Little Death Shaker is the debut album from Raymond Byron & the White Freighter -- sort of. Raymond Byron is really Ray Raposa of San Diego's Castanets, and since that band featured a floating configuration of musicians and was always centered around Raposa's singing and songs, and since many of those same musicians are also present on this release, which is also centered around Raposa's singing and songs, Little Death Shaker is essentially a new Castanets album. There aren't any serious departures from Raposa's Will Oldham/Palace Brothers-styled dark, skewed, and eerie Americana here, either, although Raposa's songs on Little Death Shaker fall a shade to the more narrative side than the songs on his Castanets releases. It's all part of the same dark quilt. It's a wonderful quilt at times, though, and songs here like "Don't That Lake Just Shine," "Whipporwill," and "Stateline" are dark personal tales of desolation and a desperate search for redemption. At times they almost could pass for country, although they embrace a different kind of America, the kind one finds at all-night truck stops at 4 a.m. when all the dancing and drinking is over and there simply isn't anywhere else to go. That's the America Raposa inhabits in these songs, and it's the same place he's explored as the Castanets. Somehow it's comforting, if not exactly uplifting. Hope shines brightest in the darkest places. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi

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