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After carving out a fervent fan base and drawing widespread critical applause with their heady, high-voltage brand of guitar-driven rock, shooting from both hip and heart, Nashville's Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown find themselves at the epicenter of an advanced rock 'n' roll adventure that continues to take them around the world, appearing at some of the biggest venues along the way
Starting with a guest spot on AC/DC's 'Rock or Bust' World Tour in 2016, the quartet - Caleb Crosby on drums, Noah Denney on bass and backing vocals, Graham Whitford on guitar and Texas-born Tyler himself on vocals and guitar, a musician immersed in blues music from an early age - have continued to share events and stages with some of rock's most legendary names, including Guns N' Roses, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Deep Purple and ZZ Top.
At the same time as projecting their music into stadiums, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown - The Shakedown to friends and fans - have continued to build their name and reputation as a headline act, and indeed it was backstage after a sold-out, bill-topping show in London (June 2017) that the band signed their new deal with Snakefarm Records - the most immediate and exciting result being an 11-track, self-titled studio album set to be the label's inaugural release, with November 3rd locked in as the day of the launch
"So many great things have happened over the past few months," exclaims Caleb, "and it's all just so surreal. I remember seeing that Guns N' Roses were playing two stadium shows in London on June 16th and 17th earlier this year, which are birthdays for Noah and myself, back to back, and I said wouldn't it be amazing if we appeared on both of those shows and we did!"
Rewinding back to 2008, Tyler moved to Nashville by himself at the ripe age of 17 to write songs and form a band. It was here he met Caleb, and together they put together what would become The Shakedown
"The instant we started playing, I knew there was something special," reflects Caleb. "We played our first show a week later and haven't stopped since!"
The next addition to the ranks was Graham Whitford, a young guitarist from Boston, Massachusetts. Introduced to Tyler as the guy who could put him out of a job, it was clear from the start that Whitford was a force to be reckoned with. As soon as Tyler heard him play, he asked him to uproot and move to Nashville to join the band.
All that was needed now was the right bassist: enter Noah Denney, who instantly added a whole new dimension to The Shakedown's sound. As Tyler recalls, "his bass sound scared me and he brought an edge and an attitude to the band that we didn't even know we needed."
2013's 'Wild Child' album announced the quartet's arrival with a bang as they logged time on the road with the likes of Aerosmith, Jeff Beck & ZZ Top, while receiving the endorsement of Guitar World, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, Nylon, Interview Magazine and Paste. Taking over TV, they lit up the stage at both Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! and AXS Live.
Following the release of 'The Wayside' EP (2015, produced by Grammy Award winner Vance Powell), the boys crisscrossed the country alongside Billy Gibbons & AC/DC on that celebrated 2016 run. April 2017 found them without a label and only a month out from joining Guns N' Roses on a European tour
"We had just decided to self-produce a record completely on our own," says Tyler. "I'll never forget driving home that morning and getting a call from our manager saying, 'You wanna go back to Europe with Guns N Roses?' That was a great kick-start to the first day of tracking."
So they hunkered down and set about writing & recording their second full-length album, with John Fields (Soul Asylum, Paul Westerberg) coming on board to handle the mix. Blending a sense of history with a youthful, energetic heartbeat, this anticipated outing features a host of brand new tracks, some of which have become staples of the live set. It also stands as the start of a relationship with the newly-launched Snakefarm label.
Housed within the global infrastructure of Spinefarm Records (a UMG label), the Snakefarm brand will provide a targeted home for international artists, both established and new, from the increasingly buoyant roots rock world - music based on authenticity and emotion, under-pinned by core values and beliefs.
In this respect, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown - who can lay claim to a fast-growing international presence, with major UK festivals such as Download, Ramblin' Man and British Summer Time already under their belt, alongside headline shows plus guest appearances with Nashville neighbors The Cadillac Three - are a flagship representation; what's more, in 'Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown' they've delivered a genuine genre-defying labour of love, a varied and infectious statement shot through with passion, pride and a welcome dash of glamour.
"This is the definitive Shakedown record as of now, and that's why we decided it should be self-titled," explains a fired-up Tyler. "It's the definitive Shakedown record due to the fact there were no other cooks in the kitchen. We put so much energy into writing and recording each song. It's not just a guitar album; it's a song album, and I'm proud to hang my hat on this one."
The first single / video, 'Heartland', introduces Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown with a one-two punch of gritty guitars and soulful vocals before slipping into a hypnotic bridge punctuated by airy clean guitars. Tyler sings, "There's a slow beat in the heartland, going down in the quicksand, stack 'em up and watch the cards fall, if it happens to one, then it happens to all".
"It's no secret that there's crazy stuff going on all over the world right now. There's madness all around and people are constantly picking sides. Every night when the Shakedown takes the stage, I'm amazed that music brings people together. Nobody is thinking about what side they're on when they're singing at the top of their lungs next to a complete stranger. I thought maybe through music I could remind myself and our TBSD family that when one person falls, the rest of us do, too. I wanna get together with a bunch of folks and sing that sentiment because it's one I strongly believe in.
Elsewhere, 'Backfire' struts along on a stomping drum groove driven by thick distortion with lyrics "about pulling the short end of the straw and feeling vengeful". Then there's 'Aftershock'. Hinging on hummable riffing, the track simmers at a steady swamp crawl before the Sabbathian refrain.
"That's a tune about feeling the effects of a situation long after it's come and gone.
As Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown spend 2017 lighting up stages with the likes of Guns N' Roses (again), The Who & Alice Cooper - as well as making their first appearance at Rock In Rio - this new album sees them fully realize their vision with a sound that resounds above the bleachers, plus a collective desire to keep the entertainment flag fully unfurled
"I want people to put this on and literally escape," Tyler leaves off. "I hope they feel free. That's what rock 'n' roll makes me feel. You don't have to think about your bills or any of the other things that have the power to bring you down when you've got your fist up in the air, your eyes closed and you're lost in the music. Angus Young told me, 'You've got to make the audience think you're taking them on a journey, and they'll go with you. If you believe it, they will too'. I believe it with this record."
1. Heartland 2. Don't Mind The Blood 3. Jealous Me 4. Backfire 5. Ramblin' Bones 6. Weak And Weepin' 7. Manipulate Me 8. Easy Target 9. Magnetic Field 10. Aftershock 11. Into The Black
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown
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The Southern half of the Georgia-Alabama border follows the Chattahoochee River, which cleaves Columbus, Georgia from its decidedly less reputable neighbor, Phenix City, Alabama. Georgia's second city is the hometown of "Mother of the Blues" Ma Rainey and novelist Carson McCullers, but it was local hillbilly duo Darby and Tarlton's 1927 hit "Columbus Stockade Blues" that first immortalized Columbus in popular culture. Back in their day, if you ended up in lockup in Columbus, chances are you did your dirtiest deeds across the river. Historically rife with vice of every conceivable variety-gambling, prostitution, moonshining, and endemic corruption and violence perpetrated by both gangs and police-the notoriously anarchic Phenix City was once known as "The Wickedest City in America."
A similar frontier liminality and skewed sense of place characterize the music of Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell, whose self-titled debut record, produced by and featuring William Tyler, transmutes ten arcane folk and blues tunes into vibey cosmic laments and crooked riverine rambles. Jake Xerxes (yes, that's his real middle name, after Georgia potter D.X. Gordy) grew up in Columbus, son of Fred C. Fussell, a folklorist, curator, and photographer who hails from America's Wickedest City. Fred's fieldwork took him, often with young Jake in tow, across the Southeast documenting traditional vernacular culture, which included recording blues and old-time musicians with fellow folklorists and recordists George Mitchell and Art Rosenbaum (which led Jake to music, and to some of the songs herein) and collaborating with American Indian artists (which led Jake eventually to his graduate research on Choctaw fiddlers.)
As a teenager Jake began playing and studying with elder musicians in the Chattahoochee Valley, apprenticing with Piedmont blues legend Precious Bryant ("Georgia Buck"), with whom he toured and recorded, and riding wild with Alabama bluesman, black rodeo rider, rye whiskey distiller, and master dowser George Daniel ("Rabbit on a Log"). He joined a Phenix City country band who were students of Jimmie Tarlton of Darby and Tarlton; he accompanied Etta Baker in North Carolina; he moved to Berkeley, where he hung with genius documentary filmmaker Les Blank and learned from Haight folkies like Will Scarlett (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Brownie McGhee) and cult fingerstyle guitarist Steve Mann ("Push Boat"); he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. He did a whole lot of listening, gradually honing his prodigious guitar skills, singing, and repertoire. In 2005 he moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he enrolled in the Southern Studies department at Ole Miss, recorded and toured with Rev. John Wilkins, and, last year, met up with acclaimed artist William Tyler to begin recording his first solo album.
Collaborating with Tyler and engineer Mark Nevers in Nashville was a conscious decision to depart cloistered trad scenes and sonics for broader, more oblique horizons. Tyler, a guitar virtuoso known for his own compositions that untether and reframe traditional six-string forms and techniques, helmed the push boat in inimitable fashion, enlisting crack(ed) Nashville session vets Chris Scruggs (steel guitar, bass, fiddle: Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Marty Stuart), Brian Kotzur (drums: Silver Jews), and Hoot Hester (fiddle: Bill Monroe, Ray Charles) to crew.
So it's no accident that Jake approaches the songs and styles represented here with both interpretive respect and unfussy irreverence, imbuing them with equal parts vaporish, percolating atmosphere and academic rigor, honoring the folksong headwaters by emphasizing their liquid mutability, alien strangeness, and sly humor above preconceived notions of static authenticity. Fussell recognizes that folk revivalist preciousness about spurious genre boundaries often feels absurdly at odds with the unruliness and restlessly inventive practices of tradition bearers-no revival or reenactment gear is necessary when the music lives and breathes and throws around hips and knees like these. Likewise, when you examine their lyrical content, ostensibly linear tales about rivers and work (labor of the hands, as in "Boat's up the River" and "Man at the Mill" and labor of the heart, as in "Star Girl" and "Pork and Beans") reveal themselves as fractured, riddled with narrative lacunae that open up the texts as squirrelly riddles or gentle metaphysical jokes.
For Fussell, these odd disjunctures demonstrate the way that verses and choruses, the stories we tell, disintegrate and erode over time, worn smooth as river stones and transmogrified by their repeated telling, more lovely for their fissures and absences than for any imaginary original integrity. (Aptly, "Chattahoochee" may mean something like "writing on rocks" in Muscogee or Yuchi.) Each song rendered here contains its own twinned inversion-its own Columbus, its own Phenix City-and Jake navigates their shoals with intuitive grace and authority.
1. All in Down and Out 2. Let Me Lose 3. Star Girl 4. Raggy Levy" 5. Rabbit on a Log 6. Boat's up the River 7. Man at the Mill 8. Push Boat 9. Georgia Buck 10. Pork and Beans
Jake Xerxes Fussell
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