Bassist extraordinaire, vocalist and songwriter Les Claypool is never one to rest on his laurels. Not content with his hugely successful band Primus, Claypool has had numerous side projects over the years and in 2014 is back with Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang and the album, Four Foot Shack.
Teaming up with his long time friend Bryan Kehoe the duo have stripped things back to the barest of bones with just one vocal, one bass, one guitar, and a basic beat supplied by stomping on an upturned drum case with mini-tambourine-doohickey attached. The album of 15 tracks are all covers and come from a fairly eclectic mixture of sources ranging from Primus to Alice in Chains to The Bee Gees. The end result is an album of stripped back rootsy americana brilliance that I defy anyone to listen to without tapping their foot.
Les Claypool has always been a trailblazer when it comes to playing the bass guitar, many Primus songs feature the bass as the lead instrument with the guitar providing the rythm but Four Foot Shack is a master class in the art of purely laying down a groove. Being a flashy bass player is a skill but very often ‘less-is-more’ is harder to do and the playing on this album is the perfect example of the bass holding things together. The album was recorded the old fashioned way, playing together in a room with a few mics and onto tape which gives it a warm and authentic feel.
While the covers of songs by other artists are good and all it is the versions of songs previously written by Claypool that really stand out for me. Many of the songs tell stories and it is through the clever lyrics that these are bought to life, add to that his distinctive delivery style and you find yourself drawn into them.
Red State Girl ticks every box for me and is my stand out track on the album. Not only do you have a bassline that worms its way into your brain but some memorable lyrics as well. For example, in the song Rumble of the Diesel there is a line that instantly evokes an image of the character, you know so much from just one line:
Never had a family, unless you count that old yellow Lab…
This is never going to be a top ten album, it is a little unusual and you may well find yourself at first listen wondering what the hell is going on but stick with it and trust me, before long you will be cracking a beer open, Yee Hawing and foot stompin’ along in no time.
Four Foot Shack Track List
- Four Foot Shack (Les Claypool)
- Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver (Primus)
- Amos Moses (Jerry Reed)
- Red State Girl (Les Claypool)
- The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down (Stompin’ Tom Connors)
- Boonville Stomp (Les Claypool)
- Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees)
- Rumble of the Diesel (Les Claypool)
- Pipe Line (The Chantays)
- Buzzards of Greenhill (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
- Hendershot (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
- Man in the Box (Alice in Chains)
- D’s Diner (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
- Battle of New Orleans (Johnny Horton)
- Jerry Was a Race Car Driver (Primus)
Four Foot Shack is out now on ATO Records and is available from all the usual outlets.