When it comes to blues rock, there’s not much that hasn’t been done. Along with its endearing longevity can come the disillusionment of original creativity to which many artists and bands have fallen prey. That is, of course, unless your name happens to be Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown.
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Shake The Roots (Rattle Shake Records)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Monty Sewell
For the past fourteen years, TBSD have been on such a decorated ride across some of the world’s most prominent stages playing alongside a fair few of the world’s most notorious bands that it’s almost shocking to see them continue to surprise us with their industry decisions and grounded musical prowess.
The announcement in 2020 that TBSD would step away from their label and form their own was famed as a bold move but a necessary one. With the ever-present confirmative eye that many big record labels cast, for Bryant and the boys, it was time to take back ownership of what made them great to begin with.
“We wanted to start Rattle Shake Records to take more ownership of our art,” Bryant says, “and share a sense of ownership with our supporters. We want our fans to know that when they buy, stream, or share our music, they are what is fueling the Shakedown.”
Rattle Snake Records was born, and it debuts the band’s fifth studio album, Shake The Roots. But the change in publishing is by no means a change in the usual fantastic production lineup: Tyler Bryant at the helm of this blues bottled ship on lead vocals, guitar and bass, Caleb Crosby on drums and Graham Whitford on guitar, with them both providing backing vocals.
“We wanted to be in the moment,” Bryant said, “honest, and try our best not to overthink anything. The whole concept of this record was to get back to our roots as a band and as individual musicians. We each got into music to have fun writing, recording and performing. With this record, we got to do just that.”
From the get-go, it’s clear TBSD will stay true to their passionately stated mantra of bringing the music back to its roots. The record opens with Bare Bones, a shimmy and shake body twitcher with some penny-dropping percussion from Crosby and just enough layering to draw us into the impending twelve-track jaunt without giving too much away.
Track two, Ain’t None Watered Down, is the Americana blues twang smooth rider. The combination of modern effect production with those raw instrumentations has always been a stronghold to TBSD’s sound, but here is where it really starts to take ownership of itself.
“To me, this album sounds like where we came from, where we’ve been, and where we’re going,” Bryant says. “So much of the album has a bluesy tinge to it, then Ghostrider hits and the purists spit their coffee out and throw their chairs through windows.”
Ghostrider growls into the scene as a personal favourite. The untampered guts of this track are huge, and I can only imagine what it’s like to see live. It’s hard rock to the bone, with Bryant clearly having a lot of fun with that teeth-grindingly good mid-song solo.
From blowing the features off of our faces to throwing us right into the front row of any big-time Nashville ballyhoo, Roots sticks true to the album’s themes of keeping close to your own soul and the music that flows out of it. Distorted guitars line a familiar country arrangement that see Larkin Poe’s ever-capturing Rebecca Lovell joining on backing vocals.
And what is a roots album without the obligatory western skirmished soul repenter? Hard Learned sprawls itself out with a stripped delicacy, gripping us with each crisp bottle slide, laying its emotional core out to bear. You can almost feel the hot wisps of Wild Western air sweep across your face.
Shackles bridges the first and second half of the album with a gritty composition that’s both raw and thunderous. The album then takes a 180 into speed blues rock territory with the appropriately named Off The Rails. “Take it to the limit/Tonight we’re going off the rails!”
As we sweep into the flip side of the record, Shake The Roots’ careful track alignment is nothing less than conspicuous. But it’s the ability of TBSD to go from a heavyset emotion in one song to an entirely different feel in another that strikes. The emotively charged Good Thing follows before we’re introduced to the provocatively commissioned Sell Yourself. “Keep your friends in the bank, and your enemies close!”
The final third of Shake The Roots is arguably the best. However, it’s not because the previous material is any less fantastic. It’s purely because it’s not often we see an album keep the tempo up till the bittersweet end. Tennessee, Sunday No Show and Midnight Oil are vastly different but delivered in equal measures of hard-hittin’ whisky fun. One hip swaying, one fist pumping and the last an absolute shuffle-moving treat.
Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown will no doubt continue their reign of respect and hard, well-earned rock’ n’ roll status. Shake The Roots not only signifies a new era of self-endowed excellence but perhaps an inspiration to other bands looking to regain more control over their creative output and, in return, enjoy bounds of satisfied fans just wanting to adore the music they offer to them.
It’s a no-brainer: Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown have done it again, but this time it’s different. Shake The Roots pairs a grassroots band’s raw aspirations together with a world-class artist’s unflawed dedication, unequivocally lavished with just enough juice to keep us eager for the next.