The last year in Americana music has been one for introspective albums. It seems like practically every artist has turned their gaze inward, penning deeply personal missives about life, loss, love, and politics. Sometimes you want a break from all of that earnestness. You want to turn off your brain, turn up your speakers and listen to some old fashioned booty shaking melodies just for the fun of it. For those people, Shinyribs has a message; I Got Your Medicine.
That's the title of the new album by Shinyribs, the Austin, Texas-based band that is the brainchild of the Gourds' frontman Kevin Russell. With I Got Your Medicine, Russell and his eight-piece band have skipped pithy lyrics for a clever turn of a phrase, deep symbolism for a well-timed double entendre, and understated acoustic chord progressions for a full force wall of brass, percussion, and electric guitars. It's an album that not only remembers to rock, it takes it on as its first and only mission statement.
The influences on Shinyribs are obvious and numerous on I Got Your Medicine. There's plenty of swampy New Orleans funk to go around. There are also dashes of doo wop, Chuck Berry-style '50s rock and roll, and pre-synth ZZ Top-style Texas blues rock. Behind it all is Russell's leather vocals and Jimbo Mathus' outstanding production work.
Nowhere is the New Orleans party vibe felt more than on the album's standout track, “Tub Gut Stomp and Red-eyed Soul.” In the album's press release, Russell said he got the song's title from his definition of Shinyribs' musical style. It might be a mouthful, but it's also as accurate as any genre label could get. On top of a stomping backbeat, Russell delivers wry lines like “rooster lost his head, now didn't he? We doused him with water and rolled him on the ground. Well he once was a verb, now he's just a noun.”
Russell provides two more facets of New Orleans' deep musical heritage with a pair of Allen Toussaint covers. “A Certain Girl”, with its question and answer verse, is a call back to the early '60s. It's a song that's been covered by everyone from The Yardbirds to Warren Zevon, but Shinyribs holds their own with any of them, conveying just the right amount of coy evasion with a gossip's desire to tell all. The second Toussaint cover is one of the album's few ballads, “Nothing Takes the Place of You.” Even here, Russell and company keep it fun, giving the feel of cruising in a top-down T-Bird with your best girl on a Saturday night while Wolfman Jack spins “our song” on the AM dial.
Another album standout is the classic country romp “I Don't Give a Shit.” It is, despite the title, a love song, albeit one in the mold of a bawdier “Who's Gonna Take the Garbage Out?” or “In Spite of Ourselves.” Sung as a duet with Alice Spencer, one of the band's “Shiny Soul Sisters backup vocalists, the song is a laugh out loud send up of the Waggoner-Lynn or Jones-Wynette duet era.
While “I Don't Give a Shit” gave Spencer a chance to shine on leads, she and fellow Shiny Soul Sister Sally Allen are the glue that makes Shinyribs crazy genre mashups work. They are present throughout I Got Your Medicine and they, along with the band's brass section the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns, make up the majority of the booty shaking moments on the album.
Shinyribs doesn't even take their religion too seriously. The album's closer “The Cross Is Boss” is a full-blooded Texas barn burner that would light up a dive bar just as well as it would a tent revival.
If you're looking for a 47 minute break from the real world, I Got Your Medicine is just the slab of ear candy you've been waiting for. It might or might not be possible to dance all of your troubles away, but if you're apt to try, I Got Your Medicine, releasing Feb. 24, is an excellent companion for the attempt.