Big Shoes — “Fresh Tracks — Qualified Records
Big Shoes is a band. I mention that mainly because, 1) it doesn’t sound like the name of a band, and 2) I had never heard them (my loss), and 3) you should definitely hear them.
Big Shoes describes itself as an “Americana Roots SuperGroup,” and it was formed as a tribute project to recreate the early music of that great American band, Little Feat. Big Shoes released its first album, “Shoes Blues” in 2015, and Step On It!” 2018. I’m not certain, but it’s worth assuming that the name “Big Shoes” may have been related to the “Little Feat” project. That would only be fitting.
The supergroup tag also turns out to be very fitting, as this criminally talented group of musicians creates a sparkling blend of country and blues, of Nashville and Memphis, of musicians eloquently in tune with their music.
Lead singer and guitarist Rick Huckaby gives smart, laid-back voice to songs that he’s mostly written or co-written, in front of a band that lopes along behind him, managing to make their crisp, tight backing sound effortless.
The rest of the Shoes include 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 guests include: Shaun Murphy and Vickie Carrico on background vocals; Dana Robbins on horn arrangements and saxophones; and Quentin Ware on trumpet.
As a very, very brief example of their background: Big Shoes members have played and recorded with: Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Delbert McClinton, Taj Mahal, Etta James, Bobby “Blue” Bland and more. Keyboardist Jordan played on Van Morrison’s classic “Tupelo Honey” album, and Bonnie Raitt’s “Road Tested.” Guitarist McFarlane has worked on albums by Levon Helm, Joss Stone, Bonnie Raitt and Bobby “Blue” Bland. He lives in Muscle Shoals, and works with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, “The Swampers.” Huckaby is a session singer on Nashville’s Music Row.
The Shoes kick off the album with the relaxed rhythms of “I Got You Covered” carrying Huckaby’s expressive vocals; “Hole in the Sky” is a tightly driven bluesy shuffle that gently swings; “If the Blues Was Green” is clever wordplay with a country two-step feel.
“You Can’t Love Me Like That” turns the music soft and thoughtful; “Roses Are Blue” continues the mood with lovely background harmonies; “Permanent Midnight” is a gorgeous ode to lost love, with the title an elegant description of the subject; “I’ve Seen the Light” offers a rocking duet with former Little Feat vocalist Shaun Murphy; “There Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” is a percussive Latinesque playground.
“Drunk on Love” opens with a discordant barroom flavor that compliments the title; “Tell Me I’m Wrong” gives Huckaby a lilting melody to float above; “That’s What I Get (For Lovin’ You)” is more bluesy country with delicious backup vocals; “Dreaming Again” wraps it all up with a hopeful love song.
One of the best things about this album is the quality of the music, and the sheer musical pleasure that it generates. The band creates a groove that runs through the entire session, no matter what style or tempo. They create just the right feel for Huckaby’s considerable vocal skills.
It all makes for great music that gets better with each listening. Try on these Big Shoes. Walk a musical mile in them. You’ll feel better.
I really didn’t want to say that Big Shoes makes some sweet sole music, but I just couldn’t help myself.
Here’s “A Hole in the Sky” from the album:
Tracklist & Credits:
My pleasure, Jim. So glad we’ve made you a fan. We love what we do and between us, we have a ton of music history and influences under our belts, so that’s bound to inform our approach. We’re just starting to talk about our next album now, so we’ll keep you posted as it comes into focus. Cheers!
Jim, thanks for your glowing review of our new album, “Fresh Tracks” in your Roadhouse Album Review series. Your enthusiasm and comments are much appreciated. And your “assumption that the name ‘Big Shoes’ may be related to the Little Feat project” is spot on, too. When we settled on the Feats, we knew it would be challenge, because of all the odd bars and changes in their songs and the influences they reflected in their writing, but it was a challenge we loved on a musical level. We soon realized that it was gonna take some mighty Big Shoes to play that music with commitment and credibility, and it there you have it. It seems to have been good schooling, as you were kind enough to point out. Thanks again and best wishes.
Thanks, Mark, for the kind words. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about good music.