One of the best scenes in John Hughes 1987 film “Adventures in Babysitting” was when the kids stumble into a late night blues club and belt out an impromptu, catchy little ditty that stirs up the crowd’s enthusiasm. This album captures that same casual, toe-tapping sound and experience. It has the feeling of being ad-libbed, but works incredibly well at entertaining the audience.
All 12 tracks have a lackadaisical sound, as if a group of like-minded musicians got together and just started playing. These players wear their talents like a perfectly-fitting glove—they don’t need written music, it just flows naturally from the creative corners of their souls. The music is by average people and for average people; ‘Shinyribs’ could easily be the overhead music at the fresh food co-op or the background players at a summer county fair. They are a perfectly formed rag-tag group that captures Americana with an expert control of jazz, blues and folk.
Given the style of the sounds they are playing, another awesome skill they share is the mastery of the trumpet and saxophone. These instruments simply don’t have much of a home in today’s popular music landscape. But Shinyribs displays them like trophies. They carry the songs both from the edges and in spotlight solos. In a time when musical entertainment is borne from the programs on computer desktops, it’s a refreshing breath of fresh air to hear people getting their hands dirty by dealing in the nitty-gritty of hands-on, traditional instrument mastery. This is the Real Deal.
These dozen tracks are the soundtrack to a good time. It doesn’t feel or sound forced or structured—it’s simply meant to be enjoyed. The lyrics are filled with foibles and life observations common to the form, telling stores through ironic insights and well-detailed, simple details (“laid up for days in a hydrocodone haze”). And let’s face it, any songwriters who can pull together a catchy, fun piece titled “I Don’t Give a Shit” probably have a pretty good grasp on the realities of life’s ups and downs. Randy Newman, eat your heart out.