Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown's debut isn't quite what the prodigy promised
When a 20-something writes an album in the postmodern and highly digital age, it’s bound to sound a bit like the bands that have come before him. Such is the case with Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown’s Wild Child, the debut album from the 21-year-old who’s been hailed as a guitar prodigy since the ripe old age of 11.
Backed by two equally young members, as well as the son of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, Bryant’s sound is admittedly as Texan as it comes. He utilizes thick riffs that are laden with grit and ample amounts of distortion, calling to mind the guitar tones of ZZ Top, his Texans forefathers.
And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bryant was raised playing blues guitar, brought up under the wing of Roosevelt Twitty, a Texan bluesman in his own right. That minor pentatonic influence is all over Wild Child as Bryant and co. whip through 12songs in what feels like a lot less than the album’s 42 minutes.
Bryant’s writing style lends itself to some mean, classic blues riffs that never seem to go out of style, but his attempt at employing the same kind of timeless lyricism shows the shortcomings of his age.There are bits and pieces of modern rock strewn throughout Wild Child, and while they’re connected to the bluesy elements that ground the band to its musical foundations, Bryant doesn’t cover up those glaring influences well.
Whether it’s the Jack White rip-off on the post-chorus of “House That Jack Built” or the Jet-esque verse sections of “Where I Want You” that are just “Cold Hard Bitch” with a low-E pentatonic riff tossed in for the blues’ sake, new-age influences are felt throughout the record. But where Bryant does play the blues, he plays the hell out of them.
Wild Child’s album art is the prodigy posted up in the foreground with a Dobro resonator, and while that instrument choice may baffle the uneducated, it’s an old-world reminder that Bryant’s slide guitar playing is incredible.
“Last One Leaving” has all the trappings of a Miranda Lambert hit, with Bryant’s yet-to-be-seasoned vocals in place of her Southern girl glissandos. Its slide opening is about as Delta blues as one can get in 2013 — you can almost feel the Georgia summer heat in the song’s first lines.
While Bryant’s songwriting falters from time to time, his playing redeems his credibility as a bluesman. His approach is a welcome change when The Black Keys’ whitewashed sound is what passes for blues today, and while Bryant is no Stevie Ray Vaughan, he may just prove to be with time.