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Marv Ellis Gets Shook

Marv Ellis. Photo by Todd Cooper.
Marv Ellis. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Garrick Bushek, aka Marv Ellis, is perhaps Eugene’s most famous emcee. And despite a move to Portland, Ellis is once again living in Eugene and remains a popular attraction on local stages, with locals remembering his days with hometown hip-hop group Genus Pro. Eugene has stayed loyal to Ellis as he’s grown and expanded his definition of hip hop, integrating a broad range of styles into his sound, and Ellis returns the loyalty to Eugene, continuing to bring a little something special to shows in his hometown.

Another favorite on Eugene stages is Portland’s twin-sister folk duo Shook Twins. Shook Twins play a quirky update on traditional roots music: sibling harmony, banjo, mandolin and guitar mixing to create something fun and modern — they sing songs about microchips, imaginary windows and the ’60s. So I let out a big “What the whaaa?!?” when I saw the Twins are joining Marv Ellis at the McDonald Theatre, the only apparent common denominator being a loyal local crowd in Eugene.

Turns out the Shook Twins appear on Marv Ellis’ latest release Shadow Means Light, their angelic harmonies backing up Ellis’ rhymes and supplying the chorus hook on the album’s title track. Really this pairing shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Ellis’ broad appetite for music. Lyrically, Ellis is still searching: for his masterpiece, for hip hop as a true art form, interested in integrity and moody imagery. Occasionally his rhymes are a bit clumsy: “’Cause I transform like dust in the middle of a sandstorm; stand strong and be myself so I don’t get shelved like canned corn.”

But in the end this unlikely pairing works, the Shook Twins’ trance-like and repetitive take on folk blending well with hip hop’s repetition and Ellis’ samples of Spanish-flavored spaghetti western acoustic guitars, like on album opener “North Wild West.”

Marv Ellis and the Shook Twins play 7 pm Friday, Dec. 7, at McDonald Theatre; $10 adv., $15 door.