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Th’ Legendary Shackshakers


Cow-punk/rockabilly crazies the Legendary Shackshakers play the Hi-Dive in October, so we chatted with main man JD Wilkes…C

Yellow Scene: Are you happy with the way new album The Southern Surreal turned out?

JD Wilkes: I am actually. It’s a nice variety pack there for people. It’s a surrealist overview of different southern music styles, concepts and takes on the whole southern Gothic thing. I like it. I was playing a solo banjo set last night at a bar, and they were playing it over a big system. It sounded glorious in there. So yeah, I’m happy.

YS: The band is 20 years old this year – how do you think it’s grown?

JDW: We started off as a jump blues band and then, when we moved to Nashville, we started getting more country and more rockabilly. We developed this 1950s thing, but it was never really a purist anything. It was never a pure thing, but in the spirit of original rockabilly, which was kinda of experimental. From Jerry Lee Lewis to Roy Orbison to Charlie Feathers – none of them sounded exactly alike anyway. Rockabilly has been streamlined into a certain formula, and we’ve always enjoyed playing with the formula. Over 20 years, it’s gotten a little more punk, it’s gotten some psychobilly elements in it, but it’s always had that hillbilly blues. That’s what blocking a lot of rockabilly – it’s that hillbilly part. It’s all rock and no hillbilly. We’ve tinkered around with that and enjoyed pushing the boundaries in a way that I think the original guys would appreciate in a sense that they weren’t going by a formula.

YS: Do you like playing Colorado?

JDW: We love it, going out west and seeing the mountains. We try to get there a couple of times a year. It takes so long to get out there and back, but it’s always kind of a cool vacation, an adventure. Denver has a sound that’s really influenced me too. Slim Cessna, 16 Horsepower – things like that have rubbed off.

YS: when this tour’s done, what’s next?

JDW: We’re going to Europe in November. We’re coming right back and playing a string of shows in the Chicago area, then shutting her down for Christmas and starting back up in January/February to play the deep south. People are complaining, “Hey what about us? You wrote this Southern Surreal record and you’re not even coming down south.” Well, it’s a big country. It takes a while to get to everybody. We gotta go coast to coast before we go north to south.

The Legendary Shackshakers plays with Joe Fletcher and RL Cole at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 4 at the Hi-Dive; 7 S. Broadway, Denver; 303-733-0230; $12.


Brett Calwood
Brett Callwood is an English journalist, copy writer, editor and author, currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the music editor with the LA Weekly. He was previously a reporter at the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, the music editor at the Detroit Metro Times and editor-in-chief at Yellow Scene magazine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Callwood

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