REVIEW: Shinyribs “Transit Damage”


Shinyribs – Transit Damage

This distinguished man & his band is a bit unique on first listen. Eccentric in appearance & they take the basics from a varied musical crop of genres & shape it into an entertaining figure. After several listens I’m pulling threads of Leon Russell, Dr. John, Prince & Captain Beefheart (from his “Bluejeans & Moonbeams” era). This is a broad-range showcase. And remarkably — it works.


Austin’s swamp-pop, soulful Shinyribs was produced by Grammy-winner Steve Berlin (musician with Los Lobos, Raul Malo & The Blasters). The songs are woven tight by an up to 10-piece band led by Kevin Russell (lead vocals/guitars/ukuleles) who injects dubious amounts of funk & soul into a Texas/Louisiana gumbo.

Included for decoration are the Shiny Soul Sisters (Alice Spencer & Courtney Santana) & the full-throttle brass of the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns (that includes tenor/baritone saxist Mark Wilson, trombonists Paul Demeer & Ulrican Williams with trumpeter Tiger Anaya).

The 11-cut Transit Damage (Drops July 14–Hardcharger/Blue Elan Records) is the band’s 9th collection. I’m not a big falsetto fan but Kevin Russell uses it sparingly & effectively. What he possesses in generous amounts is a warm bluesy dynamic that dilutes any possibility of his music being considered novelty or parody. It’s neither. It lends a solid facility to his otherwise typically danceable songs that justifiably rise above that level due to each adhering to a purring arrangement.


Kevin presents a juke joint, saloon-type music in a classy manner. He’s always dressed impeccably & the elan is worn as well also by his showcase. Many of the songs have an instant appeal. It’s like frosty vanilla ice cream with hot fudge poured all over it. The contrast is flavorful & this unit does nothing but provide each song scoop with tastiness.

There are times like on “Alphabeta” when the band cruises the edge of the soulfulness of classic 60s bands like The Bar-Kays (“Soulfinger”) & Arthur Conley (“Sweet Soul Music”). Not as heavy-handed as the Average White Band or Ides of March – they have a swagger to their brass that’s quite cool rather than the blaring showboating common to many bands that think everything should be rendered high test.


Highlights – “Simply Belong To You,” “Dark Cloud,” “All the Best Things,” “Transit Damage,” “La Folie de I’Humanite” “Alphabeta” & “If Love Is Earned.”

Musicians – Mason Hankamer (electric bass/upright bass/co-producer), Dan Creamer (keyboards), Fred Mandujano (drums/percussion), Marty Muse (pedal steel guitar), Steve Berlin (keyboards),

CD cover painting by Jared Dunten. Image courtesy of Wyatt McSpadden for Shinyribs. A lyric insert is included. The 43-minute CD @ Amazon, Bandcamp & +

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