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Album Review

Shiner is a little less country inflected than some of Swinging Steaks' other albums, reducing the twang and maintaining the fiery roots rock performances of their sharply crafted, hook-laden songs. The band is particularly adept at balancing the immediacy and authenticity of acoustic instrumentation with well-placed jolts of electricity. The high-watt chorus of the opening "All in This Together," for instance, explodes out of the laid-back verses, linked by a catchy electric guitar riff and a (strangely) uncredited harmonica solo. Likewise, "This Kind of Love" benefits from a ringing acoustic rhythm guitar foundation embellished with catchy electric licks and warm Hammond organ. "Lonely Man" is even more effectively produced, throwing in a mandolin performance by co-frontman Jamie Walker. As usual, Walker shares songwriting, guitar playing, and lead vocal duties with Tim Giovanniello. The two are extraordinarily compatible, though Giovanniello's songs on Shiner tend to be a little less mature and consistent than his partner's. "Roadside" and "Standin' Alone" are particularly weak offerings, bogged down respectively by swagger and sentimentality. Giovanniello's "Wait 'Til the End" and "Come My Way," however, are two of the best songs on the album. Shiner was co-produced by Chris Lannon, and this, too, seems to be a winning partnership; the recordings and arrangements are generally crisp and effective. A few songs would have benefited if the producers had toned down the electric firepower, but fans who want to hear more of the Steaks' unplugged virtuosity can find it on their next album, Bare.


Formed: 1990

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Paul Kochanski (vocals, bass) and Jamie Walker (vocals, guitar) first played together in the early '80s for a Boston-based band named the Drive. Local acclaim and a first-place finish on MTV's The Basement Tapes didn't prevent the band from breaking up in 1989. The Swinging Steaks were formed soon after, when Kochanski and Walker recruited Tim Giovanniello (vocals, guitar) and Jim Gambino (vocals, piano, organ); they later picked up the Del Fuegos' drummer, Joe Donnelly, when that band folded. The...
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Shiner, Swinging Steaks
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