From their high-spirited, energy-filled show to the playful lyrical delivery, Texas-based band The Karl Shiflett and Big Country Show always seems to deliver a memorable performance. With the release of their latest album Take Me Back, Shiflett and company seem unwavering in their brand of entertainment, certainly deserving of the term “a bonafide hillbilly music extravaganza,” given to the band by Shiflett.
Take Me Back is an enjoyable throwback to the sounds of the 1940s and 50s, mixing classic country influences with a traditional bluegrass style. The thirteen-track album consists mostly of upbeat, bouncy songs with a Texas swing feel and hot bluegrass picking. The majority of tracks clock in at under three minutes, but Shiflett packs everything he can into each tune. Songs are filled with spot-on instrumental breaks and Shiflett’s creative vocal stylings.
Sally Don’t You Grieve, written by folk singer Woody Guthrie, is a banjo-fueled tune about a restless, rambling man who tells his woman not to miss him when he’s gone. Blue Blue Day also contains a classic bluegrass subject – that of a man whose love has “been untrue, she’s found somebody new.” I Gotta Get Drunk is rendered somewhat differently from songwriter Willie Nelson’s original cut – while Willie sounded resigned at the prospect of getting drunk, Shiflett sounds quite cheerful, making the song animated and fun. Take Me Back to Tulsa is another fun track, demonstrating Shiflett’s respect of fellow Texan Bob Wills. Shiflett also contributes one original, the persuasive Gospel tune Open Up Your Heart (And Let Jesus In).
Two songs feature other band members taking over lead vocals, proving that Shiflett has assembled an all-around talented group. Mandolin player C.J. Lewandowski sounds reminiscent of traditional country vocalists of the 1950s in Brand New Silent Partner, while banjo player Christopher Hill is convincing and heartfelt on Just Come to Get My Baby.
Several instrumentals are also included on Take Me Back, giving the band members a chance to shine. Don Reno’s Tennessee Cut Up Breakdown features blistering solos. Public domain tune Frog on a Lily Pad, while still upbeat, is a more laid-back mandolin piece.
The album’s closing track, bluegrass jam standard Mama Don’t Allow, is a nice way to end the record. While not an instrumental, each band member takes a verse to demonstrate their skills. Billy Hurt, Jr. (fiddle), Lewandowksi (mandolin), Hill (banjo), Dany Bureau (scrub board), and Shiflett’s son Kris (upright bass) all verify that they are extremely skilled at what they do.
The Karl Shiflett and Big Country Show is one of the most unique acts in bluegrass today, and Take Me Back captures their essence perfectly. Shiflett has compiled both familiar and more obscure tracks which will certainly please fans of classic bluegrass and country music.
For more information on the band, visit their website at www.karlshiflett.com.
Take Me Back can be purchased through the website, as well as on iTunes and Amazon.