Monday, September 19, 2022

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown - Shake The Roots

Methinks Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown have made a good decision with Shake The Roots - to shake things up and dial things down.  They sound right at home getting back to basics and bluesing it up on several of the tracks here, like they’re on the back porch with a jar of hooch and keeping it loose and, yes, rootsy.
Take the opener ‘Bare Bones’ – a foot-stomping, tripping, shuffling, handclapping basic blues, its rhythmic value enhanced by little more than some damn fine harmonies and a nifty slide break expedited on a resonator six-string very like the one Tyler Bryant is wielding on the album cover, I’m guessing.  And they double down on this approach with the following ‘Ain’t None Watered
Cheerful chappies Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown go on a roots-shaking outing
Down’, which is even more down-to-earth and reflective, though with more weight to its chorus, and guitars more electric and fuzzy.
There’s a toughness to ‘Roots’, but drummer Caleb Crosby continues to hit the sweet spot, here with a swing to the stop-start rhythm, fluidity on the chorus, and weight when they ramp things up.  There’s forceful rhythm guitar work, and some sparky guitar licks strewn around.  But most of all it’s a grabber of a tune, with some light and shade and a good lick that they ram home with conviction.  Meanwhile ‘Hard Learned’ is atmospherically subdued, majoring on moaning, bendy blues guitar notes and Bryant’s measured, expressive voice.  It’s somewhat of a boyish voice to be sure, and some ol’ geezer with more grizzle to his vocal chords could undoubtedly bring more heft to these tunes, but kudos to young Bryant for giving it his best.
When they decide to get heavy things are more mixed.  ‘Ghostrider’ is Aerosmithy slam-thump, and lacks the kind of swing they bring elsewhere, even if the soaring harmonies and scrabbling guitar break add some seasoning.  ‘Shackles’ is better, subterranean heavy and ominous, with bass (also courtesy of Bryant) way down at the bottom end, and a false ending heralding some crashing chords.  It could probably still do with a tad more subtlety for my taste, but sod that when it comes to the following ‘Off The Rails’.  Here, friends, we have an off-the-hook, turbocharged rocker that whizzes out of the speakers and thumps into your head like an arrow into a bullseye.
They continue to vary the menu though, as ‘Good Thing’ opens in creeping, twanging fashion before gradually flexing its muscles around a strong melody.  ‘Sell Yourself’ features some good, rubbery riffing and interesting use of dynamics to hold the attention, packing quite a bit into three minutes.  Then they ease off with ‘Tennessee’, all breezy acoustic guitar, skipping drums – Crosby again hits the nail on the head behind the skins – and some long, easy, slithers of slide. It’s a laid back, old-fashioned bluesy kinda tune, with Bryant sounding happy as Larry vocally, and no wonder with his missus Rebecca Lovell of Larkin Poe adding her own brand of fairy dust on backing vocals.
They crank things up again for ‘Sunday No Show’, which is heads down, jolting blues rock set to a ‘We Will Rock You’ drum rhythm, with a sassy vocal from Bryant and some twiddling slide as further embroidery.  And they close with some down-home, upbeat blues boogie in the form of ‘Midnight Oil’, which they keep agile rather than making it lead heavy.
That nimbleness of approach is a large part of the charm of Shake The Roots, in contrast to the overly rigid ‘Ghostrider’.  With less excess weight and more sprightliness - and some strong songs - Bryant and The Shakedown have fashioned an album that casts their rootsiness and blues feel in a very positive light.  Shaking dem roots suits, guys.
Shake The Roots is out now on Rattle Shake Records.

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