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J. Shogren

Bird Bones and Muscle

(JAHA!; US: 27 Apr 2010; UK: Import)

Old-timey hubbub

When a record lists washboard, resonator, yodels and “hubbub” among its instrumentation, it’s fair to say that the artist involved is striving for a certain tone. J. Shogren’s 15-song Bird Bones and Muscle aims for a certain sort of loose, old-timey devil-may-care nonchalance, and at times he hits the bulls-eye. “Burnt Fields” is a strong start, with a catchy guitar lick and some bluesy banjo. “Salvation” and “Younger” maintain the high energy and playful lyrics. Other tunes, like the haunting “Judge & the Hangman,” derive power from Shogren’s vocal delivery. The instrumentation remains solidly traditional throughout, with guitars, bass and drums providing the framework for most songs, which are then heavily adorned with banjo and mandolin. Accordion shows up for a couple of cajun-flavored numbers. Shogren’s voice is as down-home and twangy as you might expect, given the album’s other elements, and he croons through slower tunes such as “Paper Barn” and “Wandering Foot” with an unexpected wistfulness. Elsewhere tracks benefit from nice backing vocals, both male and female. There’s nothing quite as left-field to this record as the instrumentation mentioned earlier might suggest, but it’s still a solid set of idiosyncratic acoustic tunes.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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