The Van Zant legend and family continues and grows in the Shanytown ensemble with Johnny and Ronnie Van Zant's rockin' rollin' kin, Ronnie and Robbie Morris. This debut release proves the old adage that the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree 'cause these cats have the bayou magic and the rip-roaring sound down pat. Most prominent is the dual guitar attack of Ronnie Morris and Kevin Williams, a perfectly syncopated twosome that'll have 38 Special, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Coney Hatch, and all the others smiling in their beers. Ah, but don't forget the Outlaws, y'all, 'cause there's a lot of that estimable group's groove here too.
Why the hell they adopted that strange one-letter-truncated eponym, well, no one has satisfactorily explained that to me yet-and, trust me, I've asked around (a PR guy wistfully commented that he would've advised 'em to just go with what was commonly accepted, and I agreed wholeheartedly 'cause marketing and promo are crucial games whose rules cannot be passed over, often spelling life and death)—so, when you read it with two 'T's instead of one, don't blame yourself 'cause most critics are baffled as well, thinking it to be an uncaught typo, and even they've been using 'Shantytown' instead.
But that's as may be. What's important is that full-blooded Southern rock sound, as dear and familiar to aficionados as hyacinths, moonshine, and cowboy hats. I came late to the party in that regard, though I lived in Florida for a time and really dug the hell out of Black Oak Arkansas and Hydra in the day, but cuts like the opening Redneck pin your ears back while pasting a swozzled grin on yer mug to the tune of boots scooting across the roadhouse dance floor.
A heck of a lot of the famed Southern vibe is devil may care, heavily macho, on the dark side, and vigorous. Shanytown neglects none of those dusky virtues, as the ZZ Top-ish Mexico more than demonstrates. No clue who did the engineering and such (promo copy, y'all), but it's immaculate, perfectly balanced and presented, may just sit as the new paradigm for this ilk of hellraising. There are ballads here—Brothers is one—but they're of the terbacky-chawin', slit-eyed, gruff demeanor common to the mode, which, frankly, do a fuck of a lot more for me than all the radio drizzle that makes ya want to tear the damn device out the Chevy's dashboard and toss it out the window. And ballad it may be but it doesn't stay quiet for very long. The Shanytown boys may not be cutting any new ground here, but they sure as hell are re-setting the clock back to its glory days when dusty, straw-haired, rock-n-rollin' shitkickers could fill arenas and damn near level 'em with decibels and attitude alone.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles