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Published: 2005/06/02
by Matt Brockett

[R]evolution – Moonshine Still


Ladies and Gentlemen, Moonshine Still has landed. [R]evolution, the second full-length studio album from the soul-stirring Macon, Georgia swamp-folk funksters cements them as a band built on a solid foundation of intelligent songwriting, tight musical chops, insightful lyrics, and powerful vocals. This is a band that has found their sound, and what a beautiful sound it is. There certainly is no shortage of bands out there, particularly jambands, that combine a wide variety of musical styles into something that is usually quite listenable and danceable, but Moonshine Still is one of the rare bands that have the ability and drive to take it to the next level. They have found their own perfect blend of elements of funk, rock, reggae, jazz, country, folk, bluegrass, gospel, and even a bit of electronica that combine to form the unique and instantly recognizable Moonshine Still sound.

The hallmark of Moonshine Still is incredibly accessible, well written, danceable, yet deep and heartfelt songs, full of the good the bad and the ugly that is real life, but also displaying an optimism that comes only with the wisdom gained through hard life experience. When Scott Baston passionately sings "This ain't no candy coated life, you'll find the struggle is your own," on "Weapons Or Words" the conviction in his voice implies that he is no doubt speaking from experience, and the song has the feeling of a sobering reality with a bright glimmer of hope. In fact, his voice is so earnest and full of honesty and emotion, that even when hes singing seemingly lighthearted lyrics, like on "Test Baboon Pt. I & II" you would swear he's dropping some seriously heavy knowledge. But in reality the heaviness of "Maybe I'll be the test baboon that flies, that flies, that flies around the moon," is well debatable.

On®Evolution parts of the "Mr. Munson" bassline evoke memories of Sublime, the opening track "Warming Up" could arguably be compared to Rusted Root in a few parts, and the ska jump up feel of "Major/Minor" sounds like evidence of a Clash fan or two among the band members. Traces of various musical influences can be heard throughout the album, but refreshingly, they are just that, influences, and nowhere on the album does Moonshine Still ever sound like anyone other than themselves.

The exploratory yet tight neo-funk at the core of Moonshine Still is made even more engaging thanks to the soulful vocal delivery of Baston, and the sometimes creeping, always booty-shaking keyboard journeys of Trippe Wright. Wright's playing and the various effects he uses help to give the album a bit of a space exploration feel, even more so than songs about test baboons flying around the moon. The bubbling tar pit funk of Wright's keyboards on "Labrea" is irresistibly boppy, and like most of their live versions of this song it is tight, packed with energy, and relatively short.

For®Evolution, Moonshine Still tapped the production talents of Robert Hannon, who won a Grammy for his work on OutKast’s commercial smash-hit Speaker Boxxx/Love Below. Surely no one is expecting "Stackin’ Stones" to be this year’s "Hey Ya!" but Hannon has done a commendable job of bringing out the many facets of Moonshine Still’s sound in a way that makes them accessible to a wider audience, without ever compromising the true soul. He has taken an incredible live band and recorded them in such a way so that they sound crisp, clear, and sincere, and most importantly, they sound like themselves, not some slick overproduced commercially successful evil twin.

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