Most novice guitarists are introduced to the blues via superstar practitioners of the genre like Eric Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan, but for 26-year-old Texas native Tyler Bryant, frontman of classic-rock revivalists Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, the indoctrination was more unusual.
“When I was 11, I met a guitarist named Roosevelt Twitty in a music store. He mentored me and introduced me to the blues in the order that it happened,” recalls Bryant, who became an internationally recognized blues phenom in his early teens. “So I was into Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters before Jimi Hendrix or Johnny Winter.”
Bryant experienced a second musical awakening at 16. “I went to a Black Crowes show and realized, This is just blues, but with more distortion, long hair and a little more attitude! This is what I wanna do!” Duly inspired, the guitarist headed to Nashville at 17 and assembled the Shakedown, which includes fleet-fingered Graham Whitford, son of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, on second guitar. “I was first introduced to Tyler as the guy who was going to put him out of a job, which didn’t go over so well,” chuckles Whitford. “But we ended up hitting it off!”
Word of the Shakedown’s electrifying performances spread quickly, and along with releasing two high-energy albums, the group soon found itself in arenas supporting ZZ Top and Aerosmith.
When a 2016 label restructuring left the Shakedown without a deal, the group, hot off a stint opening for AC/DC, repaired to Bryant’s basement to start recording. “We didn’t want to spend thousands making a record,” Bryant says. “So we decided to see what we could do in the Bombay Palace, which is what I call my studio. I was like an alcoholic living in a bar! I could do 70 solos, and there was no one there to go, ‘Dude, maybe you got it 50 takes ago!’ ”
Bryant’s time underground was well spent, as the Shakedown’s new self-titled release (via Snakefarm Records) showcases not only his and Whitford’s blues-rock chops, but also songwriting depth that spans the booty-shaking riffery of “Weak and Waepin’ ” to the atmospheric balladry of “Into the Black.”
“I wanted to make a record that takes you on a journey,” says Bryant. “It’s like watching a good movie. It’s not action the whole time, and it’s not romance the whole time.”
• GUITARS (Bryant) Fender Custom Shop 1960 Strat, Fender Custom Shop “The Judge” Strat with EVH bridge pickup and Fender Twisted Tele neck pickup, 1931 National Duolian, Fender baritone Telecaster; (Whitford) Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard and 1958 Les Paul Junior reissues
• AMPS (Bryant) Marshall 1959 SLP; (Whitford) 3 Monkeys 100-watt Kitchen Monkey
• EFFECTS (Bryant) Strymon Timeline, Origin Effects Cali76 Compressor, Dunlop Cry Baby Wah 535q, Electro-Harmonix POG, ZVEX Mastotron and Fuzz Factory, Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh, Rodenberg Custom Amplification 828 dual overdrive; (Whitford) Klon Centaur, Klon KTR, Strymon Flint, Timeline and Lex, Xotic EP Booster