2008 Artist Lineup

Big Smith

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Big Smith is a band from Springfield, Missouri composed of five cousins, including two sets of brothers: Mark and Jody Bilyeu, Bill and Rik Thomas, and Jay Williamson. Five songwriters, five vocalists, five creative individuals bound together by blood and harmony. After coming together professionally in the fall of 1996, they quickly earned a devoted following playing raucous acoustic music that captured the spirit of their native Ozarks, equipped only with an acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass fiddle and washboard. Long before the “O Brother” soundtrack, Big Smith was demonstrating to unsuspecting audiences what joy and liberation could be found in the unlikely combination of the energy of bluegrass, the soul of gospel harmonies, and the raw mojo of indigenous, authentic Ozarks culture. The ten plus years they’ve been together have bore witness to an evolving instrumentation and sonic palate. The hillbilly thing is still there, but anymore it seems Big Smith simply aspires to be a great American band, regardless of whether the guitars are solid and amped or woody and earthen. The recent addition of cousin/songwriter/bassist Bill Thomas promises to push the band into yet another phase. As of 2007, music is the full-time profession for all the guys in Big Smith, as their expanded touring schedule attests. They are still adored in their native Ozarks, but years of travel have earned them a place as a Midwest institution. The documentary “Homemade Hillbilly Jam,” profiling the band and the music of their extended family, has garnered rave reviews and a legion of new fans through numerous screenings at film festivals around the world. As Big Smith prepares to enter the studio for a new album of original material, they continue to enjoy the success of the five releases that document their ten years together.

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