A long time ago I remember asking a Priest how there could be one God yet so many religions. His response, “the way we see God is a reflection of how we see ourselves,” and something about how, “you can’t swim in a drop of water, but many together make an Ocean”. I was like 12 (a very ponderous child), and immediately remember thinking we could be different and still respect the love of a “higher power” in other people’s hearts. This is how different Religions made sense to me, and also how I feel about music.
I lead with these thoughts for several reasons: I’ve really never done a review because I don’t feel confident with my “writing on demand” skills and I am not one to stand in judgment of other people’s personal expression choices. I also genuinely have to feel something and be moved by it to write about it and, lastly, be able to have the ability to articulate what I am feeling. Mostly I am used to just reporting, which is a totally different style. So bear with me…
Music is very much a personal experience and reflection of who you are, where you’ve been, and what sits right in your soul. Music IS what feelings sound like, and no feelings are wrong, they are just feelings.
I am a BIG Hick Hop/Country, Rap/Southern-fried rock fan, and also love the classic sound of Country, Modern/Mainstream Country, Texas Country/Red Dirt and Americana. I LOVE MUSIC…without prejudice. Terrestrial Country Music radio is still resistant to the Hick Hop movement unless it’s brought in on the backs of someone already reigning the airwaves like Jason Aldean (“Dirt Road Anthem”), Blake Shelton (“Boys ‘Round Here”), Florida Georgia Line (“This How We Roll”), Big & Rich (Cowboy Troy on many songs). I see that either the genre as whole will have to embrace this movement or it will begin to segregate. People get to see and hear Hick Hop and EDM Country at the clubs they go to and on most headliners’ tours. There is a massive force behind it and they are ready to rise up. Artists like Big Smo, Lenny Cooper, Bubba Sparxx, Moonshine Bandits, Jawga Boyz, the LACs and Colt Ford have the best and loudest fans out there, and also they are as COUNTRY as country gets….they live the culture of dirt roads, farm fields, blue collar, red neck, good ole’ boys never meaning no harm.
I grew up on Merle, Waylon, Willie, Dolly, Hank, Marty, Patsy, Conway, and some people act like they might losing sleep or turning over in their graves because of this “new style of country”, but I completely disagree. They were the Mavericks and Rebels of their time who spoke the truth, THEIR TRUTH. They might not relate to these Millennials and their interpretation of country, and might not ever take it into their hearts, but I guarantee they respect the truth in an artist like Big Smo’s heart.
“You can tell when something’s real,” says the man known simply as Big Smo. “You can tell when it’s true. And I think what’s made us successful and gotten us this far is that we’re just real people, down-home country folk who really love to make music. People see that.”
Now if the grammar police can get over the K in Kuntry and no -g in Livin’, y’all might learn something about my people. Yes, I consider Big Smo my people, or as he refers to his fans, his kinfolk. Growing up, my family wasn’t rich and, back then, I was embarrassed sometimes. All my friends were sporting new clothes, new cars, traveling the world, lived in big beautiful houses and had lots of “stuff”. Most of my things were hand-me-downs and stuff I wore over and over. Our family vacations were always to a racetrack somewhere. This is getting me to my point about Big Smo’s new album “Kuntry Livin'” and the movement called “Hick Hop, Country Rap, Southern-fried Rock” and about how what we’ve been taught can’t be bought.
I even teared up a little during my first listen to Big Smo’s album. WHAT?!?!? I know….it just touched me and I related to how it felt growing up on them back roads and how the dusty desert parties on the wild side of the train tracks felt, and it made me miss my grandfather and all our redneck racing stories. From the opening track “Workin'” (featuring Alexander King) till “My Place” featuring Darius Rucker, Kuntry Livin is about workin’ hard and trying to make a livin’ and then goes to tell you what that Kuntry Livin’ is all about. There is also a lot of good time music about drinking, smoking, friends and *bleeping*. And, most of all, knowing who you are at your core and being cool with that.
Here’s a snap shot of the album tracks with some of my favorite lines from songs, how they made me feel or just something that crossed my mind:
“Workin’ even when I am hurting, fingernails dirty, my backs been hurting….30 below to 100 degrees you aint pushing hard enough if your hands dont bleed….first to clock in, last to leave and I ain’t had problem rolling up my sleeves.”
“Bumpy Road” is a catchy fun ditty that will have your feet tapping and your hands clapping. I like the part about “girl don’t tweet this”. I make a story that Big Smo wrote that for me *could happen*.
I know there are some great stories about how all these nicknames came about, but I learned that Big Smo is also known as: Big Smocephus, Boss of the Stix, Hick Ross. He smokes like Willie, beast on the grill, he’s a dirtroad hustler, keeps eyes on the shine, walks the line like Johnny, and I love this line, “you couldn’t rock my boots or fit in my hat but since you on my coattail why don’t you scratch my back?”
We can all use some “Anything Goes” in our life once and a while. This song is a fun party anthem that feels like a snap shot out of my youth. This is the second track featuring Alexander King.
“People always think the most painful thing is losing the one you love in your life, but the truth is the most painful is losing yourself in the process of loving someone else.” “Cover My Eyes” is a power ballad featuring Country Soul Rocker Haden Carpenter is about the journey of letting go of those emotional vampires that come into our lives. “Down In The Backwoods” is a foot-stomping story about the value of workin’ hard. Frankie Ballard and Big Smo will have you singing “Come On.”
“Redneck Rich” feels like a scene from my childhood – “shack in the back, pig in the pit,” reminding us that everything we have isn’t just about things. “I got a heart of gold with a backwoods soul, a dream to own a lot more than I owe…and I own everything inside my fence, yeah, I’m Redneck Rich.” “Who I’ll Be” is about staying true to who you are and where you came from. “No matter where this road may go, no matter how far from my home, it’s always there to let me know where I am from and ‘Who I’ll Be.'”
That’s what you got with “Got Me,” a bluesy love song…sorta. All I can say is that “Ain’t Nothin Free” is the opposite of “Got Me” and hey…you and me, Smo….we need to talk about this “Ain’t Nothin Free.” You see a damsel in distress, you help her or Imma kick yo ass; although it is a little funny and ironic.
Shit gets real with “I’m So Kuntry” and we learn how Big Smo gets down in the backwoods, and it ain’t always pretty. But, it is real and sounds like a damn good time to me.
The last 2 songs are both uptempo and so much fun.”‘Lawdy Lawdy’ look who come to party” is easily my new favorite thing to say.
And, finally, Darius Rucker joins Big Smo to invite you to come over to “My Place,” or their place rather, talking about the “open gate policy” of the south and how the good times roll past the fields of hay where the living is good as gold. Darius and Big Smo sing about where they come from and the fun southern memories.
I don’t know if this how you’re supposed to do a review but I promise you if you check out Big Smo’s new album Kuntry Livin you’ll understand everything I wrote and it’s an amazing s a snapshot of someone else’s world that you will feel like you are immediately welcome just the like the “open gate policy” of the South.
I give it an A+ (You can pre-order now & will be available June 3)
ALSO get ready for Big Smo’s NEW Reality Show on A&E Network. “Big Smo,” a new original real life series following larger-than-life country rapper, Big Smo, as he takes his unique style of music to new heights with the support of lifelong friends, loyal fans and most importantly, his beloved family. “Big Smo” premieres Wednesday, June 11 at 10:30 PM ET/PT.