There was a line in the press release which accompanied “Shake The Roots” that caught my eye. “It encompasses the energy of their live show and is a testament to the unwavering spirit of the Shakedown.” It said.
Now, I’ve been listening to rock music since I was six years old when I bought “Centerfold” by J. Geils Band, so call me a cynical old fool, but every damn thing comes with its own hyperbole. Even “Chinese Democracy” had something saying it was a “defining moment” for GnR and no doubt “Lulu” had some PR person penning it “pushed Metallica’s boundaries”.
Which brings me back to “…Roots”. Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown are one of the – perhaps the best underground blues rock bands. Their albums are superb. Yet, that line. “Energy of the live show….” I’ve seen them in Stadiums, clubs, and in their own headline gigs and they are so good. So yeah I get it. This one occasion. I get it.
And, by the way, they’ve done it. They’ve bottled it here.
“Bare Bones” is suitably stripped down, the slide guitar alone is worth it, and when Bryant delivers the line about “show me what you do for fun” it seems like nothing is off limits here. Likewise “Ain’t None Watered Down” (which essentially repeats the first song but a little more primal) offers the thought “I like my love like a barroom fight” and you are left in no doubt – this time its dirty. And no one is apologising.
When you see TBATS live, you can’t escape the heaviness, the fuzz of the lead. You won’t on “Ghostrider” either. It lets itself go. And its not coming back.
The quality of the songwriting is shining bright this time too. “Roots” (the de facto title track) is an example. It sounds like Blackberry Smoke, and its autobiographical, surely? It knows where it comes from, but it knows where its going at the same time.
“Hard Learned” is one of those acoustic ones that Bryant does so well, well it feels he’s confessing to you, while the slower “Shackles” takes a Clutch riff and does something new with it and off the rails is the sort of boogie that you can see Airbourne doing while Joel O’Keefe smashes a can over his head. It lets its hair down and hangovers be damned.
This band might carry the name of its leader, but it’s a gang and it’s a gang that has an intuitive way of playing, whether on the mid-paced, almost Petty-esque “Good Thing”, or the strutting “Sell Yourself”. The latter is perhaps the product of leaving your record deal to go independent again, “if you don’t sell yourself, you’re gonna get sold by somebody else”. Take back control. Think we’ve heard those words somewhere before?
“Tennessee” gets good and county, and pays homage to his hometown. The type of thing that makes me want to emigrate, it’s beautifully done, but if the music is heavenly, then “Sunday No Show” doesn’t even want forgiveness for its sins. “I took the apple and I just bit it” sings Bryant and he’s not sorry. Not at all.
By and large a timeless album. “Midnight Oil” rather illustrates that by sounding like it was made in Sun Studios, but it’s a line in “Roots” that best sums up “Shake The Roots”. “When the band is cooking, man, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
And that is why whatever I write about the album makes no difference. It’s everything that Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown wanted it to be. Left to their own devices, mind you, they’re better than ever.