Psychobilly blues conjurer infused

with a melancholically hopeful Gospelish stomp . . .   

Music by which to read Wild at Heart.  The distorted guitars harken back to Link Wray and King Bee-era Stones, but also ahead to garage-rock California blues billy bands like The Blasters.  But there’s nothing clean or obviously tight in Rick Shaffer.  If anything, there’s a bit of the devil in him, in his stomp, an edge, an unwillingness to hoe the musically pretty party line. 

He sings just as unapologetically as he arranges his bass, drums, and guitars.  He doesn’t posses a great voice, or a classically bluesy voice, or a classically rock voice, nor does he have the sort of voice that’s “seen things.”  Not that you don’t see things when your listening to Shaffer’s, One More Heartache.  You see all sorts of great things − duck tails and syringes and back alleys and dancers dancing hard to his music. 

But Shaffer’s voice, like his music, like his musical tastes that have influenced his music, just is what it is.  It’s take it or leave it.  A bit haunting, a bit raw, a bit in your face.  But knowing, almost intellectual.  And with an unusually Gospel hopefulness lurking just beneath as well.  The kind of hopefulness that has the veracity of pain and sacrifice to it.  Damn fine.  Just really damn fine. 

∎ Devon Jackson

(Devon Jackson is the author of Conspiranoia! (Dutton 2000), and Editor of the Santa Fean Magazine, as well as a freelance writer for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Details, Vanity Fair, and The Huffington Post, to name a few.)