The Legendary Shack Shakers
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Sunday, February 17, 2008 - 00:00

Th' Legendary Shack Shakers were an unknown name to yours truly but I was hooked as soon as I heard their latest album "Swampblood". They play an incredible mix of all kinds of Southern music styles and come out with killer tunes. I really didn't need another reason to send over some questions to vocalist Colonel J.D. Wilkes... here's what I got back from him. PRT: Who are you and what would you like to tell our readers about yourself? JD: Jeesh, dude. You emailed me. I'm Colonel J.D. Wilkes, the frontman for th' Legendary Shack*Shakers. I thought you knew that. PRT: Who else is in the band and why would my mother like them? JD: Really, you shouldn't email complete strangers and expect them to just answer your random questions. What if we were "online predators"? Your mother wouldn't take too kindly to that, now would she? PRT: Can you give me a quick history of the band written in less than one minute? JD: I feel like I'm on trial here. Or am I being audited? This is not a fun "interview." Well, okay. We're a hillbilly blues band from Nashville Tennessee. We cut our teeth in the Lower Broadway honky tonks years ago. We travel the world spreading the gospel and disease.PRT: What exactly makes a shack shaker legendary?JD: Sarcasm does not suit you well. You would think that someone so sarcastic would actually recognize sarcasm when he heard it. PRT: If the Legendary Shack Shakers was the lovechild of two other bands, which bands would've had sex and which position were you conceived in? JD: Oh I get it. "This ain't your daddy's interview-style." You're challenging everybody'snotion of what an interview is. Ooooh, I'm left quivering in your bad-ass, unconventional, punk rock wake...rethinking everything I thought I stood for. I'm speechless! PRT: Your latest album is called "Swampblood" and it's once again an amazing mix of all the different Southern music genres. Do you still come across new things every now and then that make you go 'hey, we should give this a try'? JD: Ah, that's better. Flattery will get you everywhere. Yes, we like blues and country music. You'll find that we only play styles of music that are born out of blue-collar, working-class pain. Then we hybridize it with our other weird, musical obsessions and it alwaysseems to work. Well, 9 times outta 10. PRT: The new album is also the last part of the Tent Show trilogy. How did you come up with that idea? JD: It happened by accident. Tentshows just make a great backdrop for the stories we tell. It seems there's always something screwy happening inside some tent somewhere. PRT: A term I've come across a lot reading about your band is 'Southern gothic'. What is your personal definition of Southern gothic? JD: Gothic has come to mean "beauty in the grotesque." Therefore "Sounthern Gothic" would be "beauty in grotesque, SOUTHERN themes, situations & settings." That would be my definition. There are no scary vampires in this scenario. Actually, I take that back. PRT: Religion is a recurring theme in your songs and your murder ballads always end with a warning of sorts. I don't know if it stands but the image that I have of people in the Bible Belt is that of the godfearing Southerner. Is that a stereotype that still stands? JD: Yes. What's more, I believe that stereotypes are born out of realities. That's what makes them believable and so hard to disspell. The generalities that inform stereotypes could also becalculated and submitted as statistics or demographics. The biggest racists, sexists and homophobes work for Madison Avenue. Basically, yes. I am a God-fearing Southern boy. You hit the nail right on the head, yessireebob. PRT: Both your music and your lyrics are rooted in tradition so I was kinda wondering what your position is on current stuff like corporate America driving all the mom and pop stores out of business or about all the possibilities that come with new media? JD: I guess it's strange that free MP3s and Best Buys exist in the same world. But I don't see it as exciting times, just depressing. Either way, this band is screwed. PRT: You're also working on a documentary called "Seven Signs". What can people expect from that one? JD: We let southern artists and musicians, both professional and amateur, speak for themselves. We also take the current problem of corporate, urban sprawl to task as a dangerous "anti-matter" form that is killing our southern traditions and identity. PRT: In the movie 'High Fidelity' these guys that work in the record store constantly come up with these top 5 lists of songs for different occasions. If you would have to make such a list, which occasion would it be for and which songs would make your top 5? JD: My "deserted island" mix would have to include Dock Boggs, Louvin Brothers, Pine Hill Haints, Slim Harpo and Cab Calloway.Hopefully I would also have a jam-box or something to play them on. PRT: What else does the future have in store for Th' Legendary Shack Shakers? Planning a tour in Europe? If so please don't skip Belgium! JD: We probably will be in Europe this summer. Maybe we'll bring the movie with us. You never know what to expect from th' Legendary Shack*Shakers! PRT: Any last words for our readers? JD: You see, it's not so hard to be nice. Hugs not drugs.