Shane Speal's Snake Oil Band

Shane Speal's Snake Oil Band is the world's first theatrical, hard rock jug band. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Cigar box guitars, washboards, electric washtub bass and harmonica.

From I must confess I’ve never heard any of Shane’s previous discs. I didn’t know what to expect and had no frame of reference. I don’t usually go blind into these things but the album cover and the song titles pulled me in. The opening riffs and scorching slide of “49 YEARS” are menacing, mean and murderous; made in Hell, made in Heaven, made to make you dismayed. If Rob Zombie had a jug band it would sound like this. This is Captain Spaulding’s blues. He’s going to play this song while he chases you around the tunnels under his basement and you’ll like it. The song’s protagonist is spending “49 YEARS” in the pen and he’s not happy. Even the title is in CAPS; that’s mad. He’s got murdering in mind and you’ve got 49 MINUTES to live once he’s out. The sound is harsh, the percussion adds suspense, the shrieking slide and the howling harp add tension, and I’m pretty sure I heard finger-tapping around the 2:12 mark. If I never heard another song by this band I’d still consider them to be legendary. This might be the best blues song I’ll hear all year.

What’s really scary is the fact that all these sounds are made with jug band instruments. The band consists of Shane Speal on cigar box guitars, vocals and stomping foot, Ronn Benway on washboards, rubber chickens and stunts (stunts? I probably don’t want to know), Aaron Lewis on harmonica, vocals and confetti cannons, and Farmer Jon on electric washtub bass and high fives (for all those stunts, I suspect). The traditional instruments argument could be made from either side but these truly are traditional instruments. For ages humans have made music from re-purposed items. It’s the music that matters and the Snake Oil Band makes a glorious racket on their instruments of indeterminate origin. [+]