Chris MacKay and the Toneshifters

Chris MacKay and the Toneshifters
All Washed Up

self released

By Ms. Marci
September 2014

Zydeco now has a new name. It’s “Chris MacKay and the ToneShifters!” That is mostly, but not solely due to the innovative songwriting of singer/percussionist, Chris Mackay. He is joined by a fine troupe of musicians that include his wife Susan Mackay on accordion, Greg Colbath on guitar, Ben Perry on bass and Ron Adams on drums. His band members are truly “Toneshifters” in that they have taken typical Zydeco to another level. There are elements of roots Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly adding to the flavor of this recording. With exception of Adams, all of the band members join in on backing vocals.

Track one is the title track “All Washed Up” and begins with peppy guitar riffs that break down to a short passage of scatting bass and drums accented by subtle accordion and guitar. This recipe sets the table for humorous reflections of how life was and now is. “I remember back in the day, when everything was goin’ my way…now I’m pinchin’ pennies from the cookie jar…because I’m all washed up with no place to go!” This is a real dance tune. If you’re not at least moving in your seat, dial 911! I was truly impressed with the arrangement…not just the instrumentation but the backing vocals as well! The unique way this tune ended was unexpected, too!

The second cut, “Sour Grapes” takes the listener to another level with a rumba like rhythm. There’s one segment in the bridge of this song that made me hit the rewind button, “Spreadin’ lies and hatred all over town. You made your own bed, but you won’t lie down!” I thought about people I’ve known who I would like to say that to and I’m certain most listeners would feel the same. The chorus utilizes the classic expression, “Wine tastes sweeter when the grapes aren’t sour!”

Cut three changes mood again with melancholy music that would be expected of a song titled, “Teardrops Fall.” The forth cut literally changes tracks in “Go Speed.” The song opens with slide guitar riffs that imitate the sound of a race car going thru the gears to top speed. The guitarist maintains that passion in his solo and throughout the song in sections. The tempo stays lively on the fifth cut, “Hard Times.” Chris MacKay muses about keeping your spirits up and showing kindness when times aren’t as sunny as they used to be. This song has another fine arrangement, with accents of bass and drums throughout the song. MacKay literally ends this tune on a high note!

Track six gets a little funky with syncopated instrumentation, accent on the bass and drums. I think anyone who is aware of the reality that Father Time chases us all of our lives will identify with the sentiments of this song. As he ends this tune, MacKay dares Father Time to, “Come on an’ catch me!”

Cut seven, “Picture On The Fridge,” is a lively 12-bar blues. There’s nothing too profound in the lyric department. Frankly, this song doesn’t need that element. It’s just a playful song about how, “All I’ve got left is your picture on the fridge!” Once again, the arrangement is the shining star. There are genuinely enjoyable vocal call and response trade-offs!

Track eight is another playful up-tempo tune, singing the praises of “Lena.” The chorus made me chuckle as MacKay declares in one passage that, “She's the apple of my eye," and then returns with, “When she’s not rotten to the core, she’s the one that I adore!” I must say, there were times that I thought he may have been referring about a pet, as he punctuates the songs with the words, “Oh, Lena, you’re drivin’ me crazy, you’re a bad girl!”

The next to last cut on this disc, “Can’t Tie me Down” has a jazzy, blues groove with a moderate up-tempo meter. The chorus has a catchy hook using the song title and well orchestrated vocal harmonies. As you might have guessed from the lyrics in the chorus, this is a song about breaking loose from the everyday burdens and hitting the passing lane of life.

The final cut, “Shakin” possesses a style that diverts from the rest of this offering. It builds slowly on the intro, and then breaks into a hypnotic sound in a minor scale and a NOLA approach to the arrangement. It makes you want to give this man a mojo hand because the woman he’s tooting about sure put a spell on him! She “Sends those shivers up an’ down my spine, feels all prickly like a porcupine. I’m shakin!”

Overall, this CD has the quality of a recording arranged and performed by serious, professional musicians. I enjoyed it very much and think that if you like music that takes you on a journey, you’ll enjoy it, too!

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