From the opening kick drum and high hat beat you can tell that The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones is going to be dirty if nothing else. And like a blow job in the bathroom at a dive bar it delivers on being nasty in all the right ways. When Lincoln Durham starts in with the slide guitar and grinding out his vocals it becomes apparent that this kid has some miles on him. He writes lyrics in which you will find very little redemption but with the right whiskey you might find catharsis. Even if you aren’t looking to head down a whiskey soaked path of introspection this album will draw you in to its visceral and gritty stories. There’s something about the way Lincoln Durham tells a story that just makes you want to pay attention.
The lyrics and music are just plain intense and when you mix that with Ray Wylie Hubbard and George Reiff’s production you get an album that is done right in so many ways that others aren’t. The music retains its grit and unpolished feel while still being mixed and produced extremely well. You can feel Ray Wylie’s influence throughout the album which isn’t a bad thing and at the same time the sound is completely Lincoln’s own. Listening to him abuse his guitar you would never know that, in his youth, Lincoln was a champion fiddle player throughout Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas but you can tell that his roots are in the south by the way he writes. This album defies genre and the music is timeless. It’s not hard to imagine the music on this one coming off a of a 45 in the jukebox of a dive bar in ’50s or pouring over the speakers in your local dive tomorrow night. It’s a rare jewel these days that comes across this strong.
The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones is Essential Listen without any doubt. I hope this kid can keep up the intensity that he has shown on this album in his future efforts. It’s not like the stripped down blues is a new thing ’round these parts: Seasick Steve, Scott H. Biram, The Reverend Payton’s Big Damn Band, Poor Boy’s Soul and no doubt some others keep us covered pretty well but Lincoln Durham has earned his place here on 9B among those beloved names. If he keeps this up I, for one, will keep singing his praises and wishing I could sing them with the grit and gravel that Lincoln gives us in his vocals.