‘Speak softly and carry a big stick” – President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous saying might not seem to apply to music at first glance. …But it’s a surprisingly fitting analogy for The Midnight Shepherds‘ track ‘Ann’. This is a group that has just absolutely mastered guitar work, which I’ve raved about countless times. However, when they throw a bluesy spin into their playing, it elevates their talent to a whole new level.
And that is what I mean when I reference Big Stick ideology and the fact that their track ‘Ann’, has few lyrics, but the guitar (the big stick in this case) work is what really does all the talking, in a song of few words. Now of course, this is made even more impactful due to the fact that this is a live recording of the track.
The beauty of live recordings lies in their potential for improvisation. Those unplanned flourishes and subtle variations are often lost in the polished precision of a studio take. This spontaneity can elevate a track like ‘Ann’, bringing in a raw, energetic element that further enhances its impact. And of course, blues is always a genre of music that you just feel. It is fueled with intense emotion, and this style naturally translates those feelings directly into the music itself.
But when it comes to those few words that are the lyrics, the singer here in this song isn’t merely lovesick – they’re consumed by an obsession. The even just saying her name in the track, sounds like it’s something that he can’t escape, and it shows someone completely fixated. There’s no subtle pining here, but a relentless internal struggle against a feeling that won’t be ignored. This fixation reaches a level of despair in their visit to the doctor.
Here, we see how this love has eclipsed all reason, as he seeks a medical solution to an emotional whirlwind. The doctor’s helplessness underlines the overwhelming nature of these feelings. I love this line and how it has such a Robert Palmer feel.
The line “Well if love fail me lord only knows what ill do” carries a veiled threat – not necessarily toward others, but potentially toward themselves. And I mean, when it comes to blues, lines like this give you a first hand view of the depth of desperation – love is the single thread holding them together, and its loss feels like an insurmountable catastrophe.
Now, let’s add how the music might magnify these themes. Blues guitar can wail and weep, mimicking the cries of a broken heart. Imagine a mournful wail of a solo after he begs for a cure, mirroring the emptiness of the doctor’s response. Sparse, near-silent passages punctuated by those anguished solos highlight the inner conflict, the battle between restraint and overwhelming desperation. It’s visceral and raw, making the emotive potential even greater in a live setting where those nuances can be further explored.
The song is a nearly nine-minute emotional story told through the guitar work. Consider this length as more than just runtime, it’s about total immersion. The track forces you to inhabit the same turmoil that the band is speaking about, to experience that obsessive longing without respite. This impact wouldn’t be possible without the strong guitar work.
Those solos don’t even seem to be a stylistic choices – they’re a raw expression of the emotions woven into the lyrics, carrying passionate intensity throughout the entirety of this song. Even the underlying instrumentation reinforces this feeling, the rhythm – that insistent groove embedded in the baseline will not for a moment disengage, adding fuel to this relentless emotional fire.
If this live recording left you with your jaw on the floor, just imagine the experience of witnessing this raw emotive force on stage. Luckily, a U.S. tour is in the works, offering the chance to immerse yourself in ‘Ann’ and undoubtedly many other gems from this awesome group. I’ve consistently praised their work, but everything points to the fact that a live setting is where they truly come into their own. If phenomenal, emotionally charged music is what you crave, their upcoming tour is absolutely one to keep on your radar.