Some would call the sound Cowpunk. But it's really a blend of Blues, Country, Punk, Rockabilly, Texas Hard Times, and probably a few more. The lyrics are pure Jef Shumard, it's his life in song. But every Blues - Country - Punk or Rockabilly fan around can relate to the words and they will definitely love the music.
Big Jef Special featuring:
Jim Abbott of The Orlando Sentinel says:
So I'm an accommodating soul.
I loan a lot of CDs and DVDs to colleagues and pals, including my infamous, long-missing copy of Almost Famous, which my boss promises me that we will watch together someday. Maybe at my retirement party.
But I'm not sharing my copy of the new Big Jef Special album. You guys are going to have to get your own.
I love these songs...
The self-titled album has been more than a decade in the making. All that time allowed frontman and songwriter Jef Shumard, guitarist Brian Chodorcoff, bassist Nadeem Khan and drummer Brian Maguire to develop something utterly organic. Big Jef Special's DNA was allowed to evolve without the pressures associated with a full-time project.
"What's funny to me about the album," says Chodorcoff, well-known for his work with the Legendary JCs, "is that Jef, after a long time, sort of captured what it really is and what the shows have been over the years. It's a raucous little cowpunk band. I think that's the best description.
Yeah, there's a rowdy twang to 12-bar blasters such as "Choptop Chevy" and "Damn Good Injun," but these 10 songs also exude a richness that adds depth to the bluster. "Alimony," a slow blues about raising kids in the wake of divorce, is especially moving. And "90 Days," about a dust-up with the law in Texas, is leavened by a dose of self-realization that lifts it above clich.
"It's like 99.99 percent Jef," Chodorcoff says. "I've been playing the songs a long time, but when I finally heard the lyrics, the first thing I said to Jef is, 'You're an amazing lyricist!' I mean, 'Heartaches Riding Shotgun,' are you kidding me? He's a great storyteller, and he's fun to play with.
After some bumps in the road, Big Jef Special was gaining momentum when a December motorcycle accident left drummer Maguire in a coma. His drumming remains on a good portion of the album. Alan Cowart has stepped in as a replacement.
Chodorcoff emphasizes that the role is a temporary one.
"After the accident came, it was like, 'Whoa, what do we do?' " he says. "After a little while, we realized that if Brian could have spoken that first day, he would have said 'Go do a gig; the music doesn't stop.' When he's ready, he's the drummer in the band."
It has been difficult for the band members to deal with Maguire's situation, even though his condition has vastly improved. Now staying with a relative in DeLand, Maguire is able to walk and talk some. Chodorcoff says he listens to outtakes from songs just to hear Maguire's voice counting off the band.
"Jef's not lying when he wrote in the liner notes that the album was in honor of our greatest friend. We know that he would want us to have the CD release party and to move forward. I'm excited for the truth that I know, which is he's happy for us. We know that he would want us to be playing this music."
Jim Abbott | Orlando Sentinel | April 25, 2008