Lou Shields and the high science of low fidelity


I met Lou Shields at a gig at the Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids, MI. Since then I have had the privilege of playing a 2nd gig with him in Chicago.

Immediately what struck a chord with me in regards to Lou’s musical approach, is that his sound is emblematic of what is at the core of “real” American music, meaning the rootsy, deep, raw music coming from the immigrants and early settlers that occupied this land. The sound is in the soil, in the air, radioactive and insinuating its way into the very atomic structure of your body.

For me, a major part of the attraction to Lou’s sound, is the driving, hypnotic quality that a lot of his tunes are built upon. A throbbing, humming, buzzing, sitar-like pulse… like some primordial mantra rising up from the depths of the collective consciousness of the American diaspora.

Another aspect of Lou Shields’ music that is notable is his combination of primitive percussion and loose sense of timing or phrasing. The harshness of the slide bottle clashing on guitar strings, a kick drum pedal pounding heartbeat rhythms on a 5 gallon bucket, broken skateboard decks stacked with rusty license plates and bolted on bottlecaps. Its the sound of an old Model T falling apart as it winds down a mountain road. A lineman’s tool belt falling off a ladder. The jailer’s keys striking the tumblers on the cell door locks.


His music embodies a certain honesty and humbleness that you only really encounter in people that never knew what it was like to have an easy life handed to them. People with dirt on their hands, worn out faces, hollow and hungry eyes, aching backbones know that sound… and so do you.


About analogmutant

art, music, food, movies, citizen journalism, activism, and whatever else i am into at the moment...
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