Finally. This was the thought that popped into most Shakedown fans’ minds when the band announced that it was–after nearly five years–releasing its second album. Fans have waited…and waited…and waited. The first Shakedown EP From the Sandcastle, released in the fall of 2011, was a rock ‘n’ roll revelation. Blues infused rock bands like Rival Sons and the Stone Foxes were already around, but still–it was so unusual to hear a band playing the way they did. And suddenly, there was the Shakedown, shaking the rock genre back up. Wild Child came along in early 2013 as an affirmation of what many thought of From the Sandcastle–this was a band in which they could place their trust to carry rock forward. Perhaps that put an excessive amount of pressure on the band. Perhaps the comparisons listeners have for years drawn between lead singer Tyler Bryant and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan didn’t help. Perhaps the last few quiet years have simply been a result of power plays by record companies ill-fitted to serve a rock band in the 2010s. Most likely, it’s a combination of these factors and more.
When Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown announced their seven-track EP The Wayside two years ago, there was an uptake in fan enthusiasm. Yes! Now! But the EP didn’t lead to any additional new music, as many expected it would. Instead, the Shakedown spent 2016 and most of 2017 touring the world, sharing some very big stages with some very big rock acts. It’s been impressive: this small rock group from Nashville with only one full-length album, touring with the likes of AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses. Maybe that’s why expectations for this album were so high. In the social media age, five years isn’t simply five years, the way it used to be. Five years is forever.
So, what about the new album? How does it sound? This reviewer’s first impression of the band’s self-titled sophomore effort was that it was okay–but, before you readers go dissecting the implications of the word “okay,” let me finish. This is an album that grows with exposure. After the first couple of listens, tracks like “Don’t Mind the Blood” and “Weak and Weepin’” were the ones that initially jumped out as the album’s strongest offerings. But I wasn’t convinced; the songs were good, but they didn’t stand miles apart from the others on the record. Did that mean that none of the songs had sticking power? It wasn’t until I’d listened to the album another couple of times that I realized: once I turned the music off, every song on the record came back to me in different moments. There’s that part in “Jealous Me” when the prowling introduction breaks into the opening chorus, like a release of relief; the chorus in “Weak and Weepin’,” when Bryant’s singing makes it clear how personal the song really is for him; the gorgeously soulful sound of Bryant’s resonator in the opening bars of “Ramblin’ Bones” that pulls the band back to its blues roots. I’m not sure if there’s a hit on this record exactly (though “Don’t Mind the Blood,” “Weak and Weepin’” and “Aftershock” would be the songs with potential), but it has some great material.
As Bryant said in a recent interview with Blues Rock Review, “Lyrically, this feels like more of a personal album than anything we’ve done.” During that same interview, Bryant explained that the title track from The Wayside was the first case in which the Shakedown had really explored that personal realm of songwriting–and their fans loved it. This is why Bryant was interested in continuing that experiment on Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown. The result is a batch of songs with lyrical maturity, songs that delve deeper in an attempt to answer the question of what this band wants its identity to be, and how the musicians themselves want to progress. It’s rock ‘n’ roll–no doubt about that–but it’s mature rock, the kind that sticks with its listeners a little longer and carries with it the potential to affect them beyond the moment in which they have their first listen. The Shakedown are no longer the kids they were when they made Wild Child. Five years later, they’ve gained so much more experience with touring, navigating record label deals and writing music that speaks to who they are and the message they want to share with the world–and it has all benefited their music. Five long years–it really has been forever.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Don’t Mind the Blood
– Ramblin’ Bones
– Weak and Weepin’
The Big Hit
Review by Meghan Roos