If anyone out there knows how to find and communicate rhythm in its purest, most raw form, it’s Lonesome Shack. There are no frills, bells or whistles: Lonesome Shack streamlines their music and the result is a smooth, clean and crisp boogie blues n’ rock sound. Back in the early years of the new millennium in the lonelier parts of New Mexico, Lonesome Shack front man, Ben Todd, discovered the voice (his voice) that bears the vocal weight of Lonesome Shack. Later on drummer/guitarist and friend, Kristian Garrard joined Todd and the duo released two records, Bound to Die and Slidin Boa. When 2011 rolled around, bassist Luke Bergman joined Todd and Garrard and three years later the trio released More Primitive. Between album releases the band toured across the US including opening for Blitzen Trapper at the Bartlett in Spokane, WA in 2014 which was where I heard their music for the first time. The buzz in the crowd during their performance was undeniable and all of us that got there early enough to see the opening band were glad we did.
For the fellows’ latest release, they decided to go big and release a four side full length titled, The Switcher. The record was released for public listening on June 24th, mastered by Johnny Goss (who also mastered More Primitive) and recorded at Dandelion Gold. The objective of the album was to create something that gave the listener the experience of being at a live show, and they did just that. Though, this is something that I have always loved about Lonesome Shack so it didn’t come as a surprise to me that The Switcher fell in line with their previous release. The way in which their music is recorded leaves the listener with a richer, more intimate experience. It’s that raw and pure quality I mentioned above. It is present live and it is present recorded, therefore whenever listening to Lonesome Shack, I feel transported.
The Switcher is an assortment of variations on the blues n’ rock theme, the groove unavoidable and the beat upfront and easy to find. They experiment with tempo, lyricism, rhythm and mood on this album, constantly changing these aspects but always staying true to their style. The record opens with “To the Floor”, a consistent groove that bleeds flowingly into the following song, title track, “The Switcher.” “The Switcher” is gritty, low and shady, the tempo slow and muddy.
The A side closes with one of my personal favorites on the record, “Dirty Traveler.” It’s sly and brooding, maintaining a shadowy temperament throughout. The bass secretly keeping time, the drums in the forefront and this sound effect that sounds like it’s straight out of a 70’s mystery flick. “Dirty Traveler” is something new and different for Lonesome Shack and it works.
The three tracks on the B Side couldn’t be any different from each other. “Chemicals” is quick, up tempo and dance-able while “True Vine” is a marching blues jam. Check out the music video created by Lonesome Shack member, Kristian Garrard.
“Stuff From a Cup” is a beauty in itself. There’s something tender about this track which isn’t a quality often heard or expected for that matter, from these fellows. The lyrics describe being young and dumb, finding love and expectations of becoming who you hoped you would.
The remainder of the record is decorated with dance-inducing tracks like “Sugar Farm”, “Mushin Dog” and “Safety Zone” and other more viscous grooves like “Pain on Me”, “Junk Train” and the closing cut, “Blood.” “Safety Zone” is another favorite of mine on the record, once again because it sticks out, it’s a standalone track. The attitude is more light hearted and it’s reminiscent of something you’d do the two step to at an old bar in a small town in Montana.
Altogether, The Switcher is an incredibly diverse collection of tracks that are blues-oriented but blur the lines between traditional blues, rock and old time folk/Americana. I commend these deeply talented musicians on their continuing creativity. You can purchase the album (digital and vinyl) on their Bandcamp page.