Soul to Country and Back Again With Idiot Grins’ ‘Big Man’

Idiot Grins - Big Man CD Cover

With a sound that could easily be added to any movie set in the 60s comes Idiot Grins with their new album, ‘Big Man’.

Instantly from the opening track, ‘How To Get To (Baltimore)’ we’re struck with the feeling that we might well have heard this before. It’s familiar, comfortable, and altogether listenable. With big horns and rich toned vocals of John Hansen, we knew straight away that this was going to be the sort of album we would love to have in our collection and listen to over and over again.

Hailing from the Bay Area, Idiot Grins cite their influences as including the likes of Booker T & The MGs, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave. Fourth track, ‘Stack This’ feels like it’s come straight out of The Blues Brothers – aided no doubt once again by the horns. Idiot Grins really put their all into this album, even going so far as to master it at Ardent Studios in Memphis. The incredible sax is thanks to Johnny Bamont, sax player for 80’s super group Huey Lewis and the News, among others, and the trumpet is from Mic Gillette, best known for East Bay R&B band Tower of Power.

‘Big Man’ was recorded in the state of the art studio of the band’s guitarist Randy Strauss, who said about the mastering at Ardent,

“This CD was mastered using the same equipment that was used to master so many Stax records that we love,

“I’m fortunate to own the guitar Gram Parsons played on his last album and tour before his tragic death, and it was my own tribute to him to play it on songs like Paso Robles.”

It’s ‘Paso Robles’ where the album takes a turn and goes straight down the Interstate 75 from the soul of Motown to the country stylings of Tennessee. Does it work? Yes it does – particularly in the song which follows, ‘Ovaltang’, which perfectly combines slide guitar with those infectious horns.

How does the band consolidate classic soul and country rock on the one album? Randy says it’s not an issue. “Soul and country come from the same place. The heart.”

Seventh song on the album, ‘One Reason’, goes even further than that – there’s a vibe of The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’, which might actually come down more to The Beatles’ having been influenced by soul themselves than anything else.

Idiot Grins is Michael Conner on Keyboards, Evan Eustis on Bass,  John Hansen’s Vocals, Michael Melgoza with Drums, and Randy Strauss on Guitar. ‘Big Man’ is available on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. You can also buy their previous release, ‘Quarry’ from the same sources. Find Idiot Grins on Facebook and their website.

About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email

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