Oregon Coast Music Review: Manzanita's The Cedar Shakes Debut Record
That old time Americana sound that started to rekindle and reignite with a punkish flair back in the 90's has gleefully returned with Manzanita trio The Cedar Shakes. Old country infused with a modern, urban vibe was in a trippy, time-traveling rebirth – especially in the Portland area – at the turn of the century, typified by alt country locals like The Starlings, Little Wendy or the almost-national Thrillbilly. Now, the Cedar Shakes have unearthed it again with a nice surrealistic jolt – and a vibe you'd expect from quirky, delightful Manzanita.
Earlier this summer they released a self-titled debut record.
Often, it's a cavernous, almost spooky sound: picture Johnny Cash returned from the grave and performing again, zombified, and writing with that perspective of an Undead American who's been to the after life and back – probably purgatory. At the same, psychedelic touches drape these seven trippy tunes. Big reverb on a twangy, eerie guitar meet major reverb-laden vocals, creating a large, dense arrangement out of only three people.
Add to that touches of Pink Floyd or Brian Eno and you have a slightly jarring alt country experience that is definitely refreshing.
Titles like “Whiskey Still,” “Beer Cans & Bottle Rockets” or “Deer in the Road” paint a pastiche of Americana, imparting the music history portion of their unique style. But the looming, hollow sound and eerie aspects seem to answer the question: What if Roxy Music formed a country band with a resurrected Johnny Cash?
Yet in the end, the sound is so very Manzanita – if you know the vibe of the town. Fun, a bit twisted, and certainly relaxing, with a very rural, forested side.
The production quality and tightness of the band is not what you get with a lot of Portland outfits, and certainly national acts. But that is part of what makes it work so well.
The Cedar Shakes is comprised of Travis Champ on drums, James Greenan on bass and Bunny Frost on guitar and vocals. Frost (who owns the local espresso shop in Manzanita) wrote the tunes, and sometimes he sounds like an otherworldly Cash, or even Jim Morrison with hints of Jello Biafra's attitude – but in this strangely relaxed way. The CD is available at Manzanita Espresso – and it's also for sale as an LP. How retro is that?
There are actually seven songs on the record, not just the four whose titles are mentioned on the cover.
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