The Shiz is an up-and-coming folk rock band from New Orleans, and their sophomore album Meet You in the Morning, should set the bar for 2014. Running nearly 75 minutes, it is a journey through emotions that span a lifetime, spread over three movements. If you’re in need of a booty-shakin’ good time that will also jog the far recesses of your mind, look no further. The joy and the sorrow; the battle scars and victory cries — it’s all there.
Stylistically the album is all over the map, but producer/engineer TJ Barends gives the production a rootsy cohesiveness that ties it all together. The quartet plays with an electric chamber music mentality, with everyone getting a chance to lead the proceedings. Lilli Lewis lures you in with a sly, soulful vocal, and Liz Hogan answers with a gruff, grumbly guitar solo. Bassist Alan Craig and drummer Wade Hymel provide a sturdy rhythm section that continually pushes the music energetically. Andrew Robin and Owen Scott III (alias Dr. Morpheus) lend their talents on electric violin and guitar, respectively, on a number of tracks. It all adds up to one hell of a tasty gumbo.
Highlights are many, but you’ll keep coming back to the funky “Tumble,” the desert sunset landscapes of “Ride Out,” harmony-drenched ballad “Driftin’,” the tender-yet-harrowing lullaby “Sleep Baby, Slumber,” and the pounding riffage of opener “Juggernaut.” The band reaches deep into the blues tradition with “New Jim Crow,” Lewis’s biting lyric keeping things fresh as the groove rages on. The album’s centerpiece is the magnificent tone poem “Boxcar,” a meditation on existential pain and desperation that has left many a live audience breathless.
However, Meet You in the Morning plays best straight from beginning to end. The music feels timeless — firmly grounded in tradition yet pushing ever forward and full of surprises. And that’s not even to mention the fact that you’ll be humming these melodies long after the turntable has stopped. My advice would be to get acquainted with their album, then get out there and catch The Shiz live. Meet You in the Morning is the sound of four determined and talented musicians on the verge.