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Rhythm & Views

Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers

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Many are singed by the fire of righteous rock 'n' roll, but few bathe so fully in those dancing flames as does "Colonel" J.D. Wilkes, the singer and harmonica player of Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers.

Testifying, signifying and proselytizing--usually through an ancient ham-radio microphone--Wilkes has been dubbed "the last great rock 'n' roll front man" by none other than Jello Biafra.

His Nashville-based combo fuses blues, rockabilly, punk, swing, Appalachian folk, primitive R&B and even polka is nothing less than explosive on the new CD, Believe.

Case in point: "Where's The Devil When You Need Him?" The uncut roar of guitar on this track falls somewhere between the metallic apocalypse of Slayer and the raspy roots-punk fervor of X. But those big band horns give the affair a decidedly warm glow.

"Cussin' in Tongues" invokes visions of hayseed rap a la C.W. McCall's "Convoy," while "Help Me" recalls Booker T. and the MGs' "Green Onions," but with mouth harp instead of organ. And how about that Eastern European bounce in the doubled melody of fiddle-and-clarinet on the mutant gypsy opening track, "Agony Wagon"?

Although Wilkes preaches with undeniable Pentecostal fervor, listeners are excused if they can't exactly discern whether his allegiance is to that plane above or the pit below.

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