Album Remarks & Appraisals:
This album looks forward and back, of a group called Shrimp Boat who are destined to enliven our ideas of music. Driven by soul and poetry this is a record of proud solos and hypnotic ballads. Shrimp Boat is Ian Schneller, Sam Prekop (The Sea & Cake), David Kroll, Eric Claridge (The Sea & Cake) & Brad Wood. Originally issued by Specimen Products in an LP edition of 1000 copies in 1989. 2005 Aum Fidelity reissue.
"An almost-lost masterpiece of American songwriting, first released in '89 out of Chicago in a limited edition of a thousand vinyl copies, and otherwise unknown and unavailable until this CD edition, Speckly is on the face of it a strange album for AUM Fidelity to release. Not only is it a reissue, but it is in a completely different bag from nearly everything else on the label - rock 'n' roll with infusions of bluegrass, country, jazz, and a little blues and mariachi.
It turns out that Speckly fired AUM auteur Steven Joerg's imagination when he heard it by chance in '90, and he's wanted to put it out himself ever since. It's something of a prequel, because last year AUM released a four-CD box set of previously unavailable Shrimp Boat material under the title Something Grand, chronicling the band's existence from the mid-'80s until its breakup in '93.
So what does Shrimp Boat actually sound like when you come across it for the first time, like most of us will encounter it, sixteen years after it was recorded? I guess a little like The Band's music might have sounded back in the Big Pink basement. It's Arcadian, even if the guitars do sometimes sound like a cooled out "Sister Ray"; it's as American as apple pie, not to mention grits and burritos and gefilte fish, and it's running over with hummable hooklines and choruses. A mix of barnfloor stomping dance numbers, off-planet instrumentals, and sandman lullabies.
But this is AUM, so Shrimp Boat is also out there, and in a way that's different from any other band. The lyrics, for instance, are generally indecipherable, but it doesn't matter, because their meaning is in the sound, not the dictionary. And the horns, heard on about a third of the tracks, are something else again: Ian Schneller and David Kroll, fine guitarist and bass guitarist respectively, are technically challenged, if not frankly overwhelmed, trumpeter/saxophonists - they sound completely untutored, their techniques rudimentary, their tones rough-cut and their relationship to diatonic harmony in denial. But somehow that doesn't matter; it's done with such innocence and lack of guile. From the relatively straight banjo-led reading of "Shady Grove," the only non-original on the album, through to the mutoid hoedown of "Hyatt Ridge Circle Dance," dissonance sits happily with lush melody.
The original liner notes, written by Walter Andersons, are as quirky and engaging as the music itself. They relate that Shrimp Boat's material is "driven by soul and poetry (and) celebrates the imagination, the hallucinations and the dream... the music makes ease and virtuosity available to this time as if it happens ahead of us." So now you know. Oroonie.
There's something indefinably special and magical going on here, and it makes you feel good to be alive." -AllAboutJazz
Shrimp Boat: Eric Claridge, Sam Prekop, Ian Schneller, David Kroll.
Personnel: Sam Prekop (vocals, guitar); Ian Schneller (guitar); Brad Wood (organ).
Additional personnel: Brad Wood .
Audio Mixer: Brad Wood .
Liner Note Author: Walter Andersons.
Recording information: Idful Music, Chicago, IL (01/20/1989/01/22/1989).
Photographer: Dan K.
Arranger: Shrimp Boat.
Speckly is the CD reissue of Shrimp Boat's debut long-player issued on vinyl in 1989. It is chock-full of 14 songs that identify the notion of improvisation and outrageousness in a recording studio. Musical ideas are developed by each member of the band, more often than not on a slew of musical instruments from trumpet and saxophone to various stringed things to percussion and drums that try to keep the whole thing in line. Country music is played with counterpoint on "Planter's Song," which opens the bag, followed by a jagged, off-kilter bit of Americana obnoxiousness called "Seven Crows," which nonetheless lights up the listener's face with a smile because of killer guitar work by Sam Prekop. There is banjo poetry and Tom Waits-style percussion in a reading of the Appalachian ballad "Shady Grove," while the shimmering low-key elegiac pop of "Green Island" is taken out of its nest by outré jazz saxophones but remains firmly in the rock camp -- though it's pushed out on the ledge. What this amounts to is a music of impure intention and poetry, completely rooted in the American sonic maelstrom. There are no limits because the only thing sought is song itself, free of its various tattered heritages and recontextualized, not for the sake of fitting a new niche in the belt of the rock marketplace, and specifically not to be hemmed in or bolted to any rusty wall where openness of communication between musicians has produced dire seriousness as the end result. This is a glorious record -- it's wracked and wrecked; it stumbles, falls, and ultimately soars because of the joy inherent in its grooves. ~ Thom Jurek