Friday, December 16, 2016

Big Tribe - In This Together

Big Tribe - In This Together

East Coast based three piece Big Tribe are much more than the sum of their parts. This is a creative collective held down by three primary members, a core group if you will, while still soliciting freely from the musical imaginations of their many guests. Over thirty musicians have brought their own distinctive gifts to Big Tribe’s songwriting through two studio albums and their contributions to the band’s second release, In This Together, help make this a far greater experience than what we would have if the band chose to confine themselves to their work as a trio. There’s a dozen songs on this outing and each one has an unique arrangement and sound that seems to challenge the musicians each time out and inspire them to different heights than those scaled in the preceding track. Big Tribe has two primary vocalists, songwriter Peter Panyon and Bonnie Eyler, and the use of these two radically different voices contrasts quite nicely and ensures there’s something here for everyone. 

The title song, “All in This Together”, has a lively feel and a number of unexpected musical elements. The dependability of the rhythm section creates a compelling juxtaposition with Panyon’s unusual vocals and the production brings these varying elements together in such a way that it sounds natural after only a brief listen. “10,000 Years” is Bonnie Eyler’s first vocal on the album and a slice of highly metaphorical songwriting with a decidedly airy, low-key approach. The majority of In This Together is devoted to acoustic or otherwise low fi sounds, but songs like “The Final Boat Out” are spiked with numerous electric guitar fills and powerful, but never overbearing, drums. There’s a wealth of lyrical detail in the song and leans towards a vaguely apocalyptic air that helps it stand out from the rest of the pack. The likely peak of the album, performance and songwriting wise, is “How the Mind Wanders”. Eyler gives listeners her most deeply felt vocal yet and it’s an excellent match that makes the most of the intelligently phrased and observed lyrical content. The music embodies every ounce of the nuance heard in the lyrics; nothing here is rushed and the patience they exercise during the performance pays off with one of the album’s best tracks.  

“You Lied” is one of the album’s true surprise, an often blistering outright rock offering that shows great discernment and never becomes too heavy-handed. Eyler’s previously docile vocal performances offer no hint of her capabilities in this area; she’s utterly believable in her role as a rock singer and Big Tribe responds accordingly. The band confounds audience expectations yet again with the song and first album single “July Carol”. Big Tribe transposes the idea of a Christmas carol to the summer months and brings all of the holiday tropes along for a grand time. The backing choir of voices is a clever and unexpected touch, but the songwriting and lyrical content remains as exceptional as ever and the song’s true drawing power. In This Together will satisfy a wide variety of fans – rock fans, unrepentant folkies, and rootsy devotees. Big Tribe are endlessly inventive songwriters and performers and they show themselves able of carrying off this material with an ample amount of personality as well. 

9 out of 10 stars 

Dale Butcher 

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