If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll notice I haven’t exactly been supportive of this album. I got a couple songs in and decided it wasn’t for me. Well, I gave it a full listen, and then I gave it more listens, and now I’m open to admitting that I’m wrong.
I’ll admit, I am a little late to the Shinyribs party. I don’t just mean with the album either (which came out in February). In general, Shinyribs is a brand new phenomenon for me this year, and damn am I ever glad I found them.
Shinyribs is described as a musical journey for Kevin Russell, much like this little website is a journey for me. Describing their traditional sound is extremely hard, and believe me I’ve seen others try. After hearing this album multiple times, I can understand that. After all, the band is pulling from soul, funk, blues, rock, country and all sorts of different things to craft a damn good sound. All in all it’s a melting pot that sizzles.
The most famous sell that I’ve seen of this album is that it’s incredibly fun, and really that’s what I have to say as well. Kevin and his band have such a knack for combining not only incredibly tight, fun melodies, but also blending them with the right instrumentation. The flute that can be heard around the 3:10 mark of “Don’t Leave It A Lie” combined with the horns is one example of where it fits together, and furthermore, those moments are all over this album.
That’s another note on this album – it is horn heavy. Now, those things have been creeping their way back into a lot of music over the past couple of years, so if they’re not your thing, you’ve been warned. If you’re like me and like them, you’ll most likely appreciate how much they bring to the table on this album. I particularly enjoyed the more rock leaning tracks such as “Trouble Trouble” and “Tub Gut Stomp and Red Eyed Soul” for really emphasizing that fun atmosphere. The latter in particular really has a cool 50’s sound to it.
That brings us to another note. While this album does dip its toes into a lot of older sounds such as Chuck Berry esque Rock & Roll, doo-wop, and soul, it never once feels stuck in time or “old”. Kudos to producer Jimbo Mathus on that end.
The slower songs such as “I Gave Up All I Had”, “I Knew It All Along”, and “Nothing Takes The Place Of You” showcase that Kevin himself is a very soulful singer with a ton of range and power. While the fun, upbeat songs are good showcases for the instrumentation and melodies, the slower, more serious tunes are for the vocals. I’ll admit, they’re not my favorite tracks on the record though. “Nothing Takes The Place Of You” is a very well put together track about a haunting love, but the other two don’t really have anything else interesting going on with them outside of the vocals.
I suppose while we’re talking about faults of this album though, I will say that, while there a TON of standouts, there are some tracks that also don’t feel necessary (namely the first two in the last paragraph but also…) such as “Hands On Your Hips” that isn’t quite as weird and “out there” (or really, unique) as some of the best tracks here, or features as engaging of a melody.
So is there anything else to say? Let’s see… I did like the title track a lot for really establishing the overall theme of this record, alleviating stress from the real world. Of course I also have to mention “I Don’t Give A Shit” sung with Alice Spencer (a soul sister) which is really the poster child for this entire album and arguably the best song on this entire record. Actually, the latter half of this album is particularly strong. “Ambulance” is just flat out weird and crazy…and I love it (sidenote though, how can you deliver the medicine if you yourself are in an ambulance?). Also, “The Cross Is Boss” is a fun song that yes, is religious (I know it alienates some people. As a man of faith I usually like these songs), but is also very fun and engaging. I’ve said that a lot haven’t I?
8/10 – For an album with a ton of heart and character in an age where we need it. I’ll admit, this album may need time to grow on you as it did with me. But honestly, it’s too damn fun not to like.