- Bryon Harris
Big Mama Shakes - 'If I Try'
Big Mama Shakes is a Southern Americana Rock band based out of Richmond, Virginia. The five member band includes Brady Heck (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Bryce Doyle (Keyboards), Gabriel Taylor (Guitar, Mandolin), Peter Cason (Bass, Guitar) and Chandler Matkins (Drums) – All five members contribute to the vocals. The band’s influences include Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, Credence Clearwater Revival, Van Morrison. Big Mama Shakes has shared the stage with Dirty Heads, Passion Pit, Incubus, and Nathaniel Rateliff. Their newest EP release, "If I Try" is a chart topping masterpiece with songs that are made of the stuff that will put this band at the top of world and I am honored to present this rerview to my readers.
The first track on ‘If I Try’ is “Magnolia.” This song starts off with high energy and a great full sound coming from the band. “Magnolia” has a highly professional and polished audio quality mix and it is an exciting to hear. All of the songs on the EP have top-notch production complete will full sounding horn sections and more. The second I heard the song, their sound blew me away. Bravo to the vocals on the track; Brady Heck's voice is robust, full of character adding an awesome indie-rock edge to the music and the band's backup vocals are icing on the cake. There are beautiful lead guitar solos. The songwriting is phenomenal with a great build to the chorus and the best part is when the band sings together on the chorus "Come on. Come on down Magnolia." Fans will be convinced on the first "Come on" and will follow this band to the top. Photo by: Ashley Loth (Sound Snap Photography)
The next song, “If I Try,” shows great musicianship from the band on all fronts. Focusing on the instrumental portion of this song, the arrangement is astonishingly engaging, featuring stellar work from the guitarist, Gabriel Taylor, during solo sections. You will hear tasteful keyboard harmony and solos throughout the EP from Bryce Doyle and the rhythm section consisting of drummer Chandler Matkins and bassist Peter Casin are always in the pocket showing they know how to hold down a groove with just the right fills and riffs, hits and rolls. The verses stand out with a superior vocal performance and the chorus is simple and does well to drive the song home. “If I Try” is a well put together song that promises to be a crowd favorite.
Following “If I Try” is “Weight of a Heavy Heart.” This song starts with a small intro with a bit of a southern twang and a great groove. " Well 'm going to California, gonna get real stoned, wake up with a woman who knows the weight of heavy heart." Each verses ends with the refrain "Weight of a Heavy Heart." but the treat is when the entire band sans-instrumental and sings the line with vocal layering. Each song on this EP has its own unique flair showing Big Mama Shakes ability to appeal to mass audiences. “Weight of a Heavy Heart” is yet another example of this bands knack for writing captivating songs that will stay with you long after they are over. Kudos to some great keyboard work as well.
Bringing this EP to a close is the song “Places.” This softer ballad is a great end to a phenomenal EP showing a different side of Big Mama Shakes. Starting with a beautiful yet simple, melodic piano line, “Places” is an moving song with lyrics that feel almost gospel. "My Mama used to sing about freedom, love and hope. And I don't need a God dammed thing except a place to hang my coat." Though this is one of their slower songs, “Places” does not fail to deliver a nice big sound during the chorus, making it yet another standout track.
Folks, Big Mama Shakes is one of the best bands I have heard in my career and I've heard thousands. How do you define what makes a band truly great? Sometimes it is hard to put into words, even for a music review writer, but I would say it is exactly that - they are so good- you can't put it into words as words can't fully describe the experience - all you can do is listen, take it in, let it fill your soul and know that this is what music is all about. Bravo Big Mama Shakes - I hope you will let me review you again when you are super stars.