The Florida Americana/Alt- Country/Folk scene is tremendously strong these days which is something this writer from New Jersey is downright jealous over. Deland, FL’s Roadkill Ghost Choir and a band I drove damn near two hours in the snow to see in mid-February, Have Gun, Will Travel, from Bradenton are at the forefront of the Sunshine State’s folk attack. It seems every time I turn around there is a show in Florida that I wouldn’t mind attending, to say the least. The irony being in days past it was argued that a lot of bands would forego Florida on their tour schedules, either inadvertently or just out of ease of travel...who knows. All this leads me to a band out of Gainesville, FL by the name of Big Shoals. The trio consists of Lance Howell on guitar, harmonica, and vocals, Jacob Riley on bass, and Dalton Corbett bringing up the rear on the drum kit. Their new record is set for release on April 22, 2014 entitled Still Go On which is something I hope this young band continues to do.
The record opens with a banjo- riffed yet cleverly titled song “12 Steps” making you think about the last time you swore off too much partying in the form of white line fever but not the type Ol’ Merle sang about. Howell’s vocal range can sway from down-trodden heartbreaker country to upstart rabble-rouser between vocal bars and runaway train guitar solos. He stirs up a tone reminiscent of Kevin Kinney, of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ fame, except with a lot more bourbon to knock down the sweetness. This record is well thought out and equally well produced. It’s the type of album where you hit play and go about your business not worrying about skipping songs. Well written arrangements and thought provoking lyrics are an understatement. These are brutally honest soul-pitted songs about women, relationships: good, bad, and ugly, and the darker side of the bottle and other “extra-curricular” devices.
Still Go On is a superb freshman effort from these guys. The song with the same name as the album is another highlight. It’s an over six minute country rock song about relationship trials and tribulations we’ve all been akin to with the fairer sex complete with horn section and some nifty slide guitar to boot. Hailing from the same town that brought us post-hardcore prodigies, Hot Water Music, Big Shoals can bring rockers at you in the blink of an eye but not quite to that capacity, which is a good thing. This is a perfect example of an Americana Rock band. They can bring it to you with punk rock sneers and at the same time make you drop a tear in your beer with a sad country song. “Maybe Next Time” was the song on the record that after I listened all the way through for the first time, I had to listen 2 or 3 more times. The rowdy banjo and guitar fueled reprise jam made the hair on my neck stand up; you literally don’t want it to end so your foot doesn’t have to stop stomping.
The record ends with a trio of sad songs that naturally I accept with open arms. “Girl Behind The Bar” closes things out on a perfect note telling the story of a heartbroken gent doing what every man has done at least twice in his life, drinking through it. What is alcohol for but to numb those first feeble weeks after being scorned or worse yet scorning that long, now lost love. As I mentioned before it really is hard to believe this a debut album from Big Shoals. It plays through like a ”bonafide, alt-country, road-wise, seen it all and this is all I got” type record; truly veteran stylings both lyrically and musically. Keep your souls and wallets open and make sure you pre-order this album. You will be proud that you were the first to recommend it to your friends.
+Words: Scott Zuppardo+