Sunday, June 2, 2024

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown - Electrified

I’ve never quite been able to make my mind up about Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown.  There were good things on their 2022 album Shake The Roots and last year’s Dirty Work EP, especially on some of their down home rootsy outings. Now and then too, they demonstrate the ability to rock like bastards. But every so often they just seem to let themselves down with a song that misses the target. So does Electrified live up to its title?
‘Snake Oil’ certainly makes it clear that they can do the biz when it comes to toting some heft.  It’s hard-hitting but fluid, with some roll to go with the rock, good quiet/loud dynamics, while Bryant rat-a-tats the vocal and adds a wiry solo. And ‘Shake You Down’ is a breathless, fuzz-blasted rocker, drummer Caleb
The Shakedown - all revved up and ready to party
Pic by Zack Whitford
Crosby sounding like he’s in his happy place as he puts the hammer down to propel the tumbling riff and some screaming guitar from Bryant.
The strutting and swaggering ‘Dead To Rights’ hits the mark too, doing something different with subterranean, fuzzy bass setting the tone for Bryant’s accusatory vocal, some slippery riffing, and a squeaking, slithery solo. Then ‘Mona’ is a gripping, grinding thing, with a palpable sense that they’re getting into it. Crosby shows off his drumming power on the nagging, insistent tempo, while Bryant and Graham Whitford chuck around ringing, fuzzy guitar chords.
And yep, they get rootsy to good effect too, when they put their mind to it.  Larkin Poe turn up to lend a hand on the blues-tinged Americana love song of ‘One And Lonely’, Megan Lovell in particular adding some swooning lap steel to go with the satisfyingly romantic melody.  They follow that with ‘Movin’’, a relaxed, loping, all-join-in back porch ramble reminiscent of Mungo Jerry.
But when they explore a Western-style, cowboy blues vibe, the results can be more mixed.  Opener ‘Between The Lines’ has its moments, with its oddball rhythmic intro, cheese grater slide guitar and brisk choruses. But the bass plods, and Bryant’s penchant for having the melody follow the guitar line doesn’t do it for me.  The cowboy leanings are more acute as the following ‘Crossfire’ gets going, with desert-haunted harmonies, but this time they find a fresher sound as the harmonies progress into Plant-esque, wordless “aah-aah-aah” segments. A spooky guitar break leads to them kicking things up a notch or two, to good effect, and they get bonus marks for the adventurous squiggly ending. But I can’t get excited when they go down this kinda path a third time, on the more downbeat ‘Happy Gets Made’, with it’s pulsing, twangy guitar and plunking kick drum, and some backing vocals from Ruthie Foster too low in the mix to make a difference.
There are also a couple of tracks where they head for Southern rock territory á la Blackberry Smoke. ‘Trick Up My Sleeve’ has an Americana ballad-like opening, and a good hook, but when they punch it up it all gets a bit predictable. The same is true of the closing ‘Carefree Easy Rollin’, but in reverse as a gutsy, pounding intro dissolves into a clichéd melody and “just like my daddy did” lyrics. Still, at least that gritty riff reappears now and then to liven things up.
Okay, so it’s not the Shakedown’s fault that I can’t abide some of the tropes of Southern rock, but they’ll never win me over with ‘em.  They can still rock hard though, and with some style. And I like it when they get in the right kinda roots vein too. So I live in hope that one day they’ll make an album that does the business for me from start to finish.
 is out now on Rattle Shake Records.

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