Listeners of Crush On Radio know full well my love (as well as Andrew’s) of Primus and the work of Les Claypool. So it should have been a given that I’d be picking up the new album Four Foot Shack from Les’ new Duo De Twang, a country group with Bryan Kehoe from M.I.R.V. The album is almost all covers — the only original song is the brief introductory track, “Four Foot Shack”, though a little more than half are covers of Les’ various other bands (so does that count as a cover?), including two from Primus, a couple from the Frog Brigade, and one from his first solo record, Highball With The Devil (“Hendershot”, one of my favorite tracks from that record, as it turns out).
The album has a sparse sound, similar to, say, Pork Soda, though not quite as heavy. The country music in question is much more akin to old hillbilly records than what’s currently coming out of Nashville… or, honestly, even compared to most of the alt. country scene. The sparseness works really well — it’s an interesting sound, but the perfect sound for these arrangements. To fill them up with other instruments beyond bass and guitar would be to ruin them.
As for the non-Les covers, they range from country classics like Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses” or Stompin’ Tom Connor’s “The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down” to the disco classic “Stayin’ Alive” and rock cuts like “Man in the Box” by Alice In Chains — but like the other covers Les Claypool’s done like on Primus’ Miscellaneous Debris and Rhinoplasty, or the Live Frogs discs, he does a strange combination of being entirely faithful to the originals — yet making them sound like they couldn’t be anything other than Claypool songs. I don’t know how he does it, but he does.
I would be very surprised to hear anything from the Duo De Twang on commercial radio — even the often more adventurous AAA stations, I figure, will stay away, but I hope I end up being wrong on that count. The music on here is as usually idiosyncratic as Claypool’s records usually are — more experimental than most country, but catchy and hooky in that way that Claypool does well — but the country bent may make this a harder sell than a normal Primus record would be. But then, too, I wouldn’t have figured that the utterly folky Mumford & Sons would have smash hits on rock radio, so I’ve been (happily) wrong before.
If you’re already a fan of Claypool’s — well, you’ve already got this album and have listened to it a million times by now. If you’re not already, then what’s stopping you? This might not be the ideal introduction to Les Claypool’s musical world… but you could do worse, too. And if you’re a casual fan, I’d highly recommend this too — particularly if you’re a fan more of the middle-period of Primus, like Pork Soda or Brown Album. Four Foot Shack isn’t especially LIKE those records, but it has a similar feel, if you get me. They feel like these three could all fit together pretty nicely. And, well, considering how good those albums are, that’s a pretty good sign. I really dig this, and you should too.
(PS: “Stayin’ Alive” is SO AWESOME.)