Midweek Music Break: Shook Twins, “Rose”

[No, I don’t know what the deal is with the egg. Clearly this is either (a) a sisterly in-joke or (b) an object of powerfully mystical significance. Maybe a little of both.]

Simply presented with the lyrics to The Shook Twins’ song “Rose,” absent the music, a discerning reader might figure it as some sort of magical-realist allegory of a girl’s growing up, discovering what it meant to be herself, and casting off convention to leave childhood (and home) behind. The free-flowing, unstructured lines, absence of consistent rhyme and meter, phantasmagorical imagery — it all suggests something crafted in the 1960s by, oh, say, Donovan:

(The Shook Twins)

Rose was born in the country but she dreamt of the sea
She lives with the best friend of a cobbler’s son
Where they take care of their own

She walks freely through the farm missing feathers from her plume
Pushed from the flock she knows so she eats alone
Best friend on her own
And does she know that she has a soul?
And does she know where we all go?

Rose tucks her head in dark feathers to keep from the storm
She sits silent on the front porch watching it all go
And the fire burns
And the garden grows
And the children play
Through the orchard’s moans

One day Rose left her porch and found the water running free
She jumped right in, tucked her feet and took that river to the sea
How does she know where we all go?
And how does she know that she has a soul?

[Lyrics reproduced here courtesy of the Shook Twins.]

And check out that picture at the top of this post. Mirrors, lantern light, floral-print dresses, long straight hair, the egg: more evidence, right? It’s not hard to imagine the Twins as feminist-folkie sorceresses embodying the spirits of Flower Children.

But hold on — what about the music? From the Bio page at their site:

Shook Twins are not your average folk duo. The sisters, Laurie and Katelyn, have some tricks up their sleeves.

You wouldn’t expect a small town girl from North Idaho (Sandpoint) to drop a beatbox in the middle of a song. Katelyn plays the guitar, glockenspiel, mandolin, sings opera into a telephone… Laurie plays wah-wah banjo, bass, ocarina, percussion and loops various melodies and beats to make it sound like more than just two identical twin sisters. Together they sing in twin harmony, which is a whole different experience from non-twin harmony.

Their sound is sculpted from the artists who inspired them most such as: The Beatles, Ani DiFranco, Joni Mitchell, Feist and Bjork.

Oh my. Wait until you hear all this swirled together with those lyrics… and see the Shook Twins in action.

Right. In the Twins’ conception, Rose isn’t a dreamy young woman standing at the end of a jetty with fog swirling around her while elves braid her hair. Rose is a chicken. Not exactly the stuff of conventional spooky-New-Age song, is it? I love the crazy skewed exuberance of that performance, the sense of messing about with a nutty song while stamping it all over with idiosyncratic musical virtuosity. It’s hard not to like artists who wink at themselves with such self-confidence, y’know?

(And yeah: there’s the egg — again.)

They’re still at a fairly early point in their career, as things go, so they’ve got plenty of time to establish just what a typical Shook Twins song might sound like. On the evidence of their Window album, released this past April, the lovely — and yes, haunting — “Shine On” might fall closer to the mark:


[Hat tip once again to Beat Surrender, this time for pointing me to the Twins in the first place. I’ve gotta stop this. People are gonna start thinking of RAMH as some kind of unofficial Beat Surrender annex.]


P.S. In the quotation from the Twins’ Web site, I omitted a phrase from the list of Katelyn’s musical, er, talents: …and bocks like a chicken. Didn’t want to blow the surprise. :)

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  1. If they sing about a chicken, the egg makes perfect sense. But which came first?

  2. “…feminist-folkie sorceresses embodying the spirits of Flower Children.” And what a joy to watch them! I can’t remember how, but I stumbled upon these two sorceresses (maybe it was a music blog) not long ago and was blown away by their beautiful harmony and entirely unique sound. And of course, there was that banjo taking center stage.

    Talented twins they are. And the egg, well, who knows, all sorts of meaning may be wrapped up in that egg, not to mention the most obvious–that is their identity as identical twins, together and separate from one another–twins born of the same egg destined to spontaneously split into two distinct but very much alike beings. (But, duh, I’m sure there’s more to it than that.)

    Their career is just being hatched… I’ll bet we don’t see any egg on their faces! Looking forward to more…

    (One who caws like a bird understands the other who bocks like a chicken. ;) )

    • That’s right — I forgot about your avian proclivities!

      Nice interpretation on the twinly egg thing; never even occurred to me. (That’s MY duh! moment.) And yeah, I was hoping you’d like the banjo too. :)

      Btw, I added a new category to my blogroll here: “Music News/Resources.” Any suggestions? The ones I’ve included there are the ones I keep going back to, and back to, and back to… but I’m always willing to look at new ones. (Invitation extended not just to Jayne but to anyone else reading this comment, btw.)

      • John – I think my egg observation falls under the “Motherly” category. An instinctual reaction.

        And more to explore.. will be looking at your new category… ;)

        • Boy, did I ever get sidetracked over at AV Club. A photo of Colin Meloy is on the home page with the caption “Most inexplicably popular songs” under it. (!)
          And below Meloy’s photo is a not so flattering review of my cousin’s son’s (Robbie Guertin) latest release w/his band Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah. Adding AV to my reader. :)

          Every now and then I’ll check out soapnix.com. They don’t update often, but there’s some interesting music there.

  3. I am bewitched! By knees and hair and bocks and socks and those certain tightly engineered curves at the corners of wry, twinnish lips. I wish I’d been the next door neighbor to the Shook girls, growing up–the one they let sit on one of the twin beds and bounce up and down in silent, gleeful support.

    Magpie’s already snatched this one away to take home (I’ve gotta stop this. People are gonna start thinking of Magpie as some kind of thief of RAMH, the unofficial annex of Beat Surrender. Or, just another party to the Interweb, one with good taste.)

    • After the music itself, those sister-to-sister looks back-and-forth are my favorite thing about the video. Something very infectious (to me) about the silent crackling of the air between one sibling and another, at least when the siblings in question get along great. (As seems to be true of the Shooks, and as I know to be true of me and my own sibs.)

      If I’d known the Shook Twins growing up, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been afraid of them.

  4. Randy Fecundity says:

    I think in the song “Growing Things” they have a musical saw as well. I’m going to go look into it. Either that or it is some sort of “technology” that sounds like a musical saw.

    • Hey there Randy. I’m assuming you refer to the musical breaks at around 1:30 and 2:50 into the song. Looked around online and found one discussion at the Radio Paradise site in which a handful of participants go back and forth on the question of whether it’s a saw or a theremin (yowza). (Note: posts at that forum seem to be in reverse chronological order — read from bottom up.)

      Also came up with a YouTube video of them a couple years ago, performing “Growing Things” at a string festival. No saw or theremin in evidence there, just (!) a plain old cello:

      I’ll see if I can learn more and if so, I’ll post the answer here. Thanks for stopping by.

      Btw, I have to admit that your nickname gave me pause. Please tell me that it is in fact a nickname and not something I’d actually see on your birth certificate.

    • Randy, you’ll be happy to know that the mystery is solved. In an email from Laurie Shook, she said, “It is indeed a musical saw. And it’s played by Joey Goforth.”

      Straight from the horse’s mouth, and you heard it here first. :)

      (Thanks, Laurie, if you’re reading this! Or even if you’re not!)

  5. lyrics of the song “growing things” please

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