By Anthony Dean-Harris | Published January 2022
Sharkskin, the sophomore release from the Acme Jazz Garage, feels like it’s trying to do a lot, but only passably well. The album feels less like a concert of inspired takes on standards and tropes and more like a night out at a cheap bar with a cover band, seemingly fulfilling every bit of their garage band name.
It’s an album with occasional high points that only highlight how anodyne other moments become. Moments like Pat Close and Michael Washington’s percussive “Rumba Jam” breathe fresh air into entire sections of stagnancy.
Is this rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Watching The River Flow” anything more than aggressively fine? Was this milquetoast version of “Nature Boy” even necessary? What’s exactly so “deluxe” about “Phil’s Blues Deluxe”? It certainly has the feel like it’s selling the listener on something more than what they’re actually getting. The “Springs Piano Interludes” interspersed throughout the album maintain a thematic throughline that ties these songs together into an overall suite, as if to say that all the bad of this must come with the good.
Ultimately, Sharkskin has all the soul of a side project that can play in the background and please a generally uncritical crowd. It’s certainly more than enough for a garage band.
Sharkskin: Sharkskin Suit; Watching The River Flow; Rumba Misterioso; Rumba Jam; Springs Piano Interlude, No. 1; Phil’s Blues Deluxe; When October Goes; Springs Piano Interlude, No. 2; Nature Boy; Springs Piano Interlude, No. 3; Mercy Mercy Mercy; Sharkskin Suit (Radio Edit). (62:28)
Personnel: Matt Swenson, guitar; Bryan Lewis, piano (1, 3, 5–8, 10, 12), Hammond B-3 organ (2, 6–7, 9, 11) synthesizer (1, 12); Philip Booth, double bass (2–11), bass guitar (1, 12), French horn (1, 7, 12); Pat Close (1, 3–4, 6, 12), Dave Reinhardt (2, 7, 9, 11), drums; Michael Washington, congas and percussion (1, 3–4, 7, 9, 12); Jeremy Powell, tenor saxophone (9); Christian Taylor Ryan, baritone saxophone (9); Peggy Morris, flute (3); Imperial Polk Horns (6): Rick Runion, tenor saxophone; Christian Taylor Ryan, alto saxophone; Jen Peacock Ryan, trumpet; Alex Belliveau, trombone; Shelby Sol, vocals (2).
Ordering Info: acmejazzgarage.com