JACKSONVILLE, Florida, has enjoyed a long and stirring rock and roll tradition. From the time the seminal guitar crunch of Lynyrd Skynyrd first put this vibrant city on the rock and roll map, J-ville has played an integral role in the on-going evolution of contemporary music. Now a young Jacksonville-based hard rock band named Shinedown appears ready, willing, and more-than-able to add another exciting chapter to their home town’s noble rock history book.
As proven throughout their debut album, “LEAVE A WHISPER,” vocalist Brent Smith, guitarist Jasin Todd, bassist Brad Stewart, and drummer Barry Kerch have fully absorbed influences ranging from the classic sounds of Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin to the soulful stirrings of Otis Redding to the likes of Staind and Tool – and have filtered them all through their own unique musical perspectives. The resulting musical brew is a true feast for the senses, blending bold, strident guitar power, blues-driven vocal fury, and cutting-edge metallic mayhem into a swirling cauldron of bubbling rock reactants. This is heavy music that stands head and shoulders above today’s field of cookie-cutter rock practitioners.

Such songs as the powerful first single, “Fly From The Inside,” the emotive “No More Love,” and the overwhelming “Burning Bright” show that in the 24 year-old Smith, Shinedown sports one of the most talented singers and unconventional songwriters currently operating within a hard rock context.

Shinedown delivers their musical goods with passion, power and a perception that belies their limited time in the spotlight. “I’ve wanted to do this all my life,” says Smith. “Making music and being in a successful band is all I ever wanted to do, but it’s never been easy. Music was never a big deal in my family. My parents just didn’t understand what it was really all about. They were encouraging… to a point. But I always dreamed of being given the chance to stand up in front of people and try to move them with my music. I’m incredibly thankful every day that I’ve now been given that chance.”

Formed in early 2001 by these fast-found friends – after Smith left his previous band on the eve of landing a recording deal – it hasn’t taken long for Shinedown to begin making their mark. First and foremost, there are the songs. Each one stands as a mini-drama unto itself, a full-fledged slice of rock and roll brilliance where the band’s varying influences and tastes all magnificently battle with one another for prominence. “We don’t like to do anything in a typical way,” Smith says with a grin. “To our way of thinking, each song should be different – as far away from a formula as you can possibly get. We pride ourselves in taking some things you might think you know, and then twisting them around. We’re not trying to necessarily be different – it’s just the way we are. That keeps it interesting for us, and interesting for the fans as well.”

Once the members of Shin nedown began to fully appreciate one another’s talents and fully hit their musical stride, it didn’t take long for the labels to take notice. It was early in 2002 that Atlantic sealed the deal, giving the band the opportunity to turn their rock and roll dreams into reality. Shinedown soon found themselves in a Los Angeles recording studio with producer Bob Marlette (known for his work with Ozzy Osbourne, Saliva, and Black Sabbath), laying down the tracks that would eventually form the core of “LEAVE A WHISPER.”

From first note to last, this is a disc that shows a band in control of the full spectrum of rock and roll ingredients. Heavy without being overbearing, insightful without sounding preachy, the music created by Shinedown is designed to send those proverbial shivers racing up and down your spine. While their approach on such tunes as “45” and “Better Version” can seem rather dark and bleak, there’s always a positive thread running through the music, leaving the listener with the unmistakable feeling that this has been a musical sojourn well worth taking.

“There were so many things that we wanted to try on this album,” Smith said. “We approached it in as cool and calm a manner as we could, but there’s no denying that a lot of the time we were like kids in a candy store. That’s how excited we were. I think a lot of that energy found its way into the music, which was our intent from the very beginning. We want each song to carry the listener on a journey, and we want to make sure the ride is as interesting as possible. The best way I can describe it is to say that this band is a celebration of being alive. We all have our problems, but if you’re honest with yourself, you can draw from that darkness and turn it into something great.”

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