Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang: Four Foot Shack

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four_foot_shack les claypool
Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang
Four Foot Shack
(ATO)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Despite this Les Claypool fronted, two man side project’s name, there isn’t much twang on the near hour long, 15 track set of radically rearranged covers. The freakazoid Primus bassist/vocalist/frontman joins with long time friend and guitarist Bryan Kehoe. Together they deconstruct Primus, solo, country and surf classics in a stripped down environment of just bass, guitar and an ever-present stomping foot.

The concept was hatched as Claypool prepared for an appearance at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, so that gives an indication of what he’s after here. His bass often bounces like Luther Perkins’ guitar on those old Johnny Cash Sun recordings, which Claypool acknowledges were a strong influence on his approach for this act. There’s also a blues undercurrent, especially when Kehoe pulls out his slide for the clomping “Boonville Stomp,” a song that picks up speed until it crescendos in a heart palpating climax.

Covers that range from the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” to Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box” and the Chantay’s surf classic “Pipeline” show that nearly any tune can be run through the DDT grinder and come out sounding like…well something Les Claypool wraps his vibe around. The bassist digs deep into his own bulging catalog of side/solo projects, giving a new lease on life to deep tracks from bands such as Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel, Frog Brigade and albums Of Fungi and Foe and Of Whales and Woe, all of which should delight his cult fan base. Vocally, nobody sounds like his twisted carny barker singing, which grounds the sound even as it twirls through warped country, blues and funk.

The predominantly live in the studio recording keeps the energy ramped up and allows for the occasional mistake. That just provides a giddier, looser approach that never feels forced or pretentious. It’s a whiz-bang romp perfect for the Claypool faithful to devour, and may even attract some of the more roots oriented not already onboard his distorted fun-house mirror music crazy train.

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