North Carolina singer Sarah Shook drowns her sorrows in booze but rages with punk fury | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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North Carolina singer Sarah Shook drowns her sorrows in booze but rages with punk fury

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There’s not much out of the ordinary about Sidelong, the 2015 debut by North Carolina singer Sarah Shook—recently reissued by Bloodshot Records—but few things are more renewable than jacked-up twang fueled by heartbreak and loneliness. Her powerful voice may be punctuated a bit too often by goatlike trills and hiccups, but its intensity is undeniable. On “The Nail” she assails a lover in a dysfunctional relationship because she’s incapable of pulling the trigger to end things herself, ruing, “I can’t decide which one of us will be the nail in this here coffin.” In song after song alcohol blunts pain and blurs judgment—“Dwight Yoakam” opens with the line “I’m drinking water tonight ’cause I drank all the whiskey this morning”—but the real focus is on the vivid variations of old-school betrayal, jealousy, and deceit that are spit out with sobering candor (she indicts herself as much as those she’s lashing out against). Shook and her band the Disarmers give two-beat honky-tonk an in-the-red thrashing, recalling the desperation of go-for-broke 80s bands like Rank and File, Raging Fire, and Jason & the Scorchers more than the alt-country torchbearers of today.   v

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