A great record has more than just well-written songs. It has more than quality production. A great record captures a moment perfectly; you can hear the emotion in every bended note and strummed chord. It seems natural, almost effortless, and just feels right.
For Movers & Shakers, Larrabee is that album. Recorded in a cabin in the woods of Maine, Larrabee meanders from Replacements-ish punk to Tom Waits' burlesque, to good old backwoods rock. It's as if the Band added a little dirt and grit to their repertoire. From start to finish, Larrabee places you side by side with the band; you’re with them as they kick back some beers before laying down a track; you’re sitting with them on the porch of the cabin, looking out into the summer night; you take that shot of whiskey with them before they decide to add some trumpet blares to give “Boom Splat” its texture.
Opening with the almost gospel-themed “Adventures in an Unrealistic Life,” the Boston-based group explores all forms of Americana: gospel, soul, rock, country, punk -- it's all here. They transport you to another place and time, while still being able to sound fresh and relevant. In an age when music can become so digitized, Movers & Shakers reminds the listener what it’s like to become part of a record, to stay active and listen for the little things. Harmonies, claps, whistles, drunken mumbling all come through in subtle elegance on Larrabee. In another time Movers & Shakers would have been the mythical musicians roaming the South and Midwest playing in dance-halls and roadhouses. They are musicians that have honed their craft and reverted back to a sound of the past.
Simple in their execution, Movers & Shakers rely on the emotions emitted through their instruments and voices. On the ballad “Find a Reason,” a simple layered guitar intro leads to the soulful verse; “I've been reading all the headlines, quick as she come along she’ll be gone with the fireflies” cuts right to your stomach and you feel the ache. This is a song (and an album) to relieve the stresses of the modern world, to find solace in friends, beer, crappy bars and hard work. By the time the full band kicks in with a pounding shuffle, the song takes you away on a train (or so the lyrics say), relieving your pain in the process.
On “Bottom of the Ocean,” a song seemed to have been stolen straight from the vaults of the Band, mandolin and all, the group creates a country-rock depression, yearning for love, yet still knowing their faults can push it away. Closing with “Take Me Home,” Movers & Shakers instill a Memphis-soul sound that would make Alex Chilton proud. Mixed with the storytelling of Blake Schwarzenbach, this closer tells the tale of those downtrodden, working-class heroes that are constantly being rehashed. But instead of purely relating their depressed tales, there is a sense of a hope and gospel glory that is ready to sweep them away. Like all of Larrabee, “Take Me Home” embodies the idea that something better will come; maybe Movers & Shakers is that something.