Listen Up: Wednesday, May 03, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The White Ghost Shivers

Everyone’s Got ‘Em (Chicken Ranch Records)

By Jimmy Fowler

Listening to the Austin-based White Ghost Shivers’ latest release Everyone’s Got ’Em just might trigger an unexpected flood of images and associations for cultists. Chief among them are the graphics of R. Crumb and Max Fleischer and the bawdy-creepy shenanigans in Richard and Danny Elfman’s 1980 L.A. underground celluloid romp The Forbidden Zone. Crumb, of course, is a famous collector of the kind of 20th-century vinyl oddities that mix blooze, bop-bop-boppin’ big band jazz, cornpone country, and novelty songwriting. The eight members of The White Ghost Shivers, lately famous for their annual Halloween costume ball in Austin, unabashedly shoplift from Crumb’s and Elfman’s pervy Americana archives. Everyone’s Got Em is 14 tracks in which the combo of banjo, accordion, fiddle, and squirrelly, bleating brass epitomize the dregs squeezed from anonymous juke joint and barrel house performances of decades past. Western “Shorty” Borghesi is the 7-foot frontman/banjoist/vocalist, although the Shivers recently wised up and, for musical balance, added Cella Blue, a knockout singer whose voice on tunes like “Strictly Ornamental” and “Weed Smoker’s Dream” is a one-woman burlesque revue. The Shivers make sure things don’t stay cutesy for too long, as when Borghesi growls to Blue on the latter duet: “Put that ass on the market, honey / Make me a million, too.” “Oh! Malloy” showcases the group’s mastery of the art of repetitive string-plucking as a source of manic color and personality; “Toot Your Whistle” delivers a string of double entendres that, thankfully, the Shivers don’t drool over too hard. Ultimately, Everyone’s Got ’Em is both a vaudevillian hoot and a bit of a trap for these abundantly talented musicians: How much longer can they coast on edgy, well-executed nostalgia before audiences realize the Great Depression ain’t all it was cracked up to be?



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