The third of the Shackshakers’ southern gothic “Tentshow Trilogy” finds the Kentucky quartet knee deep in the rising loam at the bottom of a dark, boggy holler. It’s a haunting, godawful place, where toothbrushes are made of pig bristles, if they exist at all, and the happily hostile denizens are, as the song says, “Born Again, Again” after bouts of inebriation and incarceration.
David Lee plays psychobilly-blues-rock guitar as if his fingers are slicked with fresh chicken grease, and Mark Robertson’s upright bass and Brett Whitacre’s drums are thumped as if beaten in panic on a rotting log. Colonel J.D. Wilkes brashly presides over the discordant madness, braying like the evil henchman in some slaughterhouse horror thriller.
It’s a potent brew of tough, impassioned instrumentation and vivid, ominous imagery, strong stuff even when ladled with whimsy (“Jimblyleg Man”), and melodically catchy enough to stick to your innards. Each track has something of interest: a saloon house piano (“Angel Lust”), a rocking current of electric twang and harp (“Easter Flesh”), a cool hillbilly hiccup (“He Ain’t Right”). But it’s the raw, unflinching portraits of the population of the American underbelly — mud-caked, lazy, poverty-stricken and proud — that disturb the dreams.