Another long-time favorite, Big Shoals recently released their follow-up album, Hard Lessons. I liked the previous album, Still Go On, a good deal. But when I went back to it recently in preparation for this review, I realized I had sorely underestimated its quality. Howell is a powerful songwriter, and Hard Lessons is a worthy successor. This time around, Big Shoals swings for the fences with a heavier country rock sound, enlisting the help of Glossary's Todd Beene to fill out the most emotionally touching songs with his tender pedal steel guitar.
Hard Lessons delivers what it promises, searching for happiness in islands of loneliness and doubt. While there are the standard songs about finding love (or a poor approximation) on tour, breakups, and loneliness, the best are the songs that pull out small moments of life. "Only God Knows" observes a friendship that has faded over time, lamenting how people drift apart in spite of best intentions or desires. This album sees the band taking stock of their lives and wondering what to keep and what to toss -- fitting, considering that there were a few years between the band's two albums. But Hard Lessons overall is a keeper, and I hope it fuels more music from Big Shoals.
Big Shoals -- Official, Facebook, Purchase