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Big Shoes – Fresh Tracks

Big Shoes
Fresh Tracks

Qualified Records
If there were ever a band that I could spend as much time and space listing their resumes as I would on writing an in-depth review, it is Nashville based Big Shoes (who’s show at Bourbon Street Blues was the highlight of my recent five-day trip there). These guys have played with and/or recorded with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Delbert McClinton, Taj Mahal, Etta James, Levon Helm, Bobby Blue Bland, and many other greats of varied genres. Calling Big Shoes a super band would indeed be a huge understatement.

Fresh Tracks is the band’s third release and their first on Qualified Records. For the project, those all-stars I just referred to are: Rick Huckaby on lead vocals and guitar; Mark T. Jordan on piano, B3 and background vocals; Will McFarlane on guitar and slide guitar; Kenne Cramer on guitar; Tom Szell on bass; Lynn Williams on drums; and Bryan Brock on percussion. Additional guest artists include: Shaun Murphy and Vickie Carrico on background vocals; Dana Robbins on horn arrangements and saxophones; and Quentin Ware on trumpet.

Billing themselves as an “American Roots” band, and knowing that many of them have their roots in country, a majority of the disc’s twelve tracks (of which ten are band originals/compilations) will indeed have at least one foot in a few different genres. That said, since it is me writing this review, that should tell you the other foot will often be in the blues. .

Some of that blues is quite evident on an original titled “Hole In The Sky”. With tight rhythm, percussion and horns working hard behind them, Will, Rick and Kenne take turns belting out some killer guitar licks. Speaking of belting, Rick is also handling that part on the soulful vocals, as well.

Lyrically, this song is very humorous and somewhat truthful. I’m sure there are some who can relate to lines like:
If I had a dollar for every time you made me cry, there’d be no end to the things that I could buy;
If they paid me cash up front for all the lonely nights I spent, I’d be covered up in pictures of dead presidents;
If each time you broke my heart was a money-making thing, the only sound I’d ever hear would be ka-chink, ka-ching;
Yes, these – and more, would indeed happen “If The Blues Was Green” (Randy Handley & Richard Flemming). Vocally, although he didn’t write the lyrics, Rick’s singin’ ’em like he’s lived them. Musical highlights include Tom and Lynn in a toe-tappin’, knee-slappin’, head bobbin’ groove that had me doin’ some of my finest chair dancin’; and Mark’s fabulous piano dynamics, which are constant throughout the track.

One of my favorite songs of the lot is “Permanent Midnight”. It’s a bluesy, melancholic ballad and I’m of the belief that it’s Rick’s best vocal performance on the disc. When songs like this are done so beautifully like this, they always cause me to wonder if it was lived or if it’s just a song. I may never know for sure but I’m going with this was not just a song. Wow!

Led by an exuberant pounding of the skins by Lynn, the whole band is in jam mode on a dance floor filler of Mark’s “I’ve Seen The Light”. With Rick and Shaun in a bit of a rockin’ country vibe on the lead and background vocals, the song reminded me of footage from a country music concert where everyone in front of the stage is lip syncing every word of the lyrics.

For as many times as I’ve been to the Bahamas, this track transported me right back to Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport where, as passengers arrive, they are greeted by a native band playing island sounds. Very welcoming indeed. On “There Ain’t Nothing You Can Do”, the rhythm; percussion; piano; and guitars; all combine to create that same fabulous feeling and I don’t know if it’s my imagination or one of the guys working pure magic, but I could have sworn I heard a steel drum in there somewhere.
A track similar to “I’ve Seen The Light”, although more of a shuffle than a smoker, is one of Kenne’s originals titled “Drunk On Love”. That title, being the chorus line as well, tells me that at live shows this is a very popular sing-a-long. I truly enjoyed twenty second intro that sounded like a bunch of musicians stumbling around to get it all together just as Rick chimes in with “I’ve stumbled around”……the opening words of the song’s opening lines. Classic! As with everything you’ll hear from these guys, when it comes to the vocals; the rhythm; the guitars; the keyboards; and in this case, on the last of the four tracks they appear on, the horns as well; precision and perfection are the common denominators.

A love song of his, titled “Tell Me I’m Wrong”, features Rick once again singing his heart out while showcasing some nice vocal range. Reminiscent of a disco beat, the track features a deep rhythm groove led by Lynn on the drums; fabulous piano and guitar leads from Mark and Kenne; and harmonic humming and background vocals from Shaun and Vickie.

Other songs on this outstanding release include: “I Got You Covered”; “You Can’t Love Me Like That” (Pat McLaughlin & Kenneth Wright); “Roses Are Blue”; “That’s What I Get (For Lovin’ You)”; and “Dreaming Again”.

If you’ve not yet received a copy of Fresh Tracks for airplay, please contact Qualified Records at media@qualifiedrecords.com. Also, for booking and interviews, contact the Big Shoes Band at – www.bigshoesband.com/contact. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.

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