Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown| Pressure | (Snakefarm)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
There may be one small sliver of a silver lining for musicians during this dark, extended pandemic cloud that has caused so much lost income from sudden tour cancellations. The free time has given many a chance to write and record more material than they would have with a busy road schedule.
That’s the case with Tyler Bryant and his Shakedown band.
The outfit had released the 13 track Truth & Lies in 2019 and planned to promote that on the road through 2020. But COVID-19 got in the way. Instead they cranked out another batch of 13 riff-heavy scorchers equal to, and arguably even better than, what had come before. Frontman Bryant lost his bassist, but in the clichéd spirit of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” he overdubbed the bass parts accompanied by drummer Caleb Crosby and second guitarist Graham Whitfield.
The Texas-based musician comes straight out of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Joe Bonamassa school of blues-rocking, with a decided emphasis on “rocking.” Add a little 70s Thin Lizzy and even Humble Pie, bring in help from Bryant’s guitar slinging wife (Larkin Poe’s Rebecca Lovell) and touring companion Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr for a sturdy if far from groundbreaking set of rootsy, Southern fried, boozey/bluesy humdingers.
Bryant has a knack not only for tasty guitar licks but for crafting songs that sink and stay. From the Mountain-styled fuzz pumping of “Fever” to the funky underpinning of “Holdin’ My Breath” and even ballads such as the acoustic “Like the Old Me” or the deep swamp of “Misery,” Bryant and his boys sound crisp and energized on every selection from the group’s fourth album. First single “Crazy Days” looks back on the pre-pandemic life of hanging out with friends and playing music, all with a chorus you’ll be singing after the first spin. There are just enough twists and creative hooks in the songwriting, if perhaps not the overall sound, to keep the listener engaged for 43 minutes. Bryant is a convincing although not especially distinctive vocalist, but he gets by on commitment, sing/shouting his words with enough powerful conviction to make everything blast out with guts and bluster.
As the front cover graphic shows, Bryant pushes (almost) everything into the red for an album that succeeds on its own somewhat limited terms. Turn it up, rawk out, and hope that Bryant and his band come to your town sometime soon to power through these songs live.