Album Review: Big Shoals – Hard Lessons

It’s the time of year where I start dreaming of cooler weather, horror movies, and lots of pumpkin pie. There are certain genres of music that I turn to when I’m starting to crave the fall. I’m not sure what it is about Americana music, but for some reason it’s my perfect soundtrack to a wonderful fall day. Big Shoals released their new album, Hard Lessons, back in the middle of July but I’m happy I discovered it as I’m gearing up for fall.

I knew Hard Lessons was just what I was looking for as soon as the opening guitars of “Only Queen” hit my ears. I’m not sure what it is, but something about that opening riff just screams crisp air and falling leaves to me. The song has a nice, mellow start but it bounces into a nice, rootsy track about half way through before settling back down.

There are a lot of great tracks on Hard Lessons but my favorite is probably “Union Son.” The opening guitars reminded me a bit of Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws,” which may explain why I was drawn to it so quickly. You know I’m a sucker for a ballad, I’m also partial to songs that act as narratives so I knew that I “Union Son” would probably be my favorite track even before I finished listening to the album for the first time.

While the first half of Hard Lessons is solid, I found myself really falling in love with the album during the last half. “Amelia” is another ballad narrative that tells the story of the man left behind by after the famous aviator’s disappearance. You can hear the loss in singer Lance Howell’s mournful vocals which is echoed nicely in the guitars. “Amelia turn around / It’s safer here on the ground / you’re flying high against the wind / your man made wings, a box of tin” croons before a soulful guitar solo. Okay, maybe I spoke too soon when I said that “Union Son” was my favorite track on the album.

The trio mixes in a nice 90’s vibe in with with their folk rock sound for “Losing Hand.” Howell’s vocals are a bit more subdued here but that doesn’t mean the song lacks emotion, on the contrary there’s quite a bit of angst that rings through. The track kicks up for a rousing instrumental where the threesome show of just talented they are when it comes to their respective instruments.

I’m not quite sure why Americana / folk makes me instantly think of fall but with the returning high temperatures and humidity, I’m happy I have Hard Lessons to get me through the rest of summer.

Check out my interview with singer Lance Howell about the hard lessons that influenced the album and make sure to pick the album up on Amazon, Google, or iTunes.