Friday, March 31, 2023

Quickies - Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, and t.Roy & The Smoking Section

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Dirty Work EP
Dirty Work finds Tyler Bryant and pals continuing along the down’n’dirty road they began to revisit on last year’s Shake The Roots album, and for the most also continuing to deliver the rootsy goods.
The opening ‘Strike’ certainly bodes well, an ominous instrumental vignette that’s all spooky guitar, a droning background note, and rumbling snatches of drums.  It sounds like it should be the threatening prelude to a cloudburst of crackling energy – but unfortunately the following
TBSD - "If we drill right about here, we should hit oil."
‘Burnin’’ doesn’t deliver on that promise.  It opens with a rootsy mid-tempo riff, which Bryant pretty much copies for the melody, with his clear, rather boyish vocal, over a lurching beat, before breaking into a brief, urgent two-line chorus of “Keep your fire burnin’”.  There’s squeaking guitar break that that suddenly flares into a shower-of-sparks solo, and then that refrain gets repeated, over and over.  Really, ‘Burnin’’ sounds like an assemblage of odds and ends, and it detracts from the good stuff that’s going on elsewhere.
The obvious highlight here is the first single, ‘Sho Been Worse’, which is three minutes of on-point fun. Brisk and catchy in early Black Keys mode, it comes with scratchy guitar and a strong, holler-along-with-it chorus, rounded off by a stiletto-like Bryant guitar solo – and I ain’t talkin’ about shoes.
There’s a good brooding Western vibe to ‘Dirty Work’ itself, kicking off in downbeat style with twanging, banjo-like guitar notes and hushed vocals, before gathering more strength as Caleb Crawford’s rolling drums gain traction, and Bryant sings of “sinking down a little deeper in the well, well, well” in his best bluesy tones.  And ‘Thunder’ brings more blues-heavy light and shade, and a sense of drama in Bryant’s sometimes aching vocal, again following the guitar line in the rhythmic, resonant chorus, before erupting into a brief squall of a guitar outro.
That sense of drama is there in the closing ‘Fire And Brimstone’, with its slow and suspenseful opening, built around a teasing, halting riff that has a twisting, turning resolution they should really make more of.  Still, Bryant’s vocal is strong and assured, ringing out with impressive clarity, before a grabber of a guitar solo rolls out over big solid chords and staggering drums.
This EP makes for a satisfying enough appetiser, with five decent tracks out of six, even if none of them are real knockout punches.  The sense of direction from Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown is sound, but Dirty Work feels like a stepping stone to something bigger.
Dirty Work is out now available from Rattle Shake Records on all digital platforms, and also on shell pink vinyl.
t.Roy & The Smoking Section – The Texas Grit EP
It’s a bit of a curiosity, this outing by the gnomically-named t.Roy.  Texas influences are certainly present here and there, but I’m not so sure about grit, and while the North Carolina collective dubbed The Smoking Section certainly have the chops, they don’t sound that nicotine-stained to me.  Not that seriously damaging your health is recommended, you understand.
‘South East Texas Son’ opens with t.Roy’s smooth, drawling tenor over some silvery piano, before the rhythm section arrives to add more punch. “We take it easy, we take it slow,” he sings,
Enigmatic Texan t.Roy steps into the light
and it’s certainly easy-going fare, enhanced by some ringing slide courtesy of Scott McGill, and some classy Fender Rhodes piano.
The lower pitched ‘Color Me Blu’ is a decent, bright little tune, propelled by a bobbing bassline and skipping drums, and some quirky, thrumming backing embellished by weeping slide remarks.  Then with the gentle, laid back feel of ‘Chaison Park’ a kinda Hall & Oates sensibility comes into play.  Lyrically it’s a bit of a haunting autobiography, our man t.Roy recounting the tale of abandonment by his mother in his hometown of Beaumont, Texas.  The song features more of that tasteful Fender Rhodes piano, over some gently bubbling bass and swirls, and it’s interesting enough to suggest that some further possibilities went unexplored.
‘Give Me Your Heart’ is a bigger, more upbeat affair, the bass fairly throbbing away this time, accompanied by some slinky horns, flaring organ and rumbling tom-toms as backing for t.Roy’s well-executed, white soul type vocal.  And the closing ‘Some Kind Of Secret’ is interesting too, like a quirky Doobie Brothers track leaning on more rumbling percussion and bass, and decorated by low-end horns (I think) and curious, discordant keyboards, while t.Roy – I’m guessing his name is actually Troy, by the way – knocks out another Toto-worthy vocal.
The Texas Grit EP is a surprising kind of release, by no means down’n’dirty, but sonically intriguing all the same.  The songs are tuneful, and there are clearly some decent musicians at work.  There’s a 16 track album on the way, and if this trailer is anything to go by then I’m guessing that the t.Roy fella, who apparently spent several decades playing sacred music internationally, will be taking listeners on a rather more secular AOR journey.
The Texas Grit EP is out now.

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