This Big Sky isnâ??t blue

On the occasion of their third full-length release, "Light Hum Serenade," Big Sky are understandably wary of their place in the lower echelons of critical opinion. "Big Sky gets no respect anywhere," explains saxophonist Dave Kurzman, only half-jokingly. And why's that? "Because we're happy." With a loyal and growing fan base, impressive word-of-mouth album sales and a CD-release party planned at Sapphire Supper Club, the Gainesville-based band should be happy.

The trade-off of obscurity for accessibility was a benchmark in the grass-roots groove rock movement of the last few years, of which Big Sky is a part. The early '90s successes of acts like Drivin' N' Cryin' and the Black Crowes paved the way for the yuppie-pop crossover of Hootie and the Blowfish and Blues Traveler. The recognition brought vitality to the pop-band touring circuit. But the sound of that feel-good fodder also earned its share of critical derision.

Big Sky formed around 1995 without much thought of playing full-time. But last year the band members quit their day jobs. "We've been serious for about a year-and-a-half," explains Kurzman, who recently joined the band in an official capacity after a long stint as a touring member.

Although they've already released two albums, "Wide Open World" (1995) and "Turn" (1997), this third recording is making them more seriously consider their career. "Ultimately, you can't do anything without a bunch of financial backing," says Kurzman. "We sell a bunch of albums already -- we're not the typical demo-band success story."

Big Sky have taken some creative leaps in fortifying their sound for the new recording. "Gone Today," one of the album's hookier tracks, rings with a peculiar bitterness that Kurzman says "could be about a girl or could be about a record label." Lead singer Mark Gaignard used the track "Backlight" to discuss dealing with his father's recent death. In addition to Kurzman, bassist Ashton Allen and guitarists Ben Rowell and Chris Floyd, Big Sky has added drummer Sean Crowley, moving previous drummer Dave Moore over to keyboards. "This album finally represents the band," says Kurzman.

Which begs the question, "What next?" Major-label interest is stirring, but in the case of Big Sky it doesn't necessarily need to be the focus. "We're actually really happy as long as everything is on the up-and-up," says Kurzman. "It's not necessarily our goal to get a major-label contract. If we don't, we won't fall apart."

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