Rooted in Rock
As BC & The Big Rig has developed, the band that initially flinched at being classified as Red Dirt has come to grips with where it fits in the regional genre.
Tulsa’s music scene is undoubtedly painted with a broad palette of colors and styles, from jazz to country and Americana to blues, rock, and funk. Each genre has a local artist or two who best exemplifies what Tulsa has to offer and how we blur the lines.
If one band, in particular, connects most of the dots and pulls it all together into one cohesive whole, it might be BC & The Big Rig.
With a casual and passive listen, you might initially classify the group as southern rock with a propensity for classic rock, but once you take it all in, there’s a healthy dose of classic country that informs the band, while subtle hints of ‘90s alternative rock and funk surface in different places.
Lead singer Brandon Clark has been a fixture of the local music scene for nearly two decades, emerging from his college alt-rock phase and transforming into a classic Americana artist with a rock edge with The Red Lights and the Brandon Clark Band. A few years ago, however, he made a conscious effort to step back. Yes, the initials are still there, but this is The Big Rig and BC is merely a part of it.
The Big Rig is one of the hardest working bands in the region. Not only is the group a staple of the local scene, but trips to Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska are commonplace, along with annual trips to New Mexico and Mile 0 Festival in Key West, Florida. The band recently returned from a trip to Sturgis, South Dakota where it played the Buffalo Chip Rally for the fifth consecutive year, with shows on the way up and back.
As it has developed, the band that initially flinched at being classified as Red Dirt has come to grips with where it fits in the regional genre and dubbed its more guitar-rock heavy leanings “Shred Dirt.”
“It’s all about the songs and how you process influences to reflect where you’re from,” says bassist Chris Bell. “When I think of it that way, being labeled Red Dirt makes sense.”
The band has churned out three full albums in just over four years. That’s ridiculously productive for an independent group that hasn’t relied on a label or crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe to finance the process. It’s all based on hard work, productivity, and the support of friends and family. Big Rig’s latest effort is the appropriately titled Turn ‘n Burn.
The 11 tracks on the album pack plenty of barroom boogie and attitude with an abundance of guitars. There are also a few curveballs thrown in, adding new textures to the group’s sound and going deeper than mere good time rock songs.
“Randy’s Song” not only serves as a tribute to Red Dirt icon and fiddler Randy Crouch but also shows how the group fits into the scene as a whole. “We love Randy and playing shows with him,” says Clark. “He’s our guru. Of all the Red Dirt guys, he’s the rocker of the bunch, and he’s the one who gets us.”
The big surprise of the record comes early as “Burdens” tackles the issues of depression and suicide. The opening lines — “Let go of your pain, let go of your sorrow / Just get through the day, we’ll deal with tomorrow” — set the tone for a sobering look in the mirror that addresses the stress and business of being in a band that can become overwhelming.
“We see more and more that people are dealing with this. I think in our industry, it increases and we’ve seen it affect so many people. It all just came to a head, and we felt like we had to call it out,” says Clark.
While the song started as an acoustic track, it gained more intensity as the rest of the band weighed in and added to the arrangement, making it an essential track for the album.
Initially suggested by Clark, the entire band agreed that the album should be encoded so that the National Suicide Prevention hotline number scrolls through when the song plays.
“We’ve always been socially conscious, and this is one way where we saw we could make a difference,” says Clark. “I think as artists, we’ve been given a platform of sorts, and in this day and age, this needs to be addressed. If five guys say it’s OK to ask for help and even one person listens and talks to a friend or calls the number, then we’ve done our part.”
Before the disc ends, the band comes back around to hit the subject again as “Alive” burns with the intensity of walking out the other side of despair. “Out of the darkness, hope will arrive /It’s time to be free, so don’t give up on me, because I’m still alive,” Clark sings. Initially written for a movie about brain trauma that is in production, it serves as a fitting reprisal and song of victory for the band before wrapping the album.
While the album has plenty of big riffs and good time rock ‘n’ roll, this is the album that will change perceptions of BC & The Big Rig.
BC & The Big Rig
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