Lonesome Shack Lives the Blues With ‘More Primitive’

Lonesome Shack, More Primitive (out now, Alive Naturalsound Records, lonesomeshack.com)

Bar bands around the world are pounding out bouncy riffs peppered with Southern drawl every day, and most will go unnoticed. Often the genre becomes a self-parody: overzealous guitarists playing the dirtiest and grimiest blues they’re capable of (cue Jon Spencer and Dan Auerbach). But a great blues record embraces the genre’s subtleties. The blues are fickle. They are not triumphant. They do not provide a “feel-good” sound. That’s what makes Lonesome Shack’s fourth full-length, More Primitive, so compelling. Vocalist/guitarist Ben Todd’s playing style is dexterous and his vocals hushed—especially on tracks like “Medicine,” where he sneers, “I went to hell against my will.” The hazy, humid atmosphere created throughout by drummer Kristian Garrard and bassist Luke Bergman contributes to the album’s overall exasperated, desperate tone, and embraces the sluggish, back-road quality that permeates the catalog of legend Robert Johnson. By the time we hear album closer “Evil,” the band sounds as if they’ve lost the will to keep going—as if they’re being forced to play somewhere in Louisiana in mid-July in the blazing noonday sun. Bergman’s bass plods along slowly and Todd’s guitar drifts in and out. Such a tone is not only appropriate but essential to their success: it’s that pain and wallowing that makes them truly live the blues. (Fri., May 23, Columbia City Theater)

 
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