Mark Bilyeu Band

Mark Bilyeu Band


Original Country-Folk-Rock


As part of the Ozarks family band Big Smith, Mark Bilyeu has served as de facto front man for the band of five cousins, although songwriting and lead vocal duties have always been shared between the various members. Big Smith has released five CDs: two studio recordings of original material, two live CDs (one in a church, the other in a bar) and a celebrated double CD for kids. Since 1996, Big Smith has toured extensively, exposing many thousands to Bilyeu’s guitar playing, singing and songwriting.

In January of 2005 Bilyeu began working on an album of his own. Recorded at Route 1 Recording in southern Mississippi, "First One Free" finds Bilyeu moving from the primarily acoustic hillbilly-bluegrass sound of Big Smith to something more akin to country-folk-rock (choose what ever hyphenated term you like). He enlists some well-known Mississippi musicians to back him up in the studio, including guitarist Cary Hudson (ex-Blue Mountain, now touring solo), drummer Ted Gainey (Kudzu Kings, Cary Hudson trio), and lap steel guitarist Max Williams (Taylor Grocery Band, Thacker Mountain Radio). Likewise the album reflects the distinctly southern country and blues influences of its players. To keep a taste of home, yet another of Bilyeu’s cousins, Bill Thomas, plays bass guitar and sings backup on the record. The sessions were relaxed and easy. Bilyeu not only was able to stretch out on the electric guitar, trading licks with his personal guitar hero Hudson, but also explored new territory on the piano and Hammond organ.

To recreate the sounds of "First One Free" on the road, Bilyeu has enlisted the talents of Thomas and two other musicians from his native Springfield, Missouri: keyboardist Joe Terry and drummer Bobby Lloyd Hicks, both veterans of the Skeletons but who can also currently be heard playing with Dave Alvin’s Guilty Men. Terry and Hicks, in fact, can be heard backing Alvin on his 2001 Grammy-award winning album Public Domain. The soulful virtuosity of these musicians will certainly push the music into new and exciting directions on stage.



Written By: Mark Bilyeu

I’ve gotta leave this country
I think I’m goin’ crazy
Things are gettin’ fuzzy
The outlook’s gettin’ hazy
I tried to cross the borders
I tried to jump the fences
I never made it farther than the smelly parts of Kansas
Sometimes I feel like a cow led to the slaughter
The longer I let myself linger here in this backwater

My lover went to Denver
She said she got a strong notion
And the last time I saw her
She was flyin’ ‘cross the ocean
She sent a short sting of letters
Stating her position
I didn’t have the nerve I didn’t have the vision
She got tired of the rabble, tired of the fodder
Tired of pickin’ off the leeches livin’ in this backwater

My great-great-great-great granddad
Was a mean slave holder
And all the founding fathers
Are still sittin’ on my shoulder
But if it doesn’t matter
Tell me how does it figure
One of my grandpas had a horse he named nigger
That horse was healthy up until he bought her
But then she took a big long drink out of this backwater

You swim upsteam
You float downstream

The sherrif’s on the outskirts
Roughin’ up the outsiders
No one ever blew the whistle
On that old dogfighter
Then he put ‘em in a jailhouse
Way below the standard
And when they finally sued him he said that he’d been slandered
We let that dog suffer when we should have shot her
You won’t find a merciful gun here in this backwater

Everbody’s lookin’
Searchin’ for an answer
Some are gettin’ gravy
Some are gettin’ cancer
You might go to Heaven
You might go to Hell
You might go to Wal-Mart or maybe Taco Bell
Tear out the wires and throw away the solder
You won’t find no hotline to God here in this backwater

I’ll put up the wire
If you feed the chickens
And I’ll chop their heads off
If you do the finger pickin’
I’ll talk to your daddy
He’s waitin’ in the kitchen
I’ll get his blessing and we can stop this itchin’
I’ll give you a son if you give me a daughter
We’ll settle down and raise ‘em right here in this backwater

Don't Need So Much

Written By: Mark Bilyeu

What did it get you
Where will you take it
How did it help you
When will you make it
Who’s gonna love you
Who’s gonna fake it

How did you get it
Where did it come from
Little by little
Or in a lump sum
Will you keep it
Or will you give the bums some

Don’t need so much
Don’t need so much
You don’t need so much
So much

Look out your window
See what you’ve taken
Did it ever hit you
You might be mistaken
How many parties
Can you eat your cake in

Put it on credit
Put it on the plastic
Just put it off
Don’t it feel fantastic
Put on your stretch pants
Can’t you feel that elastic

She works in the garden
She dances in the kitchen
She loves like a martyr
She loves with ambition

Don’t feel guilty
Don’t be persuaded
If you had a good time
If it left you sated
Why wonder why
You’re feeling jaded

Brady and Duncan

Written By: Traditional

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
Along comes Brady in a 'lectric car
Got a mean look all 'round his eye
Gonna shoot somebody jus' to see them die

Duncan, Duncan was tending the bar
In walked Brady with a shining star
And Brady says, "Duncan you are under arrest
And Duncan shot a hole right in Brady's chest.

Brady fell down on the barroom floor,
"Please Mr. Duncan don' shoot me no more
Women all cryin, ain't it a shame,
Shot King Brady, goin' shoot him again.

"Brady, Brady, Brady, you know you done wrong
Walkin' in the room when the game was goin' on
breakin down windows, Knockin down the door
Now you lyin' dead on the barroom floor.

Ole King Brady was a big fat man
Well the doctor reached out grabbed hold of his hand
Well he fell for his pulse doctor said
Well I believe to my soul ole King Brady’s dead

Women all heard King Brady was dead,
Goes back home and they dresses in red.
Come a slippin’ and a slidin’ and a shufflin’ down the street,
In their big mother hubbards and their stockin' feet.


Mark's debut album "First One Free"
Listen to songs by clicking on AUDIO LINK

"First One Free" received 8 weeks of radio promotion from Space 380 at over 300 radio stations nationwide.

Single, "Don't Need So Much" was featured on Pop Culture Press Magazine's compilation CD that was distributed to over 6,000 music fans. (Austin, TX)

Set List

Two one hour-fifteen minute sets