Little Big Wheel
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Little Big Wheel

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Although the idea of a great rock band coming out of the Clinton woods may sound improbable at best, that's exactly what happened with Little Big Wheel. Not only that, but they brought along a debut CD, Home, that should go a long way toward putting them on the map. And though Little Big Wheel may seem to have appeared out of nowhere, as bands often do, this is a project that has been waiting in the wings for nearly twelve years.

"Jim and I have been playing together on and of since we were kids," says guitarist Wes Burton between drags on his cigarette. It's a chilly evening, and we're hunkered down over a table in Moynahan's Pub, where the conversation is flowing freely as the drafts. "We were on bills together. His band would play, and we'd laugh at them, and then my band would play, and they'd laugh at us."
"We were best friends one year and worst enemies the next," vocalist Jim Weeks adds. "We were in three bands together that never made it out of the basement! We finally put all that stuff behind us. We've always written together. Wes knows what's inside me and ..."Burton finishes his statement, "and Jim knows what's in me."

After years of realizing a good thing together, Burton and Weeks finally began playing their songs at acoustic venues like the COCO Bean to flesh them out in front of a crowd. Then in January of 96, they recruited scene veteran Dave Szczepaniak to play bass, and Little Big Wheel began operation in earnest, though things really didn't come together till late autumn when Ed Scholz joined on as the drummer. "Ed came along two weeks before we were headed into the studio," Weeks says. "We were having bad luck with drummers, so we invited Ed, on Dave's recommendation, and it clicked immediately."

In December, the band went into Boston's Fort Apache, one of the most respected studios in the country, to work with Dan McLoughlin, who'd twisted the knobs for Buffalo Tom, J.Mascis, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. "We knew we wanted to do a CD: and I was listening to Against the Grain [hosted by WICN's Dave Ritchie] when I heard this song by the Push Stars," relates Burton. "It was similar to the sound we're working on. Jim ended up hanging out with Dan McLaughlin a member of The Push Stars."

By the time the final mix-down was finished, an entire year had elapsed. But the results are well worth the time invested; Little Big Wheel deliver a CD that stands shoulder to shoulder with many of the bands influences. Full of overt country and folk references, as well as some of the sparse but tuneful music produced by outfits like Soul Asylum, Neil Young, and later era Replacements, Home taps into the spirit of country while remaining firmly on rock's ragged edges. It's also very reminiscent of the current "No Depression" trend that bands like Wilco and Sun Volt are riding, a comparison that makes Little Big Wheel bristle ever so slightly.

"Some of these songs are 10 to 12 years old," says Burton after rolling his eyes to likening his band's work to others'. "We like that stuff, and some may think we're jumping on the bandwagon, but these songs are old. We're big fans of music, so this is our sound."

After a year together in relatively close quarters, the direction of the band began to change. "Originally, we weren't gonna be a touring band" says Weeks. "We didn't want to go through playing Tuesday nights. Now it looks like we'll get a van and do it." "We're gonna do it the right way" adds Weeks "We've gotten a lot of good advise."

Much of that advise has come from Boston's Julie Duffy, who's worked with some of the bigger names in the business. She managed to get Little Big Wheel on a compilation from Westwood One Entertainment. They are the only band without label representation on the project, which also includes Sevendust, Powerman 5000, The Crystal Method, and ex-Replacement Tommy Stimpson and his new outfit, Perfect.

Little Big Wheel will debut their CD at The Last Strand Theatre in Clinton. A little hometown payback, perhaps? "Actually, a lot of bands do their CD release in clubs, so we wanted to do something different. It's like seeing a concert," offers Weeks. "[The Strand] is built for sound. Plus they serve beer." - Worcester Phoenix - January, 1998 - John O'Neill


Almost every local DJ is playing Little Big Wheel's "Home". "They're a very happening band who have been playing shows around town. They're a big draw. They packed the house at The Irish Times and The Last Strand Cinema. I was there with my puppets. They didn't know what to think of them in Clinton, but they enjoyed the sideshow." - The Worcester Phoenix - February 1998


Ted Raimi, who plays Joxer in "Xena, Warrior Princess," apparently likes edgy country rock in his off hours. The Los Angeles-based actor, in town for a "Xena" convention at The Park Plaza Sunday, stopped into the Lizzard Lounge in Cambridge Saturday night to hear the local band Little Big Wheel and even picked up a few of their CDs. - The Boston Globe – March, 1998


The thing about heartbreak music – blues, country, or even some crummy Eric Carmen tune – is the subject matter (the wife leaving town with the mailman, the dog dying, the wreck of the Old 97) can get pretty redundant, especially in the hands of a hack. Which is why we'll take Jim Weeks for delivering a tune that will make you want to curl up in your bottle. Currently scratching out a living as the front man for alt-roots hot shots Little Big Wheel, and performing solo to pay the rent. Weeks, with his too-many-cigarettes-and-whiskey voice, is a lightning rod of emotion. It's one of those rare and special deliveries, much like the middle-era Replacements' Paul Westerberg's, that makes you feel every syllable that's coming out of his mouth. Weeks also has a great range for more uplifting stuff, but when he's in the gutter it's magic. You'll wanna crawl right down there with him. - The Worcester Phoenix – Best of issue – October, 1998


Featuring cool rhythms, pensive vocals and well crafted arrangements, Little Big Wheel has a real hit on their hands with "Home". The songs are fueled by countrified acoustic guitars, tasty banjo picking, and even a great sounding lap steel. Sounding more like a mid-western band, Little Big Wheel is a welcomed breath of fresh musical air in this northern climate. You won't find any filler on "Home", just pure grade A songs performed by an excellent band! - Metronome Magazine


Sitting on a couch, Little Big Wheel's Jim Weeks tried to express his feelings for his fiancée, Carl Gang, who was fallen by an aneurysm and died March 19. Weeks' voice was rough and his words disjointed. You knew deep feelings of love were stirring, but they weren't exactly rising to the top.

Standing behind a microphone, Weeks had no trouble expressing himself. The voice was smooth, strong, and resonant. And listening to him belt out such lines as, "Drop a dime in the well, if you're wishing my wish comes true, I'd be spending every one night stand with you," set into focus his feelings. Weeks and Gang shared something that didn't need explaining, something that was fun and caring, something that was easier to express in song than in concrete terms.

Little Big Wheel's return to active duty has been a good vehicle for Weeks to cope with his loss, and he credits the band for pulling him through a long period of despair. And hearing how good Little Big Wheel is sounding right now gives the rest of us reason to celebrate.

On Saturday, Little Big Wheel will honor Gang with a memorial concert at The Lucky Dog Music Hall. Chris Trapper from the Push Stars is on the bill along with Huck and an opening set by Roger Lavallee from the Curtain Society. Proceeds from the show are being sent to Gang's parents in New Jersey to go toward the purchase of a memorial for her grave.
Catching up with Little Big Wheel last week, the band was sounding great hammering away at new material set for a release on a new CD.

The band – which features Weeks on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica, Dave Szczepaniak on bass, Ed Scholz on drums, and Ray Rogacz on guitar – remains a versatile unit steeped in traditions ranging from Bob Dylan to Soul Asylum. Little Big Wheel is the sort of band that can have bluegrass maven Dave Dick sound right at home playing banjo and mandolin on the band's records, then just as easily go absolutely nuts with crashing drums and searing guitars as heard on the new "Stretch Me."

Whether rocking full bore or working gently on a melody, Little Big Wheel can be counted on for creating music with some substance and depth to it. The new "Blast Off," which mulls a line between packing it in and carrying on, is as provocative a tune as any you'll hear this year.

"I'm not going to write a Christian record like Dylan did. But I have gotten in touch with my spiritual side," Weeks said.

Little Big Wheel has been working with David Minehan of Neighborhoods fame on its latest recordings, which have been a long time in coming since the release of the first record, "Home," back in 1997. Minehan produced and played guitar on the new recordings, and Dan McLaughlin of The Push Stars played keyboards and engineered tracks as well.

Though halted by tragedy, Little Big Wheel is rolling with a purpose. Weeks had nothing but high praise and deep admiration for his band mates for the way they rallied and supported him during very dark months after Gang's death.

"I think the songs we are working on now are songs of hope," Weeks said. "We're definitely tighter as a unit. Life can pull in different directions, and sometimes you're forced to make decisions about moving forward or moving back. I really want to go forward." - Worcester Telegram & Gazette - August, 2004 - Scott McLennen


Discography

Home - 1997 - Spaz Productions
Redwood - 2005 - Spaz Productions

Photos

Bio

Little Big Wheel’s first full length CD was entitled "Home.” With the help of Dan McLaughlin (The Push Stars) at Fort Apache Studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the true spirit of the music was captured. The band began quickly receiving National and International recognition for their debut release. The root’s rock sound of the disc caught on in several circles of Independent music.

When Little Big Wheel returned to the studio to work on their second release, “Redwood,” they collaborated with David Minehan at Woolly Mammoth Studios in Boston, Massachusetts. David, a true pro with many years under his belt touring the world with The Neighborhoods, Paul Westerberg and Aerosmith, offered a refreshing new direction and sound. It was clear that the new recordings were turning into something very special.

In 2005 the full length CD entitled "Redwood" was complete. Holding true to their roots, Little Big Wheel captured another versatile release. "Redwood" displays the very talented songwriting and raw emotional power of Jim Weeks, and gives notice that Little Big Wheel is here to stay.

All songs from LBW's Home & Redwood CDs are available to listen to in full length at:
www.myspace.com/littlebigwheel
www.myspace.com/jimweeksmusic

Visit Little Big Wheel's Official Website:
www.littlebigwheel.net

For a bit of Jim Weeks nostalgia go to the official website of IOU:
www.ioumusic.com

Both LBW CDs - Home & Redwood - are available for purchase at:
www.cdfreedom.com