Big Smith is a band from Springfield, Missouri composed of five cousins: Mark and Jody Bilyeu, Bill and Rik Thomas, and Jay Williamson. The newest member, fiddle player Molly Healey, brings the total to six 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. These early gigs demonstrated to unsuspecting audiences what joy and liberation could be found in the raw mojo of indigenous, authentic Ozarks culture; albeit a culture interpreted through the eyes of modern, intellectually astute neo-hillbillies, if you will.
The ten plus years they’ve been together have borne witness to an evolving instrumentation and sonic palate. The original acoustic lineup is still there as a tether to their legacy, but anymore it seems Big Smith simply aspires to be a great American band, regardless of whether the guitars are solid and amplified or woody and earthen.
In 2007, music became the full-time profession for Big Smith. They are still adored in their native Ozarks, but years of travel have earned them a place as a Midwest institution. They have made their mark outside their region with several forays to Chicago, Nashville, Austin and Colorado; several tours to the West Coast including two in 2007; and along the length of the Mississippi from the Twin Cities to New Orleans.
They have recently enjoyed high-profile opening gigs for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, The Avett Brothers and the Del McCoury band. Summer of 2008 finds them traveling to Europe for the 21st Annual Country Rendez-Vous Festival in Crappone, France.
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. Much anticipated is the release of the DVD in Europe and the U.S.A with distribution from First Run Features.
Big Smith is currently in the studio working on their sixth CD to be released spring/summer of 2008. Meanwhile they continue to enjoy the success of the first five releases that document their many years together.
Their most recent studio CD is a double disc made with their young fans in mind, "Hay to Zzzzzz: Hillbilly Songs for Kids". Prior to "Hay to Zzzzzz", Big Smith released "Gig", another double CD. Long requested by fans, it is a generous sampling of what one can expect from the band's legendary club appearances. The band has also released two celebrated studio CDs - their self-titled debut, and "Big Rock". The catalog is rounded out by and a live gospel CD, "Live at Lonestar", that pays tribute to their family's musical roots.
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