Tulsa Band Saugeye, Led by Jared Tyler, Bring Well Oiled Originals & Covers To S/T Debut (ALBUM REVIEW)

Like many, this writer was first introduced to multi-instrumentalist Jared Tyler through his longtime work as trusted sideman for singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe. Now Tyler leads a collaborative project with fellow Okies, most of which are familiar names to those who closely follow roots music. They slide guitarist and luthier Seth Lee Jones, who has been compared to Sonny Landreth by some, drummer Jake Lynn of Jason & the Stragglers, and music veteran Casey Van Beek (Tractors, Glenn Fey, Linda Ronstadt, Done Henley, and most recently leader of Tulsa Groove). The fifth member, Isai “EZ” Mireles is probably the least known member.

This is not Tyler’s first time out front. His solo albums include Blue Alleluia (2006) featuring guest vocals from Emmylou Harris, Here With You (2010), co-produced by Chuck Zwicky, Prince’s mixing engineer, and most recently Dirt On Your Hands (2017). It was on the latter album where the band officially came together. Van Beek, Jones, and Lynn supported Tyler on a few gigs, and it grew into a natural fit. Some had played together before such as Van Beek and Tyler, Jones and Tyler, and organist EZ and Lynn, who have a history playing in churches together. They recorded all basic tracks (drums, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and lead vocals) in one day, trying to capture the essence of their live show. The background vocals and EZ’s B3 were added later.

The band takes its name from a hybrid fish that results from spawning two closely related fish: the sauger and the walleye. It happens to be Tyler’s favorite fish to catch and eat and the band found the notion of hybrid attractive, dubbing their sound as Hybrid Roots music. The selections include Tyler originals as well as covers by some of the bands’ friends and favorites. Beginning with a searing take on Holcombe’s “To the Homeland,” the energy kicks in right away with sizzling electric guitar from Jones in the break.  Later they also cover Holcombe’s “One Leg at a Time,” in even more feverish fashion. “Gwendolyn” is a mid-tempo country song with especially strong Tyler vocals, a swirling B3 and both slide and picking guitar parts. “Keystone Lillie” is a recently penned beautiful tribute to Tyler’s faithful dog. They deliver a more animated take on “Dirt On Your Hands,” the title track from Tyler’s 2017 solo album.

In fact “Gwendolyn,” the lilting “Waltzing Around With My Shadow,” and “Death of Me” also appeared on Dirt On Your Hands. “She Believes” is a new song, co-written with Buddy Owens and Mark D. Sanders, a sentimental tribute to a friend who inspired him, with this memorable passage – “We said goodbye in Asheville up in Northern Carolina/She said hold true to your guitar you are a song receiver/Now I’m a true believer.” “Gideon’s Bible,” by the late Brandon Jenkins, is the band’s tribute to their lost friend. They take on the of-covered Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands,” adding an original verse and delivering it more poignantly than most, excepting blues/soul singer Howard Tate who, in this writer’s opinion, still claims the best cover version. To be fair though, Saugeye sounds like a terrific blues/soul band with blazing guitars a sizzling B3 in the instrumental portions with Tyler singing with deep conviction. The closer, “Another Lifetime,” was written with Jamie Kindleyside as a song of consolation to a younger friend. 

Give credit to Tyler as it seems he could have easily called this a solo album, choosing instead to share credits with his group of fellow Okies, who display impressive musicianship over this batch of well-crafted originals and well-executed covers. 

Photo by Phil Clarkin

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