ALBUM REVIEW: Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown – Pressure

As last year wound down, 2020 was looking bright for music, with tours galore and a litany of reunions. Nashville’s rock ‘n rollers Tyler  Bryant and the Shakedown were looking forward to building on their busy 2019, which included tours and festivals across the US and Europe, most notably with Stone Temple Pilots, Rival Sons, Clutch, Sevendust, Blackstone Cherry, and Airbourne, among others, and the release of their critically-acclaimed album, Truth and Lies. But as 2020’s landscape changed, big plans did too. Some artists went on hiatus, while others decided to take the time to reflect and write. In this case, guitarist/vocalist Tyler Bryant, drummer Caleb Crosby, and guitarist  Graham Whitford did not slow down, took on the latter approach, and hunkered down in Bryant’s home studio to craft some of their best work with the help of co-producer/engineer Roger Alan Nichols. Aptly titled Pressure (out October 16th on Snakefarm/Spinefarm Records), the album takes listeners on a journey through the emotional and tumultuous year. Coincidentally, many of the songs began to take shape before Nashville faced a destructive tornado, COVID, and racial justice rallies. However, the release could not have been timed better, as it offers up 13 tracks to headbang and air guitar away the trials and tribulations of the last seven months and beyond. With a multitude of moods and tempos, and a collage of rock, blues, roots, and country stylings, Pressure follows the roller coaster that is 2020 life. 

Pressure’s title track jumpstarts the album with a rambunctious rock spirit and cranks the intensity right off the bat, pulling out all the stops and elevating the excitement for the remainder of the record.  Bluesy slide guitar magic  erupts into foot-stomping beats coupled with sultry vocals on “Hitchhiker.” Standing out as an album highlight, the devilish tune is too catchy to just play once. 

Summarizing the album’s running motif, “Crazy Days,” is an infectious and twangy rocker that features Bryant’s forever rock partner, Rebecca Lovell (Larkin Poe). It was originally written to help Bryant deal with the stress of 2020 without the intention of making it the lead-off single for a fourth album, but it fell into place as its lyrics became more pertinent to current events. Pressure takes a turn for the lo-fi, gritty swing of “Backbone,” before launching into the most relatable track on the album, “Holdin’ My Breath.” On the album’s second official single, which includes guest vocals from Charlie Starr (Blackberry Smoke),  Bryant yearns, “Second-guessing everything I know, But I’m still holdin’ my breath for better days,” pairing heavy vibes and anthemic guitar solos with a hopeful outlook. 

The album lets out some steam on “Like the Old Me” and touches on a more melancholy side of quarantine, showcasing Bryant’s raw and earnest vocals atop delicate acoustic guitar lines. Moving along speedily, “Automatic” accelerates back into fiery guitar riffs and four-on-the-floor drive, segueing into the playful and groovy  “Wildside” before taking the foot off the gas for the soulful, solemn, and stripped-down track,  “Misery.”  The album bounces between big ups and big downs on urgent and guitar-driven jam “Fuel,” ethereal and introspective song, “Loner” and  slinky and sweltering track “Fever.”

Pressure decompresses with the mellow, shuffling closer and classic blues-style tune, “Coastin,’” on which the band croons about letting go and acceptance.  A stark contrast to how it all began, the relaxed conclusion is (hopefully) symbolic of finding peace at the end of this period of global madness. 

Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown will be gracing the virtual stage on Friday, October 16th  for their official Pressure release show, performing some songs from the new record along with a handful of old favorites. Don’t miss it! Be sure to grab tickets here: https://tylerbryant-and-the-shakedown.myshopify.com/

9 / 10 

MEIJIN BRUTTOMESSO