The seven veteran Nashville and Muscle Shoals musicians in Big Shoes make it sound easy. Big Shoes features musicians who’ve performed with Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, Etta James, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Delbert McClinton, Levon Helm and dozens more. All of that roots, blues, R&B and soul experience shows up in Big Shoes’ second album, Step On It!
Seeing the Big Shoes members’ sideman credits, their well-oiled musicianship isn’t surprising. Pianist Mark T. Jordan, for instance, whose recording sessions include Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, steps out with curling keyboard riffs in the Professor Longhair–touched “Don’t You Do Me That Way.” Drummer and Step On It! producer Andy Peake kicks the song off with New Orleans–style flair and Will McFarlane’s slide guitar glides smoothly in.
From the first Step On It! song to the last, the musicians display their instinctive ensemble. “Don’t You Do Me That Way,” “Duplex Blues,” “There You Go” and every other selection that isn’t a slow song hooks into an easy-to-roll-with groove.
While Big Shoes’ members’ individual sideman credits say much about where they’re coming from, the band in total comes off as a natural successor to such rootsy collectives as the Allman Brothers Band, Little Feat and the Band. Big Shoes would fit comfortably, too, on a bill with New Orleans’ subdudes.
The album’s 11 original songs include the Muscle Shoals–influenced country-soul ballad, “The Last One to Leave,” featuring Jordan’s churchy organ solo. Going the extra mile for authenticity’s sake, the producers recorded the horns heard in another slow song, “Too Early for the Blues,” at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals.
Because Big Shoes’ stellar musicianship is a given, the big Step On It! revelation is the band’s exceptional songwriting. Every song is an original, either solely composed or co-composed by the band members. Big Shoes delivers the complete package: deftly made, expertly performed songs that are big fun.