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Les Claypool's Duo de Twang: Four Foot Shack

 

Originally formed as an one-off for San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Les Claypool's Duo de Twang is a rootsy, countrified experiment, but one that's no less strange for its supposed conventionalism.

Despite telling Rolling Stone the duo is his "fuck-off vacation band," the berserk genius Claypool reveals both a willingness to play without a net and a new depth to his musical sensibilities.

With Claypool on twang bass and old friend Bryan Kehoe on guitar, the Duo de Twang takes on covers (both old and new) and several Primus tunes.

The frantic "Boonville Stomp" is the album's most Primus-like moment, while "The Bridge Came Tumblin' Down" (by Stompin' Tom Connors) finds the duo at its most traditional.

Claypool and Kehoe absolutely transform the Bee Gee's "Stayin'Alive," playing up the Everyman struggle of the lyrics, without losing the catchiness.

The best part of well-known songs like "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" and "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" (and the utterly bizarre version of Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box") is the hillbilly funk in Kehoe's guitar work. In that regard, it truly is a duo, with Claypool stepping aside almost as often as he rides the spotlight.

At 15 songs Four Foot Shack is a little bloated ­­— the spaghetti Western-esque "Pipe Line" and the meandering "Henderhot" could've been fleshed out or cut ­­— but the real take away from that is the welcome potential for another Duo de Twang project. 

Four Foot Shack may not be the easiest listen, but it's an outstanding record, a fascinatingly strange hybrid from one of rock's all-time greatest weirdos. 

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