Creatures Of Impulse, the ninth solo album by Rick Shaffer, is exactly what a garage blues record should sound like.  Recorded in a ramshackle Como, Mississippi studio by a group of musicians playing together in a room, with sounds bleeding into each other, production atmospherics of shakers, tambourines and spoons adding movement to straightforward backbeats.  There’s looseness, a human element that is missing from many of the over-produced music that’s released today.

The rhythm section and playing styles of Detroit’s Stevie Carlisle, and Memphis bass player Billy Nichole, provide contrast and diversity to the hill country swing of Boo Boo Spencer.  This is the foundation and sets the stage for the maverick garage blues Shaffer’s been mining the last number of years.  The songs and sound is a meld of hill country, late sixties British R&B, garage blues, rock and roll, and classic songwriting and spontaneity.

The album opener Cool My Fear, with driving tribal drums, tension filled guitar riffs, insistent blistering slide guitars, and balls in the bottom bass line, with Shaffer providing a commanding vocal with words, power and conviction, as if to be heard over the mix.  At the end, fighting the distorted slide guitars Shaffer spits out, “Oh, yeah I love the feeling, never let it go,” offering up a live vocal only good rock and roll can provide.  An up-tempo cocktail of what’s to come.

The songs fall into two groups for the listener, the first, “Stonesy” late sixties, early seventies crunchy blues grinders, with dueling rhythms and slides, loose grooves and a blustery garage swagger.  Tracks Cool My Fear, All I Need, Fool’s Dream, In Front Of You, Cry Any Longer, and the slippery minor key R&B rocker Flawed Perfection express this best.  They’re like early rock and roll — raw, loud, raunchy and dangerous.  The vocal narrative by Shaffer takes you to a place with a sense of knowing where you’ve been, what it means, but it’s always gonna be the hard way.

The second group features Boo Boo Spencer on drums and percussion who provides some raucous, bluesy hill country swing.  Shaffer takes control on these tracks playing guitar, bass, harmonica, additional percussion and vocals.  Tracks High Low, Ride On Baby, Stubborn Kind, Part Time Love and the single Let Go have the laid back hill country two step, rockabilly flare, harp fills from the Jimmy Reed playbook, and some wonderful slap-back guitar and slide work.  The vocals on these tracks contain some great yowls and yells as Shaffer heads down to that little country town, the next juke joint, and points in between.

On the closer Wrong Direction Shaffer adds subtle colors that lift the song with spoons and percussion, understated harmonica, and background vocals that punctuate this up-tempo beat rocker.  While the stinging guitar hooks, lively rhythms and catchy vocal chorus add to the excitement.  The lyric reaffirms the contempt for our current trends, “This last true luxury to live just how you choose — “You got to fight the fight or you’re gonna loose it” — is a perfect coda.

Shaffer remains a raw minimalist, true primitive, and some kind of rock and roll highway man.

Tarock Music • October 2018