There's them who sing country, then there's another, rarer breed who squirt it out of every orifice. Sarah Shook doesn't fool around. She just strides right up and slaps you upside the head with it.
Although she was born in Rochester, New York, Shook sounds like she just fell out the front door of a single wide precariously perched on the side of a holler in West Virginny.
Shook built a following as a purveyor of country rock in her adopted stomping grounds in Chatham County, North Carolina, with her previous band, Sarah Shook and the Devil. But the sound she put forth on 2013 's Seven is a far cry from her latest with her new band the Disarmers. Seven was middle-of-the-road mellow. Sidelong is raw and raunchy fuck-or-fight music.
Shook goes hard core honky-tonkin' on “The Nail.” “I can't decide which one of us will be the nail in this here coffin,” Shook bellows in a Bakersfield twang, backed by Phil Sullivan's slippery lap steel. Former Two Dollar Pistols and current Rosewood Bluff frontman John Howie, Jr. goes back to his punk roots as a drummer, stiffening the track with a throbbing, tribal beat.
Even when she throttles back a notch on the title cut, Shook still oozes heartbreak country with a vocal that straddles a ditch between Wanda Jackson and Stacie Collins.
For authentic cry-in-your-beer music, its hard to beat “Dwight Yoakam.” “I'm drinkin' water tonight cause I drank all the whiskey this mornin',” Shook moans, her voice breaking with emotion or a whiskey overload, or a combination of the two, as guitarists Eric Peterson and Sullivan pour puddles of stringy twang at her feet.
Shook sounds so authentic on “Solitary Confinement” that you can picture her propped up in the doorway of her single wide, curlers in her hair, ratty bathrobe flapping loose, cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth, half-empty bottle of whiskey clutched tightly to her breast, staring bleary-eyed at the rising sun as she tries to erase the memory of her latest ex-no-good boyfriend. “I wish I could forget you as quickly as it seems you can forget me,” she says in a twangy drawl. “There's only one thing to do and that's drink you off my mind.”
But for stark naked realism, it's hard to beat “Fuck Up.” Shook just goes right ahead and blurts out what other country artists have alluded to concerning self abuse. After admitting that she can't cry herself to sleep so she's drinking herself to death, she clarifies her self medicating regimen: “I got cocaine in my bloodstream and whiskey on my breath,” she confesses. But on the song co-written with boyfriend Howie, the duo tosses in an additional comment that you aren't in any danger of running across in any other country song: “God never makes mistakes, he just makes fuckups.”
If this one don't pluck your twanger, you might as well let 'em throw dirt in your face. With Sarah Shook in the mix, hard core country is alive and well, and dangerous as all get out.