Bar and festival crowds in Knoxville and surrounding areas have become more and more familiar with a whiskey-soaked, heart-breaking bluesy country-rock band called Shimmy and the Burns. The band is fronted by soulful, craggy, cracked-voice crooner Brian “Shimmy” Paddock and folks have a chance to hear another side of Shimmy now that he’s released his new intimate, raw, stripped-down solo acoustic EP Villians.
The four-song EP is sparsely arranged—Paddock eschewed layered instruments in favor of a simple, plaintive, finger-picked acoustic with the occasional acoustic or clean electric lead and a few harmonica licks. Villains packs a major introspective psychological wallop—the listener can tell Paddock has been wrestling with some weighty issues.
In “Some Things” Paddock relates a series of vignettes about downtrodden homeless folks. Sometimes he helps them with some change, and sometimes he doesn’t, or wishes he had done more. A refrain always echoes in his head: “Oh no/Oh man/Some things you can change/Some things you can’t.” Later in the song, Paddock examines his own cold-heartedness; after he learns via the news that one character he passed over for help later passed away in the street, Paddock laments that he has spent “37 years learning to look away.”
In “Bowling Green,” Paddock takes on political division. The title is a reference to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s now infamous reference to a fake “Bowling Green Massacre” that she claimed the mainstream media was not covering. To him that hit close to home, with unemployment and opioid addiction and other real issues abounding in the South, hence the lyric in the song “they don’t know a damn thing about death in Kentucky.” He brings a touch of protest song in by referencing the classic Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young protest anthem about the real Kent State Massacre when he says “’Ohio’ rings in my ears always.” “It’s supposed to be about people turning ugly and clinging to alternative facts while ignoring real issues,” he says.
In “Goodnight Jessica,” Paddock wrestles with the costs his passion sometimes takes on his relationship with his wife. “I’ll see you in the morning/if everything goes my way,” he sings. “One more show to play…/While I’m out here/Chasing this stupid dream/you’re waiting at home for me.” He talks about getting older, knowing he should know better; the shows don’t pay, the bars are smoky, the motel rooms cheap, the crowds often indifferent. For some reason, he keeps feeling compelled to leave his biggest supporter, his closest ally, his warmest companion, for what is sometimes a cold and unforgiving stage. “But it’s just something I’ve got to do,” he explains, seeming to shrug. He can’t explain it himself.
In “Villains,” the title track, Paddock examines his own relationship to the culture he often mocks and derides. He says he often “roots for the villains,” but that’s not always true, as sometimes he’s a truth-teller calling them out (“I’m met a lot of honest faces/Usually they’re attached to a liar”). He worries about humanity’s descent into “idiocracy” now that convenience is king (“Necessity was the mother of invention…Now we don’t need anything”). Paddock’s wife goads him for his morose nature, saying he sounds like “an old country song”; he takes it as a compliment. He hasn’t come up with any answers by the end but he knows he’s tired. The problem is, he knows he’s got a long way to go.
“I sure am tired of my troubles,” he sings in the final seconds. “I just wish they were tired of me.”
Brian “Shimmy” Paddock’s new Villians EP is now available on iTunes, Spotify and other online outlets. Shimmy and the Burns will be playing the Little Chicago Festival in Johnson City on Friday August, 11.