Monday, November 08, 2004


I'm very excited to finally have something to write about that actually came out this year, though I'm planning to plunge back into the nostalgia later this week.

Meanwhile, The Shebrews is the slightly dumb name taken by a team consisting of one ex-Legendary Jim Ruiz Group chanteuse named Stephanie Winter-Ruiz, a guy named John Crozier who's been in a number of bands that I've managed to miss completely, and their friends from Minneapolis (including Jim Ruiz). I've no doubt that Gail O'Hara owns every release by everyone involved in this project, which has been kicking around for years releasing the odd track here and there.

The new mini-album is called Off With Their Hearts and the label's website is here. Right off the bat, I can recommend this to anyone who likes the Would-Be-Goods approach to 60's styles (one of the weakest tracks on this album is a cover of a Would-Be-Goods track called I Want Cand...I mean Motorbike Girl). On the other hand, the Shebrews are less mannered, or foppish or...god, I don't know. It's not like they're out there playing Motorhead covers, but they're not quite as effete as the W-B-G's. It's a matter of shading that's hard to convey.

I can't exactly pick a typical track, as the styles are varied. There's a nice cover of Ray Davies' This Strange Effect, a very Jim Ruiz/loungy sounding track sung in French, a gentle Marine Girls/Tracey Thorne/EBTG homage, a surprisingly Scarlet's Well-sounding song, etc. If you're recognizing the names I'm dropping, you're probably already convinced. For the uninitiated, it's a relatively non-kitschy trip through some of the more "sophisticated" pop styles of the 60's, though without period production. Probably not for the people who came here for Zoogz Rift.

My favorite track is the lead-off Turning Red (bookending an album that ends with Turning Blue), which features much bigger production than the rest of the CD. It's also more melodically interesting than most things of this sort that I hear. I'd like to post a second track for balance, but there are only eight songs total, so that seems excessive. I think at this point you know if the record is for you.

The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group are probably now best known because [hick accent] "I saw this great movie called Oh Brother Where Out Thou and I ordered the soundtrack from Amazon and got this weird CD with a bunch of white bread city kids singing about their car." Apparently sales of the LJRG's first album (which pre-dates the movie) saw a real spike due to not-so-swift Amazon customers.

I've never been able to make up my mind about Jim Ruiz and his Group. Whenever I hear their CD, I have to look over my shoulder to check and see if Whit Stillman is DJ'ing. Kind of like The Jazz Butcher at times, but sounding more Republican, they pull off a very well-done take on some occasionally dubious genre exercises. I've seen their songs posted on other mp3 blogs, but never my favorite which succeeds with a swirly chorus and an odd lyric about a party that Jim found boring. Here's Glad They're Gone, which gets better and better and better as it goes along. And here's a pretty detailed article on Jim and his bands.

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