Nashville’s finest musical workhorses carry the Auerbach chariot into the land of legends and the Clams croon a lamentful love letter to the victims of the Oakland “Ghost Ship” fire.
What can be said about the bizarre garage doo-wop of Shannon and the Clams and its uncanny presentation on stage? For starters, the band’s appearance is nothing you’d expect from the sound you’re hearing, but upon a second careful observation and listen, you’ll understand why it’s absolutely necessary. Like characters in a John Waters film, the demeanor of these freaks is eloquently absurd and beautifully deliberate. They loom like seance shadows over the audience with a sticky lovers lane type vibe, but are something far more perverse. They go beyond the expectations of innocent 1950s doo-wop lullabies and push forward a throbbing heart from the carcass they came across on the highway. With rawness and soul, they captivated the audience at The Observatory, mainly drawing from their new album, Onion, a collection of songs dedicated to the victims of Oakland’s “Ghost Ship” fire. Tightened up and produced by Dan Auerbach, the band has made a leap to a more cohesive sound with catchy hooks and a tinge of that distinct Nashville sound. However, they maintain their dark pulse, and like angsty teenage kids overdosing on cough medicine, they continue to sleepwalk into late night diners to confess their love to elderly waitresses.
Dan Auerbach has taken a break from the Black Keys and situated himself rather reclusively in his Easy Eye studio in Nashville, Tennessee. What he’s learned in the absence of his power duo rocking days is how to produce timeless records, learn from the mastery of his elders and convince those elders to play with him. Dan Auerbach’s “Easy Eye Sound Revue” is a manifestation of this success. What he’s managed to assemble is an arsenal of Nashville’s finest players that EVER played the game. I mean he has Duane-motherfucking-Eddy on the album and Gene Chrisman (Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin), keyboardist Bobby Woods (Presley, Dusty Springfield), pedal-steel guitarist Russ Paul (Elton John, Leon Russell), and bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Sturgill Simpson) touring with him. What was on display at The Observatory was timeless musicianship between timeless musicians, something we rarely get to hear outside of a recording, and on lesser occasion, see embodied live on a stage. It’s one of those performances in which there is no highlight reel because the memory of it becomes inseparable, and it’s at that moment we just thank the grace of the good gods above and let the whiskey take the wheel.