On June 9, 2012, Big Smith played their final show in Kansas City, Missouri. They sang "I'll Fly Away" with the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and with that drew a close to nearly 16 years of recording and touring. Big Smith wishes to thank everybody who has supported them all these years and allowed them to earn a living doing what they love.
Big Smith was a band from Springfield, Missouri composed of five cousins: brothers Mark and Jody Bilyeu, brothers Bill and Rik Thomas, and Jay Williamson. Jay's brother Mike Williamson served as bass player for the band's first ten years. The addition of fiddle player Molly Healey in 2007 brought the final lineup 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.
After imbibing in various stylistic detours over the years, in 2011 Big Smith returned to their roots for their last CD Kin. Not only did Kin mark a return to a renewed emphasis on acoustic instrumentation, the band physically revisited the location of their first two albums, The Studio, Lou Whitney's place in downtown Springfield, where the comfortable and familiar surroundings allowed them to perform nearly all of the songs live, with very few overdubs. Kin was not merely a nostalgic look over the shoulder, however, as the songwriters in the band continued to progress in their collective craft, fully on display over the course of the album's 15 songs.
Big Smith's performance schedule had them working upwards of 100 shows annually. They are still adored in their native Ozarks, but years of touring earned them fans from all over the country. They shared stages with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, The Avett Brothers, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Del McCoury Band. Summer of 2008 found them traveling to Europe for the 21st Annual Country Rendez-Vous Festival in Crappone, France.
The 2005 documentary Homemade Hillbilly Jam, profiling the band and the music of their extended family, garnered rave reviews and a legion of new fans through numerous screenings at film festivals around the world. The DVD has enjoyed wide circulation in Europe and the U.S.A via distribution through First Run Features.
Prior to the release of Kin, Big Smith released Roots, Shoots, and Wings, the first studio CD to feature their final lineup. Their discography was established with a pair of celebrated studio CDs - their 1998 self-titled debut and their 2000 release Big Rock. Their catalog is rounded out by Hay to Zzzzzz: Hillbilly Songs for Kids, a double disc made with their young fans in mind, and two live CDs; Gig, a rowdy double CD recorded in front of a hometown crowd; and Live at Lonestar, a gospel set that pays tribute to their family's musical roots.