblood shows they aren't running out of steam anytime soon.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming