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The Jam Session: The Shivers

In honor of summer, and driving, and all that, the official Jam Session beer this time around was Carling's Black Label. In cans. Attending: Bill Kuhn, Glenn Brooks, Jason Staczek, Mark Oppfelt and Scott Boggan.

The Shivers  Buried Life
the review

"Shade The Light"
BK This is from a band called The Shivers, from their second album, Buried Life, and the first track is "Shade The Light". This is the one that to me sounded like The Band. For some reason it had that hokey, out in the country sound.
GB Kind of sounds like Levon does today.
JS Could be the accordion. That's what's getting you.
SB Yeah. Puffin' away there.
JS The Garth Hudson wheezing harmonium.
GB There is a mandolin there. That's nice.
MO I'm still saying John Prine. Has a very John Prine kind of sound to it.
JS What about John...Cash?
MO No.
SB Little too nasal.
BK There's a little bit of stuff later on that you'll hear is a little more like the Man.
MO I don't mean the vocals, I mean just the music is very...
GB It's got a real classic feel to it.
BK The thing I like about it is they're able to put out these three minute songs. I mean everything on the album is...I don't think there's anything longer than 3:30. So you get these little slices that are actually pretty well done.
GB That's nice.
SB So do these's a duo, right, Bill?
BK Well it's a husband and wife team and then there's a rhythm guy, and that's basically the band. And they basically live in their trailer. Two kids who they home school...
JS Trailer school.
SB Is this true?
BK Yeah. They drive around the country. They landed in Minneapolis one day and did this album.
SB And they play the uh...who's playing like the mandolin and the acoustics and stuff?
BK I believe that's him.
MO That's it? Man that's a quickie.
JS That's Bill's 3:30 nugget.
GB That's that Johnny Cash sound there.
JS I knew we'd get it, Ope.
MO Yea.

BK This tune's called "Cannonball", one of about three hundred "Cannonballs."
MO I already like it. Like that guitar.
BK It's got that reverb. (everybody sings along with guitar...)
BK You know where this one's going.
MO Oh yeah.
BK You could see Johnny Cash singing this song.
MO Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That's just beggin' for JC to step in.
GB This sounds like one of them truckin' songs.
BK It does sound a little bit like it. Although it's kind of slow for a truckin' song.
MO It's slow, but it's less than 3:30.
SB A little too much reverb on that guitar. It needs to be pushed right up front.
JS They recorded it in their trailer.
SB Sounds like it.
BK It's not the greatest production values. Restless Records in Minnesota, I don't know where they found the studio but...
SB They're in California.
BK Restless is.
SB Yeah.
BK Yeah but this is some studio in Minnesota.
GB I'm just curious about the character singing the song. A male voice singing, "When are you coming home, Cannonball?" Do you have any theories there, Bill?
BK Comin' home is the big thing when you're on the road. Six days on the road...
SB Good road tune. Good road tune.
JS It depends if you're the one on the road or if you're the one at home.
GB I think that's it. Is this for the person at home or for the person on the road?
BK I think he's on the road and he's tired of hearing, "When are you coming home, Cannonball?"
GB That's an interesting theory.
MO I'm not buying that one.
JS No? What do you say, Ope?
MO I think we've got a same sex marriage basically going on. Guy singing about his lover, he wants him to come home.
BK I think you've got it, Mark.
GB Although it's interesting to imagine a woman with the nickname "Cannonball".
SB I'm getting a visual there, Glenn.
SB That was a fun little number, kind of a corny ending...
MO You're right about the guitar, though. It needed to be out there more.

BK This one picks it up a little bit. This is "Stranger".
GB That's got that Beatlesque harmony right up front. What song?
SB The last one?
GB No. The very first chord there. What was that? It'll come to me.
BK Beatles, '65.
SB He's got one of those voices, I think after a couple times you'd be right in, but the first time through it's pretty distinctive.
MO Ooo. There she is.
SB So here's the X...
BK This is the X influence. You picked that right up, huh?
MO Exene!
GB Oh, yeah.
JS So, they have to sing like this together and then go sleep in the same trailer?
BK With their kids. I think the kids are named something like Trout and Salmon.
BK I never heard The Knitters. The Knitters is a side project by the X folks doing a country influence thing which is what this says all over it, to me.
GB They get a lot of sound out for a trio.
BK They really do.
MO Well, they've got five guys in a studio with a half rack of Black Label beat, that's for sure.
GB Not difficult.
BK Yes. What doesn't?
JS "Will you let me be a stranger?"
GB This is nice.
MO You would never guess this is off the same album as "Cannonball", though?
JS Who's the guitarist? Who's the guitarist, Bill?
BK I think he is.
GB Kemper?
MO Kemper Freeman?
BK Carey Kemper...
SB Thomas Kemper.
BK ...Kelly Bell is the woman, his wife, who plays bass.
MO Real dirty, that's good.
JS That's what women play in bands, for some reason.
GB Yeah, I wonder why that is?
SB Fewer strings, easier to play. Although I wouldn't put the guitar playing as a highlight of this record.
GB I don't think that's entirely the answer though. My first wife desperately wanted to play bass.
BK I thought it was "Papa played bass and Mama played fiddle?"
MO "Daddy sang bass..."
SB "Mama sang tenor. Me and little sister just jumped right in there..."
MO That's it.
JS So did she play the bass, Glenn?
GB She had a electric bass, she never did play it. Someone gave her an electric bass but no amp.
MO She couldn't get her hands around the neck.
GB That's funny. She had enough practice. (pause)
GB This is another one of those tunes, though, where would you hear it played?
BK Well that's the problem with the whole album in my mind, there's no venue for this stuff.
MO That'd be a good live tune.

"Tumbledown Girl"
BK This is one called "Tumbledown Girl".
GB Sounds like a Stones title.
BK Well, yeah, this is kind of like "Stupid Girl".
GB Or "Back Street Girl".
BK This to me is like one of those Neil Young bar tunes.
JS This stuff is not as bleak as the press release would make it seem...
BK No, it really isn't.
JS You read that and you'd think this stuff is gonna be black as death, but it's not.
SB This is just a little pop ditty here. I bet these guys are big in Europe. They eat this stuff up. I'm serious, they do. Bands like The Walkabouts...
BK Authentic American Music.
SB Authentic American. This is real stuff. It's ironic they'd have to go to Europe to find a following, but...
GB It's a great tradition, though. All the jazz musicians and blues musicians going over in the 30's. Coleman Hawkins and...
BK That may tie into the thing that my wife noticed in this song, actually in the whole album. She thought the accents were kind of put on.
MO I'd give you that.
BK Not quite right.
SB Hmmm.
BK There's another one she said. It sounds like they...what was the phrase? "Crawled out of the Ozarks dragging their knuckles the whole way."
SB Whoa.
BK She didn't really go for the album as much as I did.
SB The accents are a bit hokey, compared to this other album we're gonna review, Blue Mountain...
MO A little forced.
SB ...which is dead on. They're from Mississippi.
MO This reminds of that album I reviewed, Odessa, Handsome Family.
GB Handsome Family, yeah.
MO Same kind of forced...
GB I don't if it's forced or whether people are just...
JS They're giving the people what they want, that's what I think. "No Love Lost"
BK This one's called "No Love Lost".
SB Well it's not so forced that it's unlistenable. It's good. It's good. But it doesn't sound completely natural.
BK I think what you've got, you've got people that have been all around the country and there's something they've liked from one area that they're trying to emphasize.
GB I think there's more to it than that. If you're going to go around and perform, this is a sound, an accent, that plays everywhere.
BK Yeah.
GB Where as if you imagine a Ramones sound...
SB Or like a Yes, or King Crimson.
GB Yeah. There're some things that ain't gonna play south of, oh, Portland.
BK What do you think about this song, with the husband and wife harmonies? I like this one.
MO I like this one the best so far, as far as the duet action.
BK I think she works really well in a duet. When she's alone, I think her voice is kind of weak.
GB I like that weakness, though. I think a lot of the songs...
MO Yeah, that's how you've gotten your last couple wives, hasn't it?
GB If you're suggesting my wives can't carry a tune, I'll go along with that.
SB This reminds of Mazzy Star a little bit. It's a little bleak there on the slide, but the duets are very nice.
MO Or even a Sky Cries Mary duet kind of thing.
SB In a vastly different context.
GB See, to me, his voice adds a sort of richness and sweetness to the lyrics whereas her voice emphasizes the bleakness.
BK Yeah, she definitely has a very bleak...
JS I would say she's definitely the Garfunkel of the pair.
SB Good point.
GB Soon to appear in a second rate film directed by Mike Nichols.
JS I heard Nichols and May are making a comeback, by the way.
MO Isn't there a band called the Garfunkels? There should be if there isn't.
GB I think that's the Garfinkels. They perform only in department stores.
MO Bleak.

"Cool To Be A Loser"
SB "Cool To Be A Loser?"
BK "Cool To Be A Loser," which is hard to argue with.
MO Who sings this one?
BK It's him, he's cool to be a loser.
SB It's a Seattle sentiment, isn't it?
MO Oh, yeah. (pause)
MO "An out-of-tuner?" A little poetic license, huh?
SB "Out of tuna," I think.
GB "Out-of-tuner." Good.
BK I credit anyone who slams this loser mentality.
MO This is like the third song I've heard a lot of major cliches, "opportunity comes knockin' when the other shoe drops." I'd love to see the lyric sheet, I'll bet it's just laden with cliche lines.
JS They don't have much of a library in the trailer.
GB They've got Bartlett's and the last 40 issues of Rolling Stone.
MO And Ricky Raccoon, no, Highlights magazine for the kids.
JS She's definitely the Goofus of the pair. (pause)
SB It is on the edge of falling apart, isn't it? Which is cool.
GB The other ones they remind me of...sort of a depressed version of Timbuk 3.
MO Cool to be a loser. I was waiting for the heroin reference and they just laid it in there. "Took a shot in the arm."
SB That was a duff tune.
MO Hey, hey. It's still pretty cool to be a loser.
SB It is cool.

Copyright © 1996 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.