You run and you die or you stand and you fight

Our future looks grim, and it's all your fault. The media controls your mind, and they've sold you a meaningless world of corporate consumerism that is decimating the values and traditions of America. But you're too apathetic to notice.

Rage against the machine: Buck, former guitarist for Th' Legendary Shack Shakers, says he's at war against ignorance and apathy. Photo by Jason Cantrell.

"I'm at war," he shouts through the phone. "War against ignorance, war against apathy, war against people that want to kill any form of personal expression. So it's easy to find inspiration. Because they're everywhere."

He would prefer to be singing beautiful songs of love and peace. He doesn't want the apocalyptic predictions of his songs to come true. But, Buck says, he's obligated to write about what he sees. And Joe Buck sees some scary stuff.

"I know my music is really dark," he admits, "but if I had it my way I'd be playing the most beautiful, soaring music in the world glorifying God," he adds, unconvincingly. "That's not where it's at. So this is what you get. This isn't what I want to do. But this is what I have to do. It's the only thing I can do as an artist that makes me believe in it."

What you get is the wirey, scowling, mohawked one-man-band that is Joe Buck Yourself, the notorious former guitarist of Th' Legendary Shack Shakers. And this punk infused, demonic rock and country hybrid known as Hellbilly is unlike anything that's ever claimed a common ancestry with Hank Williams, who Buck cites as his "hero."

Verse after frantic verse find Buck – whose sunken face and piercing eyes look every bit the part of a doomsday prophet—doubling on guitar and bass drum, growling about drugs, demons, destruction and death. On tracks like "Demon in My Head," "Planet Seeth" and "I Want Revenge" Buck revels in the dark side, and it's hard to believe he isn't enjoying himself.
In fact, it's downright impossible. But again, Buck is quick to point out that the ultimate message is positive, sort of.

"A lot of times I write about bad shit that happens, but it's because bad shit happens to everybody. It's about how you handle it, whether you run and you die or you stand up and fight. I may paint a pretty dark picture, but at the end of it there's always somebody getting kicked in the face … and it ain't me."

In person, the songs are even more intense, as Buck rocks and sways to the pounding beat of his bass drum and snarls at the cheering crowds who scream along and pound their fists to his dire predictions of our looming demise. This is not the hokey spectacle of a one-man-band that initially comes to mind, the kind with an accordion and harmonica, wires running from a cluster of instruments to a guy in a bowler hat on the street corner. This is in-your-face, pure adrenaline, plain and simple. Buck, guitar and drum.

"You ain't seen nothing like this before," he insists. "I mean, there's one man bands and shit like that, but I make them look stupid. I kick band's asses. And it's like shooting fish in a barrel now, because bands all suck. Those other motherf—-ers don't believe what they're saying. They're playing at them. I play for them."

But Buck is no populist champion of the everyman. While his real beef is with the powers-at-be, he acknowledges the public's role in homogenizing American culture and allowing themselves to be duped. "There ain't no South left," he says regretfully. "No country values, no country morals, no country people.

"My people used to be the salt of the earth," Buck continues. "Now we're the f—-ing scum of the earth. They all waddle their fat f—-ing asses to the f—-ing McDonalds then waddle their asses to Wal-Mart to fill their carts up with all this benign shit, then they go put on their Toby Keith records to fill their minds with benign shit. I hate it. We're better than that."

Though it's sometimes hard to make it out within the doom and gloom of his lyrics, Buck still believes things can be salvaged. If he didn't, there'd be no point singing about it. And as long as there is hope, Joe Buck will be in your face screaming about it.

"As long as I feel effective and relevant I'll continue," Buck says. "But when the day comes I'm not, hopefully I'll know. And if I go past it, hopefully somebody will just put a bullet in my head because I couldn't do it myself."

Dane Smith can be reached at

who: Joe Buck Yourself
what: Bona fide evil one-man band
where: Stella Blue
when: Wednesday, Dec. 2 (9 p.m.


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2 thoughts on “You run and you die or you stand and you fight

  1. greenmonkey

    joe was also the bass player for hank III, and he hates the shack shakers. i bet dane didn’t ask joe about his opinion on the shack shakers, and why wasn’t hank mentioned?

  2. Rebecca Sulock

    Other news to note: The fabulously talented Kelly Barrow’s one-woman band Unitard will be opening for Joe Buck.

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