Long before Billy Bob Thornton was Lorne Malvo on FX’s Fargo or Willie in Bad Santa, or acting at all for that matter, he was a a total music geek. The Arkansas-bred actor began as a drummer and ultimately cut his chops as a vocalist before forming his band The Boxmasters. Now, Thornton is a champion of rock music that plumbs the depths of southern gothic vibes, which is why he appears as a guest narrator on Legendary Shack Shakers forthcoming album, The Southern Surreal.
Thornton knows how to make you squirm. His personas and characters work their way into your nail beds and leave you deeply uncomfortable. His guest appearance on “The Dog Was Dead”harnesses an off-putting delivery that complements the Shack Shaker’s disquieting version of Appalachian rock music. For those who are squeamish, the above track will be a rough listen–essentially Thornton narrates the immediate events and details that lead him to putting a dog out of its misery. As Thornton explains himself, the twisting, ringing guitars of the Shack Shakers contextualize the tale as a kind of ghost story–the kind of horrible fable that might exist specifically as a regional legend. The Shack Shakers have been described as Appalachian horrorocore, and though the entirety of their great new album feels haunted, “The Dog Was Dead” might be the most succinct conceptual summary of everything the band is about. check it out above.
The band’s frontman J.D. Wilkes (a legend in his own right), briefly explained how the track with Thornton came to be:
“Shooter Jennings’ late manager Jon Hensley introduced me to Billy Bob a couple years back. We all met in LA to discuss a separate project, another concept album. Well, turns out Billy was already a fan of the Shack Shakers and knew my bassist, Mark Robertson. We struck up a mini-friendship and would talk on the phone from time to time, mostly about books and southern storytelling. I asked if he’d submit a story for The Southern Surreal and a few weeks later we got “The Dog Was Dead”. It’s a southern gothic vignette that’s less about gore and more about mercy. Shack Shaker/Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison came in and gave us the great Sling Blade-inspired music bed. It’s a powerful combination that delivers an emotional experience, for sure.”
Agreed. Be sure to pick up the Shack Shakers new album The Southern Surreal when it drops on September 11.