Primus mastermind Les Claypool never rests. There’s always a tour, or a guest appearance, or a new side project on tap. His downtime is spent authoring books or writing screenplays. And there’s also the constant business of running his boutique wine company, Claypool Cellars. For a man who could’ve easily said “fuck it” and cashed royalty checks for the rest of his life, this relentless entrepreneurialism is admirable (and overwhelming). Yet, despite his best efforts, Claypool’s modern relevancy wanes as he’s faced with cultural transition and the conflict that confronts every aging artist: Is there any creative urgency left in these copious endeavors?
In typical Claypool fashion, his wry non-answer to that question comes in the form of Duo de Twang, a countrified acoustic side project with guitarist Bryan Kehoe. Their debut album, Four Foot Shack, is as unpretentious as it gets: 15 tracks of covers, old standards, and revisited Claypool tunes played with acoustic instruments, foot-stomp percussion, and zero overdubs.
It’s a treat hearing Primus classics such as “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” stripped down and presented as southern porch music, with Claypool slapping and plucking his strings as only he can. But the charm is pure novelty and wears off over multiple listens. Such is the inherent nature of most re-recorded songs. Renditions of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box” are similarly entertaining, encapsulating all of Claypool’s zaniness, but again, they don’t have much longevity outside the initial shock and humor of hearing the songs turned on end.
Your enjoyment of Four Foot Shack comes down to how long you can tolerate Les Claypool’s shtick. Because that’s all there is: 57 minutes of his strange vocals and virtuosic slaps. The whole thing sounds like it could’ve been conceived and recorded in a matter of hours, and Claypool is irreverent enough to pull such a stunt. Its shortcomings are fundamental — too long, too repetitive, too reliant on novelty — though hardcore fans will dig the spontaneity and candor.
Essential Tracks: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”, “Stayin’ Alive”