Review Summary: Twangin' and stompin' down the dirt road to new-found inspiration.
Les Claypool has been in more one-off and dead-end side projects that anyone should care about, so it should be clarified that his “Duo de Twang” is his “fuck-off vacation band” with only high school buddy Bryan Kehoe assisting him, and that the duo’s debut Four Foot Shack
does not consist of forgettable new material that Claypool could churn out by himself while in a slumber. Emphasis needs to be put on the fact that this is not only the closest thing we will get to both a genuine Les Claypool solo album (“solo” meaning with as little outside members contributing as possible) and a Les Claypool acoustic album, but also material that finally proves to be in sharp contrast to his signature Primus-esque bizarreness. With all that being noted, it figures that it took stripping down and pushing away most of everything from his sound and amplifying his bass-playing prowess more than ever to accomplish this new-found distinction in sound from Primus. Four Foot Shack
doesn’t even contain new material either, it’s an album full of Americana, freak-folk, and bluegrass reinterpretations of song selections from across his vast outings with side-bands and group experiments. A benefit that can be derived from this for any Primus fan or newcomer is that the album acts as sort of a revisiting tour that touches briefly on every effort Claypool took part in outside of Primus, but what’s most important about this album is that you can be assured it’s the funkiest goddamn faux-country you will ever hear.
Claypool’s eccentric and quirky weirdness has never felt this exposed under these bare sound conditions, and that sort of elevates his persona to a Tom Waits level of presence in that he feels much more front and center without the addition of electric guitars or drums. The really outstanding aspect of Four Foot Shack
, however, is that Claypool’s bass-playing hasn’t sounded this good in years. Without any production behind it, the acoustic renditions of these bass lines sound far more raw, grimy, organic, and the licks pulsate with this rustic and stinging tone. There’s really no better showcase for Claypool’s incredibly natural finesse as a bassist, and the unplugged chemistry he shows with Kehoe’s southern-styled guitar wails is much more dynamic than his past meshes that amounted to mixed results. In conclusion, it’s not only interesting to see Claypool capitalize on the southern inspiration that he only offered glimpses at in the past, but it’s also a good thing for fans that these once unremarkable cuts now have unique and inspired new life breathed into them. Sometimes, “less is more” is the only philosophy one needs to go by to reveal a cool new angle to things, and Four Foot Shack
is great proof of that.