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Hard Rock (Redux)


Outspoken - Bitter Shovel
(Lava Records)
2 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 24, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

If we were to believe everything that publicity bios throw at us, then we may just be conned into thinking that the Louisville, Kentucky-based quintet Outspoken might sound akin to something along the lines of Ozzy Skynyrd.
The description of their debut album Bitter Shovel as a "combination of southern rock sensibilities (what the?!) fused with menacing atmosphere" seems to miss the point completely, however. Sounding more like they've grown up in the Pacific Northwest than in The South, Bitter Shovel instead carefully teeters the line between grunge rock, heavy metal and latter day alternative rock, without necessarily subscribing to any one of them whole-heartedly. And while they may hail from down yonder the Mason-Dixon line don't believe for a second that there's any behind-the-barn inbreeding from kinfolk such as the Allmans, Coach Skynyrd or Ms. Hatchet into their music.
Built on the double guitar (Kevin McCreery and Shaun Kennedy), bass (Frank Green), drums (Donnie Highland) and vocals (David "E" Frazier) rock prototype, the sounds on Bitter Shovel are far from groundbreaking, as immediate comparisons to bands such as Alice In Chains, Tool and the Deftones spring to mind through their mix of heavy guitars, creepy minor chord progressions and soaring vocals. But when the band locks into one of their many heavy, hypnotic grooves, as on "Feel This," "Now" or the title track, or when they add a sinister bite to the dark pop of "Loose End," the band seems to confidently stand on their own two.
And just to make sure that all the bases were covered here, they've also added the obligatory Bic lighter-waving power ballad of "Way I Am," complete with a forced string section waltzing over a clunky two-step rhythm. Thankfully, however, they've seen to it to keep the schmaltz like this to a minimum and instead rock like there's no tomorrow...only yesterday.

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