The ex-Crash Test Dummies man’s latest has an immediate yet lived-in feel.
Leonie Cooper 2010
It’s hard to deny what a straight-up bundle of joy the most recent rebirth of the blues has been. Whether it’s Mumford & Sons mingling bluesy moonshine with UK folk and alt-Americana, Amy Winehouse’s gin-soaked 60s soul take on proceedings, Jack White’s guttural, fire-filled side-project The Dead Weather or Seasick Steve’s shotgun shack shimmy, the passion-infused genre is music at its most exhilarating, revealing and powerful. Son of Dave – the nom-de-blues of one Benjamin Darvill – knows this more than most.
Shake a Bone is Darvill’s fifth solo record – not counting the handful he made in the 1990s with his former band, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm hit-makers the Crash Test Dummies. A close sonic relative of the one-man whirlwind that is the aforementioned Sir Seasick – but with noticeably more beat-boxing – Canada-born Darvill’s own harmonica-heavy and grunt-laden style also contains hints of the dusty south London gypsy stylings practised by gospel-punk collective Alabama 3.
Relying heavily on basic 12-bar blues and huskily intoned lyrics about wayward teens (She Just Danced All Night) and busted sets of vintage wheels (Broke-down Lincoln) over stripped-down shuffling, it’s pretty obvious that Darvill isn’t particularly concerned with reinventing the musical wheel. That said, there is something terribly satisfying about the primitive nature of his yelps and purrs and the relentless pounding of the lo-fi drumbeat. Every song seems to have been infused with a steamy, clandestine hoe-down atmosphere, making the dozen tracks on the record sound as if they belong more to a blistering, intimate live show than they do a slickly produced album.
Recorded and mixed by hardcore legend Steve Albini, with Darvill on production duty, the immediate yet lived-in feel of the record is perhaps no surprise. Gentler numbers, like saucy slow-burners You All But Stay and Guilty, sit in comfortable contrast to the record’s rowdier moments, of which the funk-inflected Ain’t Nothing but the Blues and the beat-box-driven Undertaker are chugging, grinding dirt-pop highlights.