Step On It!
This is a can’t miss project. We’re seeing a resurgence of the Muscle Shoals sound these days. Even The Swampers just released an album of lost tracks last month. The sound of Big Shoes has plenty of that river city’s sound but stretches beyond into New Orleans, Memphis, and across a breathtaking litany of artists that its band members have supported. For example, keyboardist Mark T. Jordan graced Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and Bonnie Raitt’s Road Tested, among many other albums. Guitarist Will McFarlane, who resides in Muscle Shoals, has contributed to albums by Levon Helm, Joss Stone, Bonnie Raitt, and Bobby “Blue” Bland. He hooks up with The Swampers often too. Superb lead vocalist Rick Huckaby works often in sessions on Music Row. Together with the other four band members, the dizzying list of employers surpasses those already mentioned to include Taj Mahal, Delbert McClinton, Etta James, and too many others to mention. Suffice it to say, this Nashville-based seven-piece unit knows a few things about roots, blues, and R&B. All 11 tracks were written or co-written by a band member.
These guys formed a band for their love of music, collective experience, and having fun. You can detect that immediately with the tongue-in-cheek humor imbued in the opening track, “Duplex Blues.” “There You Go” shows their funky side and they bring it all down for the soulful ballad “The Last One to Leave.” “Too Early for the Blues,” with Brad Guin and Ken Warren guesting on horns, could be straight out of B.B. King’s repertoire. “Don’t You Do Me That Way” gives Jordan a chance to put his New Orleans piano chops to work.
“Walked Out the Front Door,” a Jordan co-write, first appeared on Bonnie Raitt’s Home Plate album. The horns return for “Ain’t Nobody Loves You Like Me” and they conclude with the tasty “Honey Pie.” Strains of The Band, Delbert, and Little Feat filters in every so often. That’s what you get when you mix the contemporary roots music coming out Nashville with the classic sounds of masters – just damn good American music.
- Jim Hynes