Get over the Deliverance bib overalls and the Ozark ax-killer faces. Big Smith has long cultivated the Ozark hillbilly look, and further it with a tear-ass musical style that puts them in the company of groups like the Gourds and Avett Brothers. They usually look like they've just arrived from a turkey shoot or pig roast, but Big Smith can play high-energy, bluegrass-influenced roots music with anybody on the planet, and everyone in the band can sing like a cherub in a small country church choir. They list their influences as "Grandma and Led Zeppelin," and songs like "Trash," "Burn Down the House" and "12 Inch 3 Speed Oscillating Fan" have all the attention-grabbing, in-your-face energy of a feral hog with a bellyful of loco weed loose in your outhouse. These guys are as feel-good as it gets, so bring your shrink along. They'll cure him, too.
â€” William Michael Smith, Houston Press
Big Smith is a band from Springfield, Missouri composed of five cousins, including two sets of brothers: Mark and Jody Bilyeu, Bill and Rik Thomas, and Jay Williamson. The newest member, fiddle player Molly Healey, brings the total to six creative individuals bound together by blood and harmony.
After coming together professionally in the fall of 1996, they quickly earned a devoted following playing raucous acoustic music that captured the spirit of their native Ozarks, equipped only with an acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass fiddle and washboard. These early gigs demonstrated to unsuspecting audiences what joy and liberation could be found in the raw mojo of indigenous, authentic Ozarks culture; albeit a culture interpreted through the eyes of modern, intellectually astute neo-hillbillies, if you will.
The ten plus years theyâ€™ve been together have borne witness to an evolving instrumentation and sonic palate. The original acoustic lineup is still there as a tether to their legacy, but anymore it seems Big Smith simply aspires to be a great American band, regardless of whether the guitars are solid and amplified or woody and earthen.
In 2007 music became the full-time profession for all the guys in Big Smith, as their expanded touring schedule attests â€“ 2008 will see them playing upwards of 110 shows. They are still adored in their native Ozarks, but years of travel have earned them a place as a Midwest institution. They have made their mark outside their region with several forays to Chicago, Nashville, Austin and Colorado; several tours to the West Coast including two in 2007; and along the length of the Mississippi from the Twin Cities to New Orleans. They have recently enjoyed high-profile opening gigs for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, The Avett Brothers and the Del McCoury band. Summer of 2008 finds them performing at Wakarusa Music Festival and traveling to Europe for the 21st Annual Country Rendez-Vous Festival in Crappone, France.
The documentary "Homemade Hillbilly Jam," profiling the band and the music of their extended family, has garnered rave reviews and a legion of new fans through numerous screenings at film festivals around the world. Much anticipated is the release of the DVD in Europe and the U.S.A with distribution from First Run Features.
As Big Smith begins work on a new album of original material, to be released spring/summer of 2008, they continue to enjoy the success of the five releases that document their many years together.
Their most recent studio CD is a double disc made with their young fans in mind, "Hay to Zzzzzz: Hillbilly Songs for Kids". It is a generous portion of music - 42 tracks spread across two CDs. Prior to "Hay to Zzzzzz," Big Smith released "Gig," another double CD. Long requested by fans, it is a generous sampling of what one can expect from the band's legendary club appearances. The band has also released two celebrated studio CDs - their self-titled debut, and "Big Rock." The catalog is rounded out by and a live gospel CD, "Live at Lonestar," that pays tribute to their family's musical roots.