Every now and again an artist capable of not just capturing the spirit of a bygone era but portraying it with uncanny authenticity and accuracy arrives, and in an era where music lovers seem increasingly ravenous for the real thing, Rick Shaffer and his band are precisely that act. On the album “Creatures of Impulse”, Shaffer transports listeners to a land where rock meets the blues, with a dirty, impulsive sound that proves both raw and visceral. Insistent guitar riffs, and heart rending vocal lines meet up with incessant foot-stomping rhythms. Shaffer’s vocals seem affected and urgent as he walks the line between garage and psychedelic jam-rock blues. These tracks unnerve the conscious mind with hard-edged grooves that originate from both the Hill Country blues of northern Mississippi and the Delta blues surrounding the Mississippi River. The struggle, strife, and promise, seems to live on in each primal drum beat and louder-than-loud bent guitar note on “Creatures of Impulse”. It is the sound of an era drenched with the sweat and blood of a generation on the verge of either victory or collapse. There couldn’t be a more relevant sound in 2018. Welcome to the new, old world!
From the moment “Cool My Fear” kicks the album off – guitars grind, roar and wail, like their souls are burning – driving the single-minded focus represented by Shaffer’s rough and rugged vocals. This fake music world tries to be too pretty, too sterile. Rick Shaffer adroitly manifests a brilliant sense of authenticity on “Flawed Perfection” with a driving, swampy intensity that will not be denied.
This is probably my favorite song on the album, and a track the Rolling Stones could cover most admirably. By the time you flip through the gallop of “Let Go” and “Stubborn Kind”, it becomes clear that this music has a rail of nostalgic intensity and atmospheric depth that keeps you engaged.
Rarely does an album allow you to comfortably play it from start to finish but with “Creatures of Impulse”. You never have to worry about being near a remote or the source of the music to skip past certain songs. The rhythms are hard (not fast); driving and pulsing. The sound is mesmerizing, hypnotic. There is a groove to the music and an equally effective vibe to the vocals. All of which come together brilliantly on the twangy “High and Low”.
The mid-tempo “All I Need” is another standout, just before the up-tempo jive swing of “Ride on Bay” sets in. “Cry Any Longer” falls back into the crunch of grinding blues. There is a depth of symbolism in some songs and a more overt meaning in others. And despite the fact they can best be loosely categorized as blues infected garage rock, there is a lot more going on.
This is one righteous album, the driving rhythms, melodic hooks and urgent vocals get under your skin and won’t let go. This is again clearly evident on “Fool’s Dream” and “In Front of You”. But then Rick Shaffer has deliberately mixed two distinct groups of sound into the album – the first group, which is described as “late sixties, early seventies crunchy blues grinders” and the second group detailed as “raucous, bluesy hill country swing”.
Of the two, I am particularly taken by the first group. These songs suit Shaffer’s voice and all-round demeanor to a tee. In fact I have never heard him sound better than he does on “Flawed Perfection” and “All I Need”.
Recorded in Como, Mississippi, in the northern part of the state, known as hill country, “Creatures of Impulse” is an album that has been begging Rick Shaffer to record it. It is the rocker’s ninth album, and in my personal opinion, the best album he has ever recorded…by far!
Vocally, instrumentally and authentically superior to anything he has previously done, “Creatures of Impulse” finds the founding member of the once famed Philadelphia band, The Reds, playing guitar, bass, harmonica, and additional percussion. An intoxicating dose of garage-rock that buzzes with booming age-old blues, this pulverizing compilation takes Rick Shaffer to the lofty levels of the legends he might once upon a time have idolized.