Slowtown (Mammoth)
Big Wheel

By Cary Stemle

On Slowtawn, Big Wheel lyricist Peter Searcy appears to be shedding his skin – and looking back on a meteoric decade that saw him jet to prominence as sort of a child prodigy.

That kind of ride is exhilarating, but in the end it's bound to be harrowing. Lucky is the man who gets to view such experience from a better spot, say eight or ten years removed. As the adage goes, think of the stories we can tell if we survive.

Those tales are coming to fruition on Slowtown, Big Wheel's first full-fledged effort for North Carolina-based Mammoth Records.

Searcy sings largely in first person, but his sharpest barbs, seemingly for himself, are delivered third person, such as these lines from the rollicking first cut, "And You Shine:" "Only child you ran suicide wild/ Son of a mother, son of a father/Aren't you the one that shines/In the right place at the right time..." And the refrain: "I can see right through you."

Make no mistake, though Big Wheel is a unit.

Guitarist Glenn Taylor, who co-writes the music, weaves easily in and out of styles, one minute tapping a lilting jazzy vein (the wistful "Daddy's at the Wheel"), the next ("Vicious Circle") chugging away like Rob Halford. (At the band's album release show April 10 at Tewligans, the song took an already-hot set to another energy level.)

Covering such musical terrain puts quite an onus on the rhythm section, but Mike Braden (bass) and Tom Tompkins (drums) shine. And the band offers continually interesting arrangements, often changing musical gears completely within songs. One such song is "Down the Line," which begins as a nostalgic trip to the record store and transforms into a statement of faith: "Somewhere down the line/We'll all meet and listen to the/Songs we used to listen to."

It's a great mix, one that will have you turning your head the first few times through.

And it gets better with each hearing.