If you’ve named your band the Legendary Shack Shakers, you’ve already convinced yourself you’re the hottest thing going, so the logical next step is to convince everyone else. If you’re “Colonel” J.D. Wilkes, the redoubtable frontman of the Shack Shakers, you’ve accumulated impressive raves from Jim Heath (a.k.a. the Rev. Horton Heat) and Jello Biafra. You’ve also spent the two years since your band’s national debut, Cockadoodledon’t, proselytizing worldwide.
Wilkes took all that traveling experience into the studio, consolidated it with his southern-fried faith, and created Believe, a writhing thing of fire and brimstone, stoked with whiskey and gasoline. The Shack Shakers don’t stick to formalized rockabilly: that’s a blueprint too many of their contemporaries have used to build a shrine to a dead religion. Instead, they mix up a serious mess of influences — Delta blues, Appalachian country, Nashville professionalism, Saturday-night sin and Sunday-morning redemption — into a pot roiled by the rage of punk rock.
The result jumps from the manic polka of “Agony Wagon” to the delirious two-step of “Creek Cats” to the lowdown ZZ Top-style crank of “All My Life To Kill”. Wilkes stretches rubbery voice through half a dozen different effects but always comes out sounding like his own bad self.
He holds tightly the reins of the music until it’s time to let his cohorts — including double-bassist Mark Robertson, drummer Paulie Simmonz and guitarist David Lee — to break free like wild horses, allowing Believe nearly to match the frenetic energy of the Shack Shackers’ live shows.