The title track to “Dirty Work” comes halfway through this. It’s an acoustic, yet raw piece. It features his wife Rebecca Lovell of the superb Larkin Poe on harmony. The sort of family endeavour you’d call “Back Porch blues”. The thing is, and this is the thing with all Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown’s best work, it sounds like its coming from the back porch overlooking some kind of abyss.
“I’m a desperate man, with a desperate prayer” he sings at one point, “don’t let this be my cross to bear”. There’s always a gospel air to TBATS, it’s just there, flavouring their work, and what follows is a plaintive cry for assistance. From somewhere, someone, anyone.
It’s not too much of a leap to suggest that the assistance, guidance, the flickering light to Bryant is the guitar. This music. His music.
The cover of this EP (the follow up to the sensational “Shake The Roots” from last year) is his battered old six string. The exact one, in fact, that Fender copied to give him is signature model. And the significance of the wheelbarrow? Well, as a boy Bryant used to mow grass to pay for his instruments. That might tell you how deep this goes? How far this reaches. It’s written all the way through this.
The six tracks begin with “Strike” a kind of ominous, shadowy start, and it gets going properly with “Burnin’”. “Don’t let them take your fire out of you” seems like a key line here, as TBATS have had their share of knockbacks. The trio are here, and they mean every damn word.
Bryant and rhythm guitar player Graham Whitford give it a rough edge that makes this as primal as blues can be, but when they fancy writing a catchy little shuffle, they can do it brilliantly as “Sho Been Worse” proves. This one has a hook that is not letting go, but it finds the kind of indefatigability that categorises their work.
A neat mix of slow burners and fast paced rockers, “Thunder” is one of the former, love of the most destructive kind is at work here, before “Fire And Brimstone” – the longest one at nearly six minutes – offers up more of the gospel zeal, but the way it bursts into it’s solo, perhaps proves there’s still deals to be done at the crossroads?
You often hear bands opine that they want to recreate their live show, to bottle up the zeitgeist if you like, and we all know bands that are wonderful live and never quite nail it in the studio. Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown do both, yes, but “Dirty Work” is the closest they’ve ever got to sounding like they do on stage.