Ohio native Justin Dzuban is no stranger to unique and classic styles, with influences that span from Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, to Johnny Cash and Bing Crosby; he’s spent his life studying simple yet impactful musical moments that have lasted the test of time. For “Shakedown” Justin sought to create a distinct sound, building each song out so it had its own essence while constructing a full length album that remained cohesive in both instrumentation and technique. Mixing and producing this project independently, he used a mix of used instruments and gear, recording with one mono channel to fully embrace the concept of simplicity in recording. At times giving new life to old finds, giving one last shot to an amp found in the trash by a roommate, allowing the scratch and burn of the guitar to set itself apart as the unique sound bolstered the vibe of the record itself. Justin used a small talented pool of close friends to perform arrangements, contributing their personal talents to selected tracks, including with Natalie Ganther (background vocals), Greg Cahill (electric guitar), and Heath Francis (singer of “The 3 Heads”, on back up vocals). There’s no doubt that the performances on “Shakedown” are both immediate, direct, and invigorating, with often sparse and buoyant arrangements that contain a vintage vibe that speaks to the heart of any fan of classic music.
The opening track, “Trouble” is dosed in thick Nashville syrup, reflecting on the days of Outlaw country when Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings were dominating the scene. It showcases Justin’s baritone voice revealing his deeper range, driven by a shuffle beat, echoed by haunting yet beautiful female back up vocals, a wurlitzer electric piano arranged across a smooth but moderately driven Gretsch Hollow body electric guitar (used throughout the record) contributing to the subtle 60’s and 70’s classic rock style. The title track, “Shakedown” utilizes the Wurlitzer electric piano and a hammond organ setting the stage for a rocking Americana track that grooves through the chorus with soulful female back up vocals and a foot tapping melody. Within the song there is a sensibility that finds the track, like many throughout the album, consistently alive and astonishingly modern. The chorus bounces with the beat, layers of country-gospel vocals rise up and fill in the space where Justin’s deep warmth fades into silence. The restorative power that Justin draws from traditional sources is most apparent throughout the slow groove of this reflective single. Next up is the classic rock inspired “Living Lies and Prostitution,” where Justin’s voice comes alive as it flies over the rhythm of electric guitars, reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s energetic rock ballad vocal style. The raw and driven sound of the lead guitar (courtesy of Greg Cahill) rambles across the forward driving melody making for a blend of big guitar sounds, a reoccurring hook finding it’s high energy turn arounds. He takes it in a different direction on “Where Are We Going,” a country/ rock inspired introspective look into the road often traveled of uncertainty, moving on from the unresolved with good willed memories. He dives back into his classic rock roots here, folds of distortion ebb and flow throughout the arrangement, a cornerstone of his unique sound that weaves itself into the fabric of the music. Another choir of angelic voices rises up, filling out the chorus with beautiful harmony that connects to the sense of strength but uncertainty within the story. Next up is the Caribbean infused “Windy Beach City” that carries with it a touch of the islands in the slow burning slide of the electric guitar. The sway of the drums finds itself mirroring the rise and fall of the waves while EdenLivingood contributes a sorrowful but postured violin that enters the break of the song adding a classical feeling. Finally, there’s the acoustic “In The Streets” where Justin conveys a conversational tone, the focus shifting suddenly to the subdued and sparse arrangements that have become a trademark of the album. It brings to life dirt roads, goodbyes, and a reflection of a path taken not yet traveled by an eager youthful heart. The song easily rounds out the distinct differences each track possesses, while still contributing to the overall sound and theme throughout “Shakedown”. Closing the album with “Find Yourself Again”, a Harmonica saturated folk song about rediscovering yourself, finding new inspiration in fresh perspectives, and peeling away the old, Justin releases a raw expression finding new light within our lives.
Justin Dzuban approached the making of “Shakedown” with a vision that he expertly executed, with the help of talented friends and iconic ideas, he accomplished the creation of a well-rounded musical experience that deserves a second and third listen. The dynamic collection of tracks that makes up “Shakedown” will be released on June 17, 2014.
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