At some other tavern.
White Water Tavern, Oct. 21*
Wednesday night at White Water, Seattle’s Lonesome Shack wooed the scant audience with anachronistic spooky blues. Singer and guitarist Ben Todd shaped his shtick playing solo, as evinced by his homemade foot-percussion box, but for the last year, drummer Kristian Garrard has accompanied him, playing stuff you’re more likely to hear on salvaged 78s than from the instruments of West Coast hipsters.
As much as one might bristle at the thought of two skinny white boys playing old man blues, there is something to be said for their studied appreciation and enthusiasm without affect. Todd’s self-described “primitive stomp-thing,” is a repurposed washboard wired with a cheap pick-up. He admitted it’s not of much use now with Garrard’s whispering snare, but Todd relies on the box as a platform for his almost nervous toe tapping. He employed a few old bluesman tricks: singing along to his licks; fat, fuzzy plucking; and mumbly, barely-decipherable vocals. Garrard played mostly with brushes, and when he did pick up drumsticks it was not without first muffling his snare with a cotton T-shirt. The percussion was impressively precise and subdued, the small bass drum sounding at times like knuckles hitting the side of a boxcar wall.
As a hushed and strangely intimate kind of show, Lonesome Shack is faithful to their name: aesthetically distant, unpretentious and full of lyrics of restless isolation. Amusingly, with no Southern roots to speak of, their blues is not pandering, but poetically devoted to that fading Americana sound.