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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Matt Woods' full-band return and the Southern grace of Big Shoals

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 11:25 AM

click to enlarge Matt Woods at Will's Pub - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Matt Woods at Will's Pub
Country-rocker Matt Woods is from Knoxville but practically has dual citizenship here with how often he comes through. And though he may not have the most sizable following here, he has something that most buzz-bands-du-jour can’t claim: real ride-or-die fans. His people are the kind who don’t just go to every one of his frequent shows but rack up ridiculous bar tabs buying an elephant-killing amount of alcohol for themselves, their friends (the ones they came with and the new ones they just made that night) and the musicians. These folks are the pure lifeblood of live music whose red carpet has lifted acts like Lucero and American Aquarium to such prominence.
click to enlarge Matt Woods at Will's Pub - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Matt Woods at Will's Pub
Woods’ stop this time was a relatively rare full-band appearance with a quartet (May 1, Will’s Pub). Unsurprisingly, they brought lots of complementary atmosphere and horsepower to his blend of defiant spirit and traditional soul.
click to enlarge Jeff Shepherd and Marco Sassman at Will's Pub - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Jeff Shepherd and Marco Sassman at Will's Pub
Indiana’s Jeff Shepherd and his Jailhouse Poets bandmate Marco Sassman opened by hitting that sweet folk-punk spot between grit and heart. Even if their synchrony wasn’t always locked, they at least have the kind of real country conviction where the banjo is a pillar, not an accessory.
click to enlarge Big Shoals at Will's Pub - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Big Shoals at Will's Pub
With the exact same banjo-and-guitar setup, however, Gainesville’s Big Shoals showed this arrangement’s capability for real folk majesty. Even as just a string duo, they stroked fully, beautifully rendered sonic landscapes with their cinematic brand of Americana. Theirs is an authentic vein that has seriousness of emotion, depth of soul and precision of melody. It’s the quintessence of Southern grace, and it was the best surprise of the night.
click to enlarge Big Shoals at Will's Pub - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Big Shoals at Will's Pub

This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly's music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city's music scene.

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