The Lil Smokies have crafted a captivating album of songs that keep the flavor fresh, comprising their out-of-this world string-skills and phenomenal songwriting with their latest release, Changing Shades. On their third studio album, the Montana-based quintet hop between their dynamic bluegrass roots with a punch of rock and hints of country heard in lead singer Andy Dunnigan’s silky-smooth vocals.
For those unfamiliar, the first incarnation of The Lil Smokies got together in Missoula, Montana, during the winter of 2009. Through the years, the band transformed and settled into the current lineup–Scott Parker on bass; Jake Simpson on fiddle; Matt Rieger on guitar; Matt Cornette on banjo and Dunnigan on dobro. Previously, the band has won the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Band competition and took home the 2016 IBMA Momentum Band of the Year award. Wowing crowds across the country, these fine mountain men affirm to the bluegrass community that they’re here to stay with their beautifully constructed new album.
The first track on Changing Shades, “The City,” kicks in with a swingin’ backbeat, leading Dunnigan’s sweet vocals into a depiction of a world far removed from the Rocky Mountain-picker’s hometown scene. Cornette’s staccato banjo and the rumbling fiddle chords Simpson lays down, blend perfectly with the twangy leads Dunnigan fires off into hightailing-bluegrass territory.
“Might As Well” follows, opening with Simpson’s fiddle work thematically linking the plains and Western landscape into a fierce, rhythmic foundation for the remaining four to join in on. A sense of hopefulness rings out in the group’s grandiose vocal harmonies, speaking to the immense power of love and the vast learning experiences that accompany it.
It becomes obvious that there are many reoccurring themes intertwined in the string-heavy landscape that The Lil Smokies sonically paint, as we hear on “Feathers” and “Ms. Marie.” Rieger’s elegant and delicate guitar work mashed with Parker’s instinctual moves on the bass, create the perfect background as we hear on “Winded.” The five witty musicians have found the brightest ways to compliment each other’s innate musical talent, and this shines bright throughout the entirety of the album.
The final track, “The Gallery,” jumps on the theme of love and lust one last time, leaving the listener with a sweet and decadent taste, despite the song’s dark intro. Backed by a dynamic core with remarkable musicianship, along with speed and agility that can be detected from a mile away, the band propels to the finish line by proclaiming, “I can’t help but to love you.”
The Lil Smokies bravely showcase everything they’re made of on their brilliant new album, Changing Shades, and luckily they’re embarking on a nationwide tour in support of their new tunes.
THE LIL SMOKIES TOUR DATES
SEP 13 NASHVILLE, TN AMERICANA FEST
SEP 15-17 NORTH ADAMS, MA FRESH GRASS
SEP 16 FLAGSTAFF, AZ PICKIN’ IN THE PINES
SEP 20 LOUISVILLE, KY ZANZABAR
SEP 20-24 CHAMPAIGN, IL PYGMALION FESTIVAL
SEP 20-24 WINONA, MN BOATS AND BLUEGRASS
SEP 21 ST. LOUIS, MO THE STAGE @ KDHX
SEP 26 BILLINGS, MT PUB STATION*
SEP 27 BOZEMAN, MT THE EMERSON CENTER FOR ARTS & CULTURE*
SEP 28 MISSOULA, MT THE WILMA*
SEP 29 PORTLAND, OR CRYSTAL BALLROOM*
SEP 30 SEATTLE, WA NEUMOS*
OCT 1 EUGENE, OR HIFI MUSIC HALL*
OCT 3 SACRAMENTO, CA HARLOW’S*
OCT 4 PASO ROBLES, CA BARRELHOUSE BREWING CO*
OCT 5 LOS ANGELES, CA BOOTLEG THEATER*
OCT 6-7 SAN FRANCISCO, CA GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL*
OCT 8 FELTON, CA DON QUIXOTES
OCT 10 BOISE, ID NEUROLUX*
OCT 11 SALT LAKE CITY, UT URBAN LOUNGE*
OCT 12 DENVER, CO OGDEN THEATRE*
OCT 13 COLORADO SPRINGS, CO IVYWILD SCHOOL*
OCT 14 FORT COLLINS, CO AGGIE THEATRE*
NOV 2 MINNEAPOLIS, MN THE CEDAR*
NOV 3 MADISON, WI HIGH NOON SALOON*
NOV 4 CHICAGO, IL LICOLN HALL*
NOV 5 FERNDALE, MI OTUS SUPPLY*
NOV 7 PITTSBURGH, PA JAMES STREET BALLROOM*
NOV 9 CAMBRIDGE, MA THE SINCLAIR*
NOV 10 NEW YORK, NY BOWERY BALLROOM*
NOV 11 PHILADELPHIA, PA ARDMORE MUSIC HALL*
NOV 12 WASHINGTON, DC 9:30 CLUB*
NOV 14 CHARLOTTE, NC NEIGHBORHOOD THEATRE*
NOV 15 NASHVILLE, TN MERCY LOUNGE*
NOV 16 ATLANTA, GA TERMINAL WEST*
NOV 17 RALEIGH, NC LINCOLN THEATRE*
NOV 18 ASHEVILLE, NC ORANGE PEEL*