Since 2001, Thee Shams have put out CDs and vinyl in conjunction with no less than six record labels. With their full-length releases, the band has moved from Orange Recordings to Fat Possum Records to their current home, local imprint Shake It Records. Judging by the title and cover art for their new disc, Sign the Line (featuring an image of a blood-specked hand signing the bottom of a contract), the label-hoping experience hasn't been a pleasant one. But that doesn't seem to have slowed the band down, as their consistent touring itinerary attests. Before stepping up their road schedule again with a cross-continental jaunt in September and October, they host a free release party for Line Friday at The Comet. American Minor opens.
Thee Shams have noticeably grown with each new release, and Sign the Line is their biggest leap forward yet. Though lumped in under the "Garage Rock" banner, Sign the Line is quite simply an excellent Rock & Roll album, shaded with the expected tinges of vintage Blues and Psych Rock but showing a more distinct songwriting prowess this time around. "Everflowing Tune" swaggers with the band's familiar scruffy shuffle, but the celestial, soaring melodies take it to another level, while the wonderfully minimal "Survive" soars over a simple electric piano plink. Elsewhere, the acoustic guitar-driven "Don't Be Afraid" takes up the Brit Invasion Pop slack dropped by Guided By Voices, "Lonely One" is a pure Soul explosion and "I Want You Back" is ragged, Love/Strawberry Alarm Clock-flavored Psych Pop, replete with a harpsichord backbone.
This is by far the most diverse album in the Shams' canon and, as a result, their most accomplished, ambitious, fully-realized and effective.
Thee Shams have always been an impressive dirty-water Blues/Rock entity with a strong lysergic aftertaste but, while there's still plenty of classic Shammery, Sign the Line takes a head-trip to another stratosphere and transcends toss-off labels. Impressive stuff. (theeshams.com)
Crescent Rolls On
Eclectic four-piece Keys Crescent hosts a release party for their debut, Born in 1871, Saturday at Jack Quinn's, joined by special guests Berkley. Hitting the local club circuit hard since their formation in 2003, Keys Crescent have built a following drawn in by their percolating Funk engine (fueled by bassist Drew Metz and drummer Matt Metz) and an all-bets-are-off musical approach to open-ended, sometimes unusual song structures that lend themselves well to improv.
The disc doesn't get off to a promising start: The first few cuts seem jumbled and are marred by flat-out bad production. When the band reels in the studio effects (reverb is best used more stealthily) and gets the levels set, it's a different story. The band is at its best when they resemble one of those indulgent Ben and Jerry's "Everything but the..." flavors, filtering Reggae, Jazz, Blues and Americana influences into their vibe-y blend (consider the cool harmonica additives as the unexpected huge chunk of fudge in the center).
While clearly a talented collective of musicians individually, Keys Crescent still sounds like they're finding their footing as a unit and the songwriting lacks luster in many spots. They seem more naturally a live band, though the elements are certainly in place to make a more substantial recording effort. (keyscrescent.com)
More Local Notes
· The second annual "Bloomfest" concert goes down Saturday at Foot's Club in Brooksville, Ky. The event was set up last fall to assist the daughter of Chris and Jodi Bloomfield. Chris was the bassist for local Rock band Crowning Apathy; he and his wife were killed in a car accident last summer. The event kicks off at noon and features a Who's Who of the regional Hard Rock community, including Pain Link, A Present Day Nightmare, Crawlspace, Psychoset, Wretched Guild, Formerly Known As Nothing and several others. Proceeds go into an education fund for the couple's young daughter.
· After the biggest Cincy Blues Fest yet, local Blues fans can keep the good times rolling Sunday at the Cincy Blues Cookout at Lunken Airport Playfield. The event (kicking off at 1 p.m. and running until the sun goes down) features music from the Sonny Moorman Group, Them Bones and a host of others (including the famed "guitar pull" and other forms of jamming). The event is BYOB, and those attending are encouraged to bring a potluck dish. (cincyblues.org)
· Singer/songwriter Joseph Peragine unveils his debut solo album, The Acoustic Diaries, Saturday at Top Cat's. The autobiographical album combines mellow, introspective songs, instrumental tracks and sampled soundscaping and has been well received on garageband.com. (josephaperagine.com)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com