Lonesome Shack have that rare power you need in a blues band—they start playing, and the whole room follows them. Yeah, people get up and dance. But there’s another kind of connection. This has been happening since I started following them in 2009, when they were a two-piece with Ben Todd playing guitar and singing and Kristian Garrard playing makeshift stripped down drum sets.
Their first three LPs, Bound to Die to Slidin Boa and City Man, their 2012 Knick Knack Records release recorded at their old home venue, Café Racer, have all attempted to capture the way they mesmerize a room—City Man is the closest to capturing it, including the credited bottle drop.
The new Lonesome Shack release, More Primitive, is an entirely different affair. Not just a step toward accessibility—but an enormous artistic step. Lonesome Shack were a great blues band, but now they are at the level of genre transforming. The reasons for this are threefold. First, the recording is textured and smooth—you get the live feel, but there aren’t hiccups. These are great takes. The mics are placed well. Reverb is used well. (This is a trademark of Alive Naturalsound Records, I’ve noticed, ever since I first started following them with their excellent T Model Ford releases The Ladies Man and Taledragger that completely resurrected T Model as a blues force—resurrected is an understatement, the recordings brought out qualities that had been completely overlooked in his more famous earlier recordings.)
Second, the musicians of Lonesome Shack have come into their own. Particularly, the rhythm section on More Primitive could give a Master’s class on the less-is-more technique. It used to be, Lonesome Shack would have a tiny kit on stage, but Kristian might do some fancy rolls for a song, etc, (not to belittle his playing, it was good—but there were typically moments where he drew attention to his prowess). Now, the instruments sound grown up, the musicians, like the butler in Remains of the Day, have disappeared. When you hear “Old Dream”, you’ll understand this complement. Perfection in drumming and bass-playing. A funky, understated blues number that establishes a new template for blues, I feel “Old Dream” is where this album launches into the back of the brain. From that moment, there aren’t two minutes where there isn’t another pleasant surprise.