Written by: Luke Dunmore
The fifth album album by Tyler and his Shakedowns is a vibrant, multi-faceted thing which, as the title might suggest, has firm ties with the past and the music that steered the band on their way. That’s not to say Shake The Roots is derivative in any way, just the band celebrating what set them down this dusty road in the first place while laying down pointers for where they’re headed.
The first two tracks are slide guitar-driven, bluesy, folksy ones; Bare Bones, is an enjoyably stripped-back, semi-acoustic stomp, complete with handclaps and feels like it was recorded live around a campfire. The first single from the album, the grammatically dubious Ain’t None Watered Down, follows in a similar vein, though with a slower pace and more ominous tone.
So far, so head-noddy.
Then, Ghostrider kicks open the saloon doors and indiscriminately opens fire with a fuzzy, almost stoner rock, riff. Chaos ensues.
It’s at this point that the two main sides of Shake The Roots become apparent. Half of the songs are more laid back with that swampy blues feel and the other half, good old, rock n’ roll. The opening line of Ghostrider suddenly becomes somewhat prophetic: “I roll with no concern, of which bridge to cross and which bridge will burn”.
Songs such as Roots, Shackles and the frenetic Off The Rails have a great ’70s southern rock feel to them. Roots has that great Bob Seger/Tom Petty swagger, whereas Shackles is a mid-paced, heavy rocker with, dare I say it, shades of Black Sabbath in the chunky, underpinning riff. Then the riff in the brilliant Off The Rails feels more like Rocks-era Aerosmith. Whether that’s anything to do with guitarist Graham Whitford and his famous dad, I don’t know
The other side of the coin is represented by songs like Hard Learned, a mournful paean to ignoring advice and learning from your own mistakes that’s primarily accompanied by some sparse and atmospheric slide guitar. Tennessee is a shuffling acoustic-led, bar room singalong that, like Bare Bones, feels and sounds as though it was recorded live. The final song on the album, Midnight Oil, has flashes of John Lee Hooker in its stumbling, bouncing melody and is a fitting end to an excellent album.
Shake The Roots is an eclectic, varied album but also, and importantly, a cohesive one. It’s well written and well played with no duff tracks buried in the second half. These Texans are still fairly young despite being around for over ten years; Tyler formed his first band in his early teens and started Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown in 2011.
Shake The Roots was released on September 9th on the band’s own label, Rattle Shake Records.