What do you get when you toss Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Grace Potter, Dido, Florence and the Machine, John Prine, and a dash Zooey Deschanel into a blender? Let me give you a hint, whatever you just came up with is probably just as quirky and unique as the actual answer. The formula described above is about the best explanation I have for the Shook Twins 2011 release, “Window.”
Transplanted to Portland, Oregon by way of northern Idaho, the identical twins are poised to be the next folk act to take the country by storm. With earthy tones, witty lyrical content, and an ambitious attitude, Laurie and Katelyn Shook have all the makings. I stumbled upon the two at a small venue in the eastern part of San Francisco the other night and was immediately blown away.
The opening track of the album “Time to Swim” is about as folksy as you can get. Its haunting melody gives the odd feeling you are riding in an empty boxcar across the Rust Belt while listening to the transient next to you synchronize a melody with the sound of the tracks beneath you. This song will leave you absolutely mesmerized by the beautiful vocals and by how perfectly it opens the album.
The following song is the album’s title track. “Window,” which features The Bucky Walters, is about as unique as the songwriter’s. The song opens up with a lick that sounds as if it’s coming straight off the strings of Trey Anastasio’s Languedoc at a Phish show. The song shifts gears many times throughout giving it a unique taste of something that’s jam bandish but at the same time maintaining a very folk rich background. The consistent picking and thumping that goes in this song makes you feel as though you are seeing a bluegrass show, but still hearing hints of pop and fusion. Lending credibility to the fusion style the lyrics even include an ode to acid with a musical distortion to replicate the effects.
A young girl and the history behind her bike inspired the song “Pink and Purple”. The sound clip at the beginning of the tune is brilliant in its execution. I mean how can someone pass over a number that starts with a little girl talking about how she acquired the bike? The song has a fantastic melody and a peculiar set of lyrics that make the song so much more interesting. Much like most of the songs on this album, the lyrics clearly have a deeper meaning to the songwriters. That isn’t to say it goes over the head of the casual listener, but each song seems to tell a real story. This is what makes the Shook Twins so interesting; their stories are true folklore.
A personal favorite from the album comes in the form of the very next song, “Shine On.” While some of the album was written in what seems to be a cryptic manner, this song plays much more to the heart. With a sultry country rhythm and a positive message, the song grows on the listener.
As you maneuver through the rest of the album, you encounter more stories, one of which is about a special chicken named “Rose.” I refuse to give the mysteries behind this album all away in one review. The glory behind this album lies in the complete naivety of the listener during their first trip though it. Letting the artists take you on a journey through their mind with their incredible storytelling is half the fun. The other half comes from the inevitable dancing that will most certainly follow. The Shook Twins and their band, with the help of their friends like The Bucky Walters and Elephant Revival, are at the forefront of a new wave of Americana folk. I highly recommend you try them on for size by checking out their album on iTunes or if you’re out west sometime in the near future check them out on tour. They’ll be in the Bay Area for the next week at these locations:
6/7/12- Santa Cruz, CA @ Backstage Lounge
6/8/12- Sebastopol, CA @ Aubergine After Dark
6/9/12- San Rafael, CA @ Studio 55 Marin
6/10/12- San Francisco, CA @ Free Folk Fesitval
…and many more!