[11 June 2003]
Great Hope for the Widespread Revival of Rock and Soul Music
Alabama’s Gulliver are a very young band—guitarist/vocalist Scott Boyer III is all of 22, despite duty in multiple bands and as a sessioneer (he played slide on songwriter James LeBlanc’s own version of “Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde”)—mining the 50 year legacy of Muscle Shoals, as well as weighty southern sound heritage (Boyer the Younger’s father Scott Boyer Jr. was a member of Capricorn Records’ Cowboy and compadre of Gregg Allman). The band’s debut Destination Funkulation displays an evolving group of men steeped in deep roots music forms and touchingly hungry for experience. Although they have only been together for a year and a half, Gulliver’s local buzz is enviable and they are poised to put the Muscle Shoals Sound back on the non-aficionado musical map in a big way.
They have started off from a position of great strength by recording their brand of “Sanctified Funk” at the world renowned FAME Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, the special area of Northwest Alabama once the fleeting home of rockbiz Olympians such as Duane Allman, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cher (who named an early solo album after MSS’ storied address 3614 Jackson Highway) and Domino/wunderkind Bobby Whitlock. Able to invoke the glories of southern bands past as diverse as the Allmans, Maxayn, Wet Willie and Invaders like Led Zeppelin (especially live) while retaining their own signature, Boyer III is joined by Gary Nichols, guitar and vocals, Jimbo Hart, bass, and Ryan Tillery, drums. Veteran N.C. Thurman also sits in on keyboards at shows and on disc. Their fiery soul sound seems to pose them as the urbane city mice to swamp-cracka Mofro’s country cousins.
Likely to sign shortly with Muscle Shoals Records and already smart enough to enlist the legendary Dixie road dawg Dick Cooper (late of the Drive-By Truckers) as their mentor—they lured him with a bompin’ Nawlinze-stylee paean “Aballah (Dick Coopa)”—Gulliver will soon be familiar beyond their Quad Cities stomping grounds where they own the crowds. Able to swing effortlessly from upbeat funk sparked by ‘80s synth-happy production values and Cajun-spiked boogie to salsa-inflected Latin rock to lilting, dreamy balladry reminiscent of that great underrated Texan gift Donnie Dacus (“Sarah’s Song”) and flamenco flourishes, these lads destined to become road veterans are only one hypothetical Bonnaroo appearance away from mass love. Gulliver’s tight, groovy funkulation is the future.