Sarah Shook and the Disarmers “Revelations”

Thirty Tigers, 2024

River Shook finely balances What it Takes.

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers "Revelations" album Art‘Talkin’ to Myself’ was the final track on the Sarah Shook and the Disarmers’ 2022 album ‘Nightroamer’. It was used over the opening credits for the Apple TV series ‘High Desert’ and it was the coolest thing about the show. River Shook now shares more inner dialogues on their fourth album ‘Revelations’. A collection of 10 tracks, self produced by the bandleader for the first time, that will be welcomed by those familiar with Shook’s songwriting. Mix in a more than competent band, Jack Foster’s drumming and Nick Larimore’s pedal steel enhance almost every track, and Shook has produced a fine album.

Writing for AUK, Richard Parkinson recently highlighted the imminent release of ‘Revelations’. He shared the promotional blurb that included Shook’s own reflections on the finished album. Recent singles ‘Backsliders’ and ‘Motherfucker’ were deconstructed. It’s worth a read and the documentary Richard mentioned, ‘What it Takes’, merits a watch. It is hard to warm to the Disarmers circa 2018 but it does record an interesting stage in this North Carolina artist’s development. Fast forward a few years and the band lineup has changed for the better, River has moved on. The weight of expectation seems to have been lifted.

On ‘Backsliders’ Shook sings: “Now I got one foot out the door and you’re still getting dressed/ Hate I can’t say no as easily as you say yes/ I’m a real piece of shit and you’re a vixen in a dress/ I thought we was movin’ on but I was wrong I guess/ Backsliders gonna backslide.”

Shook has not backslid. Lyrics on this album are still personal but are often intentionally enigmatic. Okay, ‘Motherfucker’ doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity. But other tracks on this album require some worthwhile scrutiny. There’s also a cohesiveness to the record. It is clever and each play brings rewards. And all the while, the listener is almost beguiled (disarmed?) by a band trusted to deliver. The importance of guitarist Blake J. Tallent throughout this album can’t be overemphasised.

It’s the middle chunk of this album however that’s brilliant. It starts with ‘Dogbane’ with the prophetic lines, “Well its lookin’ like the end of days/ If it ain’t underwater it’s ablaze.” At first ‘Stone Door’ might be a travelogue of a hike taken in Tennessee until the callous ending. “In my memory you’re so carefully erased.” The outstanding track is ‘Jane Doe’. It has the Drive by Truckers running through its soul and at Dead Man’s Curve. The song breaks your heart. “I’m a free myself from you if I have to freeze to death. And keep headed up this road, Lord, what would mama say. But preacher man says people can stand all our God given luck.”

Overall the album’s music feels imitative yet contemporary. Is there a whiff of optimism at the tail end of the album? A glimpse of happiness? “I got somethin’ to live for now/ I got lucky as hell somehow/ And it’ll be here when I come back around.” Sure, one can visualise the energy and ferocity Shook & the Disarmers will bring to these tracks in a live setting. You can easily imagine a mosh pit bouncing along to ‘You Don’t Get to Tell Me’. At the end of ‘What it Takes’ Shook haughtily declared: “I don’t measure my songs on how good they are. I measure them on how honest they are.” Well, the songs on ‘Revelations’ are genuinely honest and bona fide good.

Shook is charismatic, complex and no doubt still confrontational. “If lovin’ you will always be a crime/ I’ll always be a criminal.” But journeying on from the punk spirit of ‘Years’ and any residual cranked up defiance, Shook has become an accomplished songwriter. It feels like River Shook has found some inner peace but is still telling it like it is. ‘High Desert’ was axed at the end of series one. The release of this fine album and a big tour suggests Sarah Shook & the Disarmers will let their music do the talking for a bit longer.


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments