PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Th' Legendary Shack Shakers: Cockadoodledon't

Stephen Haag

Th' Legendary Shack Shakers


Label: Bloodshot
US Release Date: 2003-04-22
UK Release Date: Available as import

Until Th' Legendary Shack Shakers came along and rocked my world, my two biggest run-ins with rockabilly came courtesy of A) my uncle, who once got a haircut from Brian Setzer's stylist; and B) Rob Zombie, whose Hellbilly Deluxe doesn't really count. But the Shakers' label, Bloodshot Records, is as fine and true a record label as America has, and seeing their red logo-cum-stamp of approval on the liner notes to Cockadoodledon't tells me everything is going to be alright.

A word about Bloodshot. Even as the press release accompanying the album notes, Cockadoodledon't ain't your typical alt-country. As a frame of reference they suggest imagining Iggy Pop fronting Southern Culture on the Skids. A tall order, but one the Shakers -- lead singer Colonel J.D. Wilkes, guitarist JoeBuck (one word; presumably to avoid confusion with the similarly-named Fox Sports broadcaster), bassist Mark "the Duke" Robertson and drummer Pauly Simmonz -- damn near live up to.

Album opener "Pinetree Boogie" finds the band blazing out of the gates, with Wilkes' primal howl racing Robertson's bass as well as Wilkes himself on both harmonica and melodeon. These guys are entertainers, not "serious" artists, as they are wont to tell you themselves, and somehow they're able to capture that aura and theatricality on CD. To wit, "Help Me From My Brain", where Wilkes truly sounds like a man possessed and the background sound of "20,000 kettles hissing in [his] head" only drives home the urgency.

The Shack Shakers, to their credit, aren't just speed freak boogie rockabilly goons. If anything, it's Cockadoodledon't's detours that define them. "CB Song" is a silly diversion ("Little honey bunny / What's yer 20?" that sounds like what might happen if the Flat Duo Jets' Dexter Romweber overdosed on pomade. "Shake Rag Holler" dusts off a Jews Harp, sounds like newgrass, then explodes into heavy metal in the track's closing seconds -- all while Wilkes proves he could moonlight as an auctioneer. And sure enough, there's "Devil's Night Auction" where he make like the rednecked cousin to Tom Waits' demented carnival barker from The Black Rider. The band even tosses in the melodeon again, just for the hell of it. The Shakers know how to have capital-F Fun.

And they appreciate those who have trod their chosen musical path before them. The fiddle-happy "Clodhopper" wipes off the band's grease (though it's quickly replaced by dirt) as Wilkes and co. play it straight with a chorus of "yo-de-lay-hoo!" One half-expects a cakewalk to break out. And the stunning "Blood on the Bluegrass" may sound like a parody along the lines of the Folksmen's "Blood on the Coal" from the A Mighty Wind soundtrack, but it's Cockadoodledon't's truest track. Wilkes has been quoted as saying, "We don't do murder ballads, we do murder boogies", and that may be true more of than not, but they come close to ballad here. In telling the story of 16-year-old self-professed vampire Roderick Farrell (also documented in Aphrodite Jones' The Embrace: A True Vampire Story, as I just learned at amazon.com), who murdered the parents of one of his 15-year-old followers, Wilkes captures the sound and haunting lyricism ("With his clawhammer high / He drew their spirits night / And danced amidst the crimson spray") of musicians 60 years hence. I had to double check to see if "Clodhopper" and "Blood on the Bluegrass" weren't covers or public domain songs; they're not.

Their mastery over the "old-timey" sound give them free rein to incorporate punk, blues, Southern rock and rockabilly into whatever psychotic stew they please. Of course, then, it's a cover (Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips") and a traditional tune ("Bullfrog Blues") that get the album's biggest (in a good way) thrashings. "Shake Your Hips" borrows the bassline from ZZ Top's "La Grange" and starts off quiet (for a change) before everyone joins in behind Wilkes and all hell breaks loose. And "Bullfrog Blues" is long enough to accommodate both a greasy guitar solo from JoeBuck and a Wilkes harmonica solo.

The only thing missing from Cockadoodledon't is the ability experience the band's high octane live shows. But if they can knock your socks off merely pumping through your stereo, that's a good start. All-at-once reverent, revisionist, greasy, and fun as hell, with summer upon us Cockadoodledon't should be the soundtrack to a thousand barbecues.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.