Rick Shaffer – Jitterbug Shake
Some artists seem to operate as if they have some kind of dynamo inside them. Rick Shaffer – the guitarist from The Reds, who were active way back when – is no exception, with his energetic music that transcends any particular time.
On the one hand, it could be easily assumed that Jitterbug Shake is a classic album from the past, while on the other hand there is much about it that suggests it is in fact a modern record with one eye over its shoulder to the past. In a way, that is exactly what is going on, as Shaffer certainly has experience that stretches back to a time when music was breaking new ground, and yet here something about it still seems fresh and exciting. ‘Got To Know’ opens the album with real gusto, the roomy echo on the guitar creating a really classic vibe, while Shaffer’s snarling vocal adds bite to the track. ‘Sure Thing’ sways and swaggers like a drunken uncle at a wedding, all clattering bass notes and slurred words, and ‘Going Strong’ really draws on a classic punk sound with its ringing guitars and cheeky tambourine. In the main, Jitterbug Shake is an album that shows little sign of relenting or stepping away from its rambunctious sound – ‘So Tired’ thunders and rolls along with guitars that twang with a gloriously fifties feel, much like ‘Just A Little’ does, although on that particular track there is more of a sing-song feel, as though Shaffer has channelled memories of nursery rhymes into his writing. As such, the album manages to become a kind of audio time machine. At times, it’s as if we’ve been transported to Lou’s Diner from Back to the Future, where we can join in with the other hip teenagers as they tuck in to their milkshakes and put songs on the jukebox. ‘It’s True’ encapsulates this aesthetic perfectly, with vocals that veer towards a more aggressive Elvis Presley and guitars that are drenched in a vintage spring reverb, while ‘Confidence Man’ goes for more of a slower tempo as is slouches along with hints of Americana. Throughout Jitterbug Shake, Rick Shaffer is certainly consistent, it’s an album that doesn’t try to reinvent anything, nor does it make the listener have to try too hard by coping with any strange or alternative methods – this is pure rock music perfectly designed for anyone who wants to have an experience where they are given a vintage feel, with some nostalgia thrown in at the same time. Shaffer’s wealth of experience as a rocker really shows, and these songs manage to let the listener know that they are in good hands, that the music has been carefully crafted, and that this has been made by someone who has been through several decades of music taking various twists and turns throughout the development of the genre. As a result, the sheer consistency might mean that for some, it’s just too much of the same thing throughout the album. But on closer inspection, each track manages to have its own distinct tone and feel, all the while staying true to a very specific aesthetic that runs all the way through like words through a stick of rock. And rock would certainly be the operative word here.